Safety First

In 2012, Google’s research on effective teams identified ‘psychological safety’ as one of the five key dynamics that set successful teams apart from other teams. In fact psychological safety – the ability of team members to take risks and be vulnerable with each other – was highlighted as the most important factor of all. It underpins all of the other essential team dynamics such as dependability, meaning, clarity and impact. It really is a case of ‘safety first’!

This finding confirms TOWARD’s experience of team coaching. In our experience high performing teams have strong interpersonal relationships that can sustain taking risks without insecurity or embarrassment. Amy Edmondson of the Harvard Business School defines psychological safety as “… a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.”

In the TOWARD team coaching model, we identify relationships as the most important priority to be addressed in any senior team. We call this ‘relational flow’. We create methods and approaches that enable team members to create psychological safety. We support teams to reflect upon the quality of their relationships and take action to improve relationship flow. We support teams to build their emotional capacity – the space in their relationships for a range of emotions, differences and challenges to be expressed and managed well.

When there is psychological safety you can express a new idea, challenge the status quo, admit mistakes and be honest about what you don’t know.

If you are frustrated with hesitancy, low energy and a lack of openness and honesty in a team, it’s probably a good time to start to put psychological safety first.


You must think I’m crazy…..

We hear this often in a coaching environment and our response is…..No – I think you are amazing and vulnerable in this moment and I am grateful for the trust you offer me.

As coaches we are incredibly privileged to hear some of the innermost thoughts, reflections and fears of our clients. These may focus on relationships, strategic decisions or tactical problems.

Our focus is on creating a space where you as the client feel safe to explore these and use our space together to harness your energy, creativity and brilliance to discover your path forward. So no, we don’t think you’re crazy, we think you are real.

In a world which can skirt or outright avoid vulnerability we see it as an opportunity to connect authentically with the core and deepen leadership capability.

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” 

Brené Brown in ‘Rising Strong’