5 WAYS TO BUILD A GREAT TEAM CULTURE BY INCREASING PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY
20 copies available!!
Leave a comment on this guest post by Karolin Helbig and Minette Norman to become eligible for one of 20 complimentary copies of their new book, The Psychological Safety Playbook: Lead More Powerfully by Being More Human.
Deadline for eligibility is 02/27/2023. International winners will receive electronic version.
Psychological safety is the foundation for innovative, inclusive, and high-performing teams. Leaders play a critical role in building and maintaining this strong foundation.
How can leaders increase psychological safety in their organization?
5 ways to increase psychological safety:
#1. Communicate courageously.
Courageous communication requires leaders to get out of their comfort zones, invite other perspectives, and let go of their need to be right and have all the answers. For example, make it a habit to ask, “What am I missing?”
#2. Master the art of listening.
Artful listening is the most underdeveloped leadership skill. Leaders need to become more curious about other people’s perspectives and explore them before putting forth their own. Develop the discipline of not preparing your response when someone else is speaking.
#3. Manage your reactions.
Like everyone else in the world, leaders are human. They get triggered and react automatically, which can detract from a team’s psychological safety. To avoid those harmful reactions, leaders need to become highly self-aware. Before reacting, pause, take a breath, and intentionally choose your response.
#4. Embrace risk and failure.
There is no innovation without failure along the way. How leaders deal with risk and failure in their teams has a huge impact on the culture. Focus on what you can learn from taking intelligent risks rather than looking to blame or shame. Reframe failures as learning opportunities.
#5. Design inclusive rituals.
Leaders need to deliberately build inclusive cultures where diverse ideas and talents can flourish. Start by running inclusive meetings with equal speaking time, a no-interruption policy, and dissenting viewpoints welcomed. Gather feedback regularly after meetings to ensure everyone feels included.
You don’t have to do everything at once—implementing one practice can make a huge difference in your working environment.
Which of the above practices seem most relevant to you today?
Karolin Helbig, spent more than 15 years with McKinsey as a top management consultant and in leadership development, and has deep expertise in science, helps leaders increase their effectiveness, optimize team performance, and transform their organizations through mindset, emotional intelligence, and psychological safety.
Building on her three decades leading global, technical teams in the software industry, Minette Norman today focuses on developing transformational leaders who create inclusive working environments with a foundation of psychological safety. Their book, The Psychological Safety Playbook: Lead More Powerfully by Being More Human, launches today.
Excellent. Listen carefully and manage emotions stand out. Appreciate the post and insights.
I need to work on all of these as a new executive director
I would love a copy of the book. Psychological Safety is something that can be built over time!
Great post. Looking to reading the book. I hope I’m a winner
#4. Embrace risk and failure resonates with me the most because it takes courage to take risk, to expose yourself, and to be vulnerable in the workspace. Not everyone is willing to admit that they don’t have ALL the answers. However, I believe that we are the most innovative when we put it all out there and are willing to risks and learn how we can do it better the next time.
All of the points are important, however, I feel Mastering the art of listening is vital.
Sounds like a great topic! Interested to learn more.
I would love to have copies of the book to pass on to our leadership team.
Yes, yes, yes, I’d love one
Psychological Safety is one of the needed conditions in order to Creative Interchange to thrive. Creative Interchange is the innate learning and transforming process discovered some hundred years ago by Henry Nelson Wieman. He discovered Creative Interchange during a quest to find ‘what changes the mind, since the mind cannot do it on itself’.
I have studie CI for more than twenty five years now, Wrote two books, one about how I met and was heavily influenced by that life giving process and the second presenting ‘my’ application of CI: Crucial dialogues. The Crucial Dialogue model contains all five ways to increase Psychological Safety presented in this blog.
Last year I have translated my book in forty-four chapters disclosing the CDM and giving some applications of the model. I will happily send my chapters to the alters of the book, if I am receiving their electronic version 🙂 (win-win).
I really enjoy reading this blog and such interesting article. I am very much interested in reading about psychology and leadership. Would be great to receive q copy of this book – even if digital
Great post Dan. I strive to create this feeling of safety every day. It can be difficult but the rewards are more than worth the effort.
What a great article! In a time where more and more meetings are virtual, creating psychological safety is key. Embracing risk and failure speaks the most to me as I believe it helps build trust among the team and allows everyone to work through the challenge together. By starting at a possibly vulnerable state and work to become stronger as one.
