Date posted: June 15, 2018

It is safe to say the majority of us can relate to working in an unproductive team. One that met regularly but didn’t achieve anything. One that had no alignment of purpose, vision and values.

Unfortunately, we can probably all relate to one where we didn’t feel ‘safe’. Where we couldn’t be authentic and true without the fear of negative consequences. Where we were punished for our mistakes, rather than being encouraged to learn and innovate from them.

Psychological safety is a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. People can admit their mistakes, acknowledge their weaknesses, and ask for help when it’s needed.

Research shows that when there is trust and team members feel safe, innovation improves, team members learn quickly from their own and each other’s mistakes, problems are overcome more rapidly, and employees are more engaged.

Google spent two years, researching 180 multi-disciplinary teams, of varying degrees of productivity, across many areas of the business, and the data they collected concluded that psychological safety was the number one attribute of team effectiveness.

Building trust and psychological safety in the team is an essential first step for any team to be healthy and achieve great things. But it is not a set and forget exercise. It is ongoing work that requires commitment and focus. It takes time and preparedness of all parties to be vulnerable. Building trust in a team requires the team leader to actively build a culture that allows people to feel safe and bring their whole self to work.

So how do we enable trust and psychological safety in our teams?

First, everyone in the team needs to be reliable. Do you do what you say you are going to do? Can your colleagues trust that if you say you are going to do something you will do it?

Second, you need to be accepting. Do you acknowledge the ideas and opinions of those who are different from you? People want to be accepted for who they are; not judged, criticised or made to feel inferior.

Third, you need to be open. This is about being ‘real’ and vulnerable. Telling it how it is, sharing information and being prepared for people to see who you really are. People who are open are able to give and receive feedback freely.

Lastly, the team needs to be congruent. It needs consistency between the goals, values and attitudes stated and the actual behaviours observed. People need to trust that you are going to behave with integrity.

In the ADAPT Team Model, Trust and Psychological Safety is the first of six attributes of an effective team that we explore. We work with varying types of teams to implement a learning and development program, supported and enabled by our technology, to help achieve the best outcomes possible.

We invite your teams to complete our free ADAPT Team Assessment to gauge where your team is currently at, and how we could help you to improve.