The team at Expr3ss! devours information about staffing and recruitment in Australia and around the world. What we discover keeps us at the leading edge of our industry and allows us to give our customers the advantage of knowing “what’s new next.”
In that spirit, we’re looking at a concept known as psychological safety. It’s a workplace concern that is getting more and more attention, and with good reason. It can spell the difference between a team that is productive and successful and one that just can’t get the job done.
Here’s what we found.
A Safe Workplace for Team Success
The concept of workplace safety generally refers to protecting employees from physical harm so they can perform their jobs without fear. The New York Times recently reported on an initiative undertaken by Google to discover more about the make-up of productive teams. While conducting “Project Aristotle,” Google researchers discovered that psychological safety is vital to success.
What is psychological safety? As defined by Amy Edmondson of the Harvard Business School in her 1999 study Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams, it is a shared belief held by members of a team that when they are together, they are in a safe space for interpersonal risk-taking. She expands on this idea, saying
“(It is) a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up. It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.”
Expr3ss! Explores 6 Characteristics of Top Teams
The who of a team may be less critical to functional success than how team members interact. In this way, while the team might not contain many individual stars, the sum of a productive team will be greater than its parts.
Project Aristotle researchers found that the best teams
- Listen to one another
- Show sensitivity to feelings and needs of others
- Speak in roughly the same proportions
- Seem to know when someone is upset or feeling left out
- Are direct and straightforward
- Are flexible and sometimes unorthodox
Flexibility is “in” when it comes to top teams. People sometimes speak over one another, go on tangents and socialise instead of remaining focused on the agenda. Although this approach may seem chaotic or inefficient to an outsider, team members thrive, and outstanding progress can be achieved. Enthusiasm for one another’s ideas, joking around, and having fun allows everyone to feel relaxed and energised.
4 Ways Psychological Safety Impacts Team Success
Fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment are the enemies of good thinking. In a safe environment, however, where team members are skilled at conversational turn-taking and practice social sensitivity as a habit, here’s what happens:
- Increased likelihood that an attempted process innovation will be successful
- Increased degree that members learn (and benefit) from mistakes
- Improved employee engagement
- Improved team innovation
Could the magic formula to successful teamwork be something as simple as having socially adept people on board? It may be. Expr3ss! can help you find those people quicker and more easily than you may have imagined possible. Why not call us?