Why are some teams more effective than others?

My team assembled for our regular weekly meeting. With coffee in hand, we kicked off with the first agenda item. It wasn’t long before there was that silence – a long, awkward silence.

Our leader had just asked a question and it seemed that no-one, including me, had anything to offer. We’ve all been in those meetings where for whatever reason we haven’t felt comfortable putting forward an idea or asking that question. Perhaps we were worried that our colleagues wouldn’t like what we have to say, or we were afraid of looking stupid or providing the ‘wrong answer’.

I look back at my experience of these meetings and wonder if there was one important ingredient missing – psychological safety. Did you know that Google rates psychological safety as one of the most important characteristics of an effective team?

Amy Edmondson from Harvard Business School describes psychological safety as the “shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking and a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up”.

When there are high levels of psychological safety, there is healthy debate and team members are willing to share their ideas. This brings a new level of creativity and collaboration, allowing a team to be collectively intelligent.

Think about your team. What actions could you take today to help foster psychological safety? Here are some actions that could make a big difference.

1. Frame a problem or challenge as a learning opportunity.
2. Be willing to say “I don’t have all the answers”.
3. Inspire a culture of curiosity by asking lot of questions.
4. Invite the team to challenge your perspective and weigh in with a different view or perspective.
5. Model vulnerability and be willing to admit your own mistakes and failures.

Build a thriving culture of psychological safety in your team or business and the results will follow.