What is psychological safety? From an employee standpoint, the feeling is easiest described as “in this environment, I feel seen and appreciated. I get encouraged to speak my mind, share my opinion, and take smart risks. I can also admit my mistakes without being afraid of negative consequences.”
Why Is Psychological Safety So Important?
It is imperative that a leader creates this feeling in the workplace. Professor Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School defines it as “a shared belief amongst group members that the group is a safe place to take risks, admit mistakes and learn new things”. People who feel psychological safety will try harder than they initially thought they could as they feel trusted and are encouraged to give more. Organizations with higher psychological safety are
more likely to be more innovative and adapt better to changing conditions. This is particularly important in fast-moving companies where teams must feel safe to take creative risks.
So how can you, as a leader, create a psychologically safe environment for your colleagues?
5 Things That Will Help You Create Psychological Safety
- Build a personal connection with each team member
Have regular 1-1s where everyone gets to have their own time with you, and create a setting where each person can feel safe and seen.
Examples of questions:
a. How are we both feeling today?
b. Is there anything I can do to help you in your work?
c. What feels positive/negative in your work right now?
d. Is there anything in our company you think should improve?
e. Do you have any feedback for me as your leader?
f. Is there anything else private or work-related you would like to raise?
To actively listen and not interrupt the person shows them you care for them as an individual and not just as a co-worker. The next step is to take appropriate notes and actions.
- Provide regular performance feedback
Each person needs to understand what you expect from them fully, and it is your job to make that crystal clear. Following up on their performance shows that you care. Regularly follow up on their performance and give honest feedback on the results. If something needs to be improved, put the extra focus there and discuss different ways forward.
Also, open up for feedback coming your way as well. Ask for feedback on how you can improve. Showing vulnerability and humility is one of the quickest ways to create psychological safety.
- Communicate the big picture perspective
Your team members need to understand that their work is essential and how they contribute to the company’s overall goal and strategy. How does their daily work contribute to the company’s overall goals? Make sure every person understands this.
- Encourage questions and lead by example
Build a culture where you, as a company, actively ask for feedback in different types of meetings and settings to normalize this behavior. Show a commitment to learning and understanding new things by asking questions. Promote an environment where everyone tries to find the best solution to every problem as a team.
- Normalize mistakes and welcome new ideas
Mistakes are a part of the development process. It is not that someone made a mistake because they weren’t good enough; it is just that you did not have enough knowledge yet, and the best way to get that is to learn and understand more. Trying out new ideas should always be encouraged.
These five actions are an easy way to improve the overall culture in a fast-growing company where things are constantly changing. In a time where finding and keeping high-performing employees is on top of every manager’s wishlist, this is a great way to attract and keep talent. When your employees feel psychologically safe they will be happier, feel more appreciated, and increase their productivity.