This article is based on the chapter with the same name in the book People Before Tech: The Importance of Psychological Safety and Teamwork in the Digital Age, by Duena Blomstrom.
All too often Psychological Safety is thought of as not only binary – either there or not – but also as a black-box, an unknown set of group norms that contribute to a team dynamic. Neither is correct. Psychological Safety is fluid, ever-changing and, once interrogated with data, is made up of clear components that can be observed and measured.
At PeopleNotTech we have invested a lot of time and effort into deciphering the behaviours that make up Psychological Safety. Over time each and every one of these has proven to indeed correlate to the overall increase of PS in teams that have intentionally learned how to cultivate them as norms.
The elements we have identified and are measuring against today in our software are:
We already know from reading Dr. Amy Edmondson that the goal is a fearless dynamic. In a fearless team:
- People are willing to take risks;
- Team members feel unencumbered by a preoccupation with protecting their image;
- Team members never assign blame but are quick to grab it with no fear in a display of self-powered accountability.
While courage is the bedrock of openness, being willing to take risks doesn’t always translate into a voice before teams display both. This shows us how:
- People consistently speak up be it to voice opinion or concern;
- They are reporting feeling “trust” and “freedom”;
- Team members do not shy away from conflict or regard it as permanent/ terminal or risky, but welcome it for the growth potential.
When teams have flexibility this both shows a high degree of Psychological Safety and reinforces it:
- Team members are excited about testing, trying out new things, etc.;
- People on the team welcome change in all its forms.
Defined as the degree to which team members remain flexible and engaged over time when teams are resilient they:
- Remain flexible even when times are hard;
- Do not let setbacks throw them off too much;
- Are open to change with little or no loss of enthusiasm.
Defined as having a deep emotional connection with each other, teams who succeed are:
- Emotionally close — they check on each other and they know a lot of personal details about each other;
- Willing to talk about “fluffy things” like passion, goal, mission, purpose, etc.;
- Displaying empathy and interest in their interactions.
Sharing knowledge and being in constant pursuit of more as a group is a powerful behaviour. Teams:
- Are curious and learn together;
- Enjoy co-creating and collaborating;
- Are invested in innovation.
This isn’t an exhaustive list but these are the key components that make up Psychological Safety and the key behaviours that instil it.
Next Thursday on the Fundamentals of Psychological Safety Series: Impression Management — the Dark Side of Psychological Safety so make sure to subscribe so you have it in your inbox.
The 3 “commandments of Psychological Safety” to build high performing teams are: Understand, Measure and Improve.
Read more about our Team Dashboard that measures and improves Psychological Safety at peoplenottech.com, or reach out on our contact page and let’s help your teams become Psychologically Safe, healthy, happy and highly performant.
You can order the book People Before Tech: The Importance of Psychological Safety and Teamwork in the Digital Age on Amazon.