Establishing safety and trust to build high-performing teams
Truly high-performing teams have one thing in common: Psychological Safety. Psychological Safety cultivates a working culture free from fear and ego. It means people can speak up; make mistakes; question things; and raise concerns without retribution. This in turn creates a learning organisation. A place where teams are more than the sum of their parts and people go beyond their comfort zones to achieve success together.
Amy Edmondson is the professor of leadership and management at Harvard Business School and the most prominent researcher on the topic of Psychological Safety. She defines it as “the shared belief among team members that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking” and “a team climate characterised by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves”.
Without this culture of safety, people worry they will seem ignorant, so they will not ask questions; they don’t want to look incompetent, so they won’t admit vulnerability or mistakes; they don’t want to seem intrusive, so they won’t offer ideas; they don’t want to appear negative, so they won’t question the status quo. Yet, what kind of organisation does this create? One where creative ideas and high performance are stifled. When people feel they can be their true selves at work, they bring a different level of commitment and contribution.
Psychological Safety is a clear set of ideas about how to create the right circumstances to succeed. It includes through various aspects of culture and structure within an organisation. Our research and analysis pulls together these aspects under five principles: