Psychological Safety

A few years ago, Google conducted a 2-year study of more than 200 teams, Project Aristotle. Their goal was to understand the factors contributing to team success. In their book The Seven Laws of Enough Gina LaRoche and Jennifer Cohen remind us that nobody gets to where they are on their own—even Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk.

The fact is that behind every successful person is a team of individuals who pick up the slack, care for family members, provide a roof or a meal, encouragement, leeway, support and security. In the Google study, researchers found just one constant that differentiated high-performing teams from others, and it wasn’t just about the skills of the team members.

Overwhelmingly, successful teams felt they had “psychological safety.” That is, individual team members believed they wouldn’t be punished or suffer negative consequences if they made a mistake.

Creating Psychological Safety Nets for your Team

Sometimes safety nets happen organically when one person decides to open up and share thoughts, feelings, or a personal challenge they’re facing. Short of that, team leaders or managers wishing to create safe and supportive environments can set the tone by modelling openness, embracing risk, withholding judgement and criticism, and inviting vulnerability. Often, it comes down to engaging in rich conversation, building trust, and listening. People need to feel psychologically safe and secure to reach their full potential. The question each individual should ask themselves of respective team members is “Is it safe for me to be me when I am with you?” If the answer is no, then we need to examine the dysfunctional behaviours and replace them with positive ones.