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.