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Psychological safety

Welcome to Love Mondays, a weekly newsletter designed as a 3-minute hit to fire up the other 10,077 minutes of your week.

We’ve all felt vulnerable when we suggest a new idea at work, and we know it’s even riskier to challenge someone else’s ideas or decisions, particularly if that someone is our boss, or even just someone with more experience. We don’t want to look dumb; we don’t want to be laughed at; we actually just want to fit in. When this is our default, how should a culture of psychological safety enable us to make different choices?

Consider: is your team defaulting to automatic social behaviours?

Practice: intentionally treating different perspectives as resources not obstacles

Decide to: reward behaviours such as listening and engaging, making offers and posing questions that move us beyond what we already know

Amy Edmondson’s Great Discovery.

In her book Fearless Organisation, Amy Edmondson describes a eureka moment she had when studying high performing teams versus low performing teams. The high performers made more mistakes! How could this be possible? Reflecting on her counter-intuitive findings. ‘What if the better teams had a climate of openness,’ she writes, ‘that made it easier to report and discuss error? The good teams, I suddenly thought, don’t make more mistakes; they report more.’

In other words, cultivating great teams is about creating a space where new ideas are both encouraged and expected. It’s about leaders who ask each of their employees for feedback and are genuinely receptive to the feedback they receive. And it’s about any employee, whether entry-level or senior executive, feeling supported to voice when they’ve made mistakes, knowing those mistakes will lead to innovation, not embarrassment.

Here are my yes/no questions to start a conversation around what psychological safety ‘looks’ like:

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