Creating a psychological safety net for your team

“Can you describe a time when you were on a team that was really successful?”

That’s more than just a leading question in a job interview. Answering that prompt can begin to give us clues into why some team experiences–and outcomes–are just better.

I bet you could probably list some of the characteristics that define the highest performing teams—things like goal focus, dependability, and complementary skills.

But what if the key to high team performance is something far more basic and subtle?

Newer research1 suggests that what distinguishes top teams is actually “psychological safety.” Said another way, we do our best work when we feel safe enough to take risks and contribute without holding back. And in a truly psychologically safe work climate, people aren’t just comfortable expressing themselves, they’re comfortable being themselves—complete with quirks and peccadillos. It’s also important to consider what we’re *not* doing on a team we deem safe. Harvard business professor Amy Edmondson describes psychologically safe teams as ones where “people are less likely to focus on self-protection.”

When we’re not constantly calculating whether we’ll lose face by taking a risk, we can more easily lean into our desire to engage with others and to learn. Research1 supports that a psychologically safe team leads to better overall engagement and an openness to learning. Indeed, the safer team members feel with one another, the more likely they are to admit mistakes, to partner, and to take on new roles3.

So how could your team start to build more safety, interpersonally speaking?

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Going with the flow: Cascades can hinder team decision-making

My last post suggested that making decisions in diverse teams can help avoid decision-making traps, and there’s research evidence to support this view1. However, team decisions are often no better than individual decisions—and sometimes they’re even worse2. So what’s going on?

Essentially it has to do with the difference between having diversity on a team and managing the team environment and process in a way that enables the group to actually benefit from that diversity.

There are various mechanisms through which biases and poor decision-making can actually be heightened rather than diminished on a team, even a diverse one.

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Direct or not, which is best?

Direct or Not, Which is Best?

Then you should say what you mean,’ the March Hare went on.
I do,’ Alice hastily replied; ‘at least–at least I mean what I say–that’s the same thing, you know.’
Not the same thing a bit!‘ said the Hatter.
– Alice in Wonderland

Do YOU say what you mean? If you’re a Driver, chances are you probably do—Drivers tend to be direct and are unlikely to shy away from confrontation. If you’re an Integrator, well… you may mean what you say but not always say it directly—Integrators lean towards diplomacy and usually avoid confrontation. But does it matter? And if it does, which approach is best? As usual, it depends…

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