WHAT IS PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY IN A TEAM ?
First explored by organizational research pioneers in the 1960’s, Psychological Safety has experienced a renaissance since the 1990’s. Recently, it has been identified as the main factor of team effectiveness at Google – Project Aristotle.
Psychological Safety describes team members’ perception of the consequences of taking risks among themselves. It therefore reflects the propensity to dare to express oneself physically, cognitively and emotionally, in front of others, without fearing negative consequences from them. For example, a statement such as: “I don’t say anything, because they will use it against me later” implies low psychological safety.
The Psychological Safety Scale proposed here “measures” your perception of the consequences of taking risks in a team. The higher the scale, the more comfortable the environment is to be yourself and express your thoughts, including asking questions, proposing new ideas, asking for feedback, or pointing out a mistake without the risk of being judged. In a psychologically safe environment, you don’t fear rejection from colleagues for being yourself or for speaking your mind. You feel that your colleagues have positive intentions towards each other and are able to engage in constructive conflicts or confrontations.
Team Psychological Safety therefore describes an environment in which team members can feel comfortable being themselves and exposing their thoughts, including asking questions, proposing new ideas, asking for feedback, or pointing out an error without the risk of being judged (Edmondson, 1999). Employees will not fear that their colleagues will reject them for being themselves or speaking their minds. Colleagues will have positive intentions toward each other and will be able to engage in constructive conflict or confrontation.
THREE LEVELS WHERE PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY IS PLAYED OUT :
1. Inner self: in general, with others, how much do I dare to be myself, to show my authenticity that is my inner strength.
2. In the relationship, between me and the other: while I know my inner strength, with some people I feel comfortable to take risks and with others less.
3. In the collective, in a group, in a team. It is a kind of arithmetic average of the psychological safety of all the relationships within the team. Using theory, tools and graphs, it is possible to visualise interesting characteristics of the dynamics of a team, such as the existence of clans or even silos, the capacity for self-management or the level of competition between specific people
WHAT DOES A TEAM AND AN ORGANISATION WITH A HIGH LEVEL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY PRODUCE?
Well, many studies have shown that the higher the level of Psychological Safety, the more the team
- shares knowledge and learns,
- dares to speak up and bring problems to light,
- works with collective intelligence,
- is creative and innovative,
- is committed to the common goal,
… in one word, it performs! (It’s not for nothing that it is the number 1 performance factor at Google)
Some researchers have even seen that it is essential to “thaw” the organization, before launching into its transformation!
This is why at Esséré, we consider that Psychological Safety, as well as quiet egos and the feeling that the organization supports the people, are the keys to developing sustainable transformation capabilities, in order to make courageous decisions for a regenerative world.
HOW TO DEVELOP PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY IN AN ORGANISATION ?
That’s the million-dollar question!
We have experienced, for example, that leadership style is crucial. BRAVE™ leaders (Benevolent, Respectful, Authentic, Vulnerable and Emotionally conscious) create trust and dynamism in teams. A co-constructed Vision awakens hope and desire for a different and better future. An organization that respects the “human aspect” releases the energy of responsibility.
FOR US AT ESSÉRÉ
Research on organizations shows that Psychological Safety of teams creates a culture of performance, promoting trust, collective intelligence and commitment to the common goal. These are capabilities that catalyze the transformation of the organization.
For Esséré, the organization must develop this security within all its teams to start, support and sustain a “deep” transformation of the identity and processes of a company.
For this, we have developed a unique leadership program, based on measuring the Quiet Ego of managers/leaders, the Psychological Safety of teams and a Supportive Organization.