Psychological safety is created in the team when everyone agrees that it is okay to take risks, try new ideas, question or speak out. It is done by consensus and is expected to result in the team both learning new things together, finding new solutions and learning from their own and others’ mistakes. This according to Professor Amy Edmondson at Harvard Business School.
It starts at the top
As a leader, you have a great responsibility for creating and maintaining psychological safety. Just talking about psychological safety is not enough, as a leader you have to show the way and we have 3 tips.
– encourage everyone on the team to speak by allocating speaking time and asking everyone questions. Listen to the answer and feel free to ask follow-up questions. You then create a climate where the team feels safe to talk and ask follow-up questions to each other.
– be open about your mistakes and lessons learned. If you want to create a climate where it is okay to try new things, you sometimes fail and then it is important to hear that it is okay. Focus on what you learned and how you can do things better in the future.
– show with your whole body that you are listening and present. Make eye contact, put away your phone and other distractions. Ask everyone on the team to do the same.
And as a bonus, perhaps the most important tip of them all: Hang in there!
It takes time to create psychological security in a team, therefore it is important that you as a leader persevere and work systematically over a long period of time.