Great guest post! All are great points. #2 and #3 resonate the most with me as listening is essential. You gather more information when we listen rather than trying to respond and give a rebuttal to what someone is saying. Allow the information to sit with you for a moment and then you can follow-up. This then brings me to #3, managing your reaction. From the way you say something, the timing, the the tone the space and the audience, it is important because it can create trust or ruin it, it can destroy the opportunity for someone to ever share again, and impacts the culture the leader is setting. Again, all are great points and I appreciate you allowing the guest post! Have an awesome day!
Clear and concise – great post! As a new leader in the innovation space this would be a helpful read for sure!
I am likely not giving equal time for my colleagues to speak in our team meetings! I’d like to try setting our agenda that way. Thanks for inspiring! I am sure the book is fabulous.
Would love to read this book for more perspective on psychological safety within my team
Very interested to learn more, love the blog and thank you for posting!
Creating psychological safety is key to building a strong team. Would love a copy of the book to dive deeper into this topic.
Would appreciate one of the book giveaways. Our team has a nice mix of experience and new hires, so is the perfect time to implement new expectations of the team with an increase in psychological safety at the forefront. Thank you for the consideration and opportunity.
Very important topic and worth a book as the small installations of content on the internet don’t suffice. Wishing it much success.
No doubt, the team leader plays an outsized role in creating a psychologically safe space. As part of The manager’s role, making sure each member of the team also behaves accordingly to creat a safe space is very important. Peer support is a big influencer on our well-being.
Mastering the art of listening is one of the most important skills a leader can have. Humans tend to try and formulate their next thought versus listening completely. It takes a conscious effort to avoid this trap!
I echo the caution “You don’t have to do everything at once—implementing one practice can make a huge difference in your working environment.” This is an important point to consider by taking baby steps in making these practices a part of any organization culture. For me, all five “ways” are reflective of good management and leadership practices and behaviors. Start with the two practices centered around communication and listening, then build from there.
Anyone who is in leadership and needs to motivate the personnel assigned to them needs to continuously work on their leadership skills. This book is one of the best to do so.
All 5 of these are so important. I especially appreciate number 1! Communicating courageously is a fantastic phrase. Everyone deserves a leader that does this.
Love this. It all is predicated on trust. Safety starts there. These recommended actions surely will usher in trust to relationships. Well done.
Great post, I’m looking to teach a leadership class next year and this would be a great resource!
Of all years in leadership coaching, this one, with the continuing fallout from COVID isolation, has been a resounding affirmation for what these authors are detailing. My entire practice is with school leaders who are on the front lines of leading the walking wounded students, teachers and parents. Thank you for nailing these principles, telling it like it is and giving practical suggestions for lifing us all. And thank you, Dan, for the continuous ways you help us in our coaching work.
Number 5 resonates the most with me right now. We recently implementing meeting guidelines and etiquette within our organization. Would love to hear thoughts and suggestions on how to create psychological safety during meetings – specifically creating equal air time.
This book is right up my alley
All five are so very important communicating leads the pack. COVID has changed nursing and being a leader forever for me.
Psychology safety is much needed in today’s work environment.
How do you change culture when a leader “above” purports to embrace a just culture but uses stone walling and gaslighting to managers below them?
I really like the idea of inclusive rituals. Great to remember that while we work as a team, that team is usually part of a bigger organization with different perspectives but the same goals. It’s almost always eye-opening to see what comes from others with different backgrounds. As an auditor with a finance background, I found it fascinating to see how well an auditor with a marketing background could write a report to appeal to the intended audience. It was a great learning experience for me.
love the no interrupt policy
Great post! This is something I’ve been struggling to do. Would love to read the book as I need all the wisdom I can get 🙂
A perfect time for this book as the model of leadership is being reset. Thanks for bringing it forward for your readers. Would love a copy if selected. Best to you, Dan.
Very often the first thing we do when we listen to somehow and begin to think about what we can say to make things better, fix it, or make ourselves sound smart. It is a great point that we need to listen to understand. We don’t need to formulate our response on the fly. It is far better to listen, think, summarize (to ensure you understood), and then ask open ended questions as warranted to continue your learning journey.
This post is especially relevant to me right now. I have recently been selected