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May 14, 2019

What is really at the heart of a great culture?

Pyschological Safety

Psychological Safety is not new – but thanks to Google’s research on great teams is gaining more attention. In fact, Google’s research and plenty of other research shows that psychological safety is the basis of all high performance teams. Quite a statement! However, in my experience I have to agree. I see so many organisations focusing on programs such as culture change, conflict resolutions, alignment with values, emotional intelligence and a whole lot more, when maybe the answer lies in educating everyone in business about this concept and what it means ‘in action’. I know this is a lofty claim but I think it is well founded.

If you aren’t sure what it means here is a quick explanation.

Put simply it exists when people aren’t afraid to be themselves, make mistakes, raise problems, challenge norms, disagree and ask questions. On the flip side it encourages constructive conflict, feedback, collaboration and a whole lot more. All things we know are essential for great team work.  In fact, it disarms toxicity at the source and stops its poison from spreading.

I first came across the term ‘psychological safety’ when studying ‘andragogy’ (the method and practices of teaching adult learners.) Creating ‘psychological safety’ is something that facilitators/trainers must learn very early in their careers. Why? Because we need to create effective adult learning environments. This means environments where adults ‘feel safe to learn’. Where they don’t feel scared or embarrassed to speak up, try new things, make mistakes, be themselves, fail .. all things essential for learning and ironically all things essential to essential to create high performing, innovative, authentic and engaging organisations. Just what the world is looking for!

Focusing on ‘psychological safety’ simplifies a lot of lofty leadership, management and team work concepts and is the essential ingredient to create ‘trust’ and a sustainable positive work culture. Creating ‘safe’ work places need not be daunting for example, it can start with implementing very simple tools such as ‘behavioral guidelines’ for meetings (and ensuring they are enforced of course!). Guidelines that encourage asking of questions, speaking up and respect of differing opinions in relation to the business matter being discussed, not personal attacks.

If it is isn’t a topic you are familiar with, it is worth reading up on it, and working out how you can bring more of it into your team and organisation. If you would like some simple places to start I would be more than happy to help.

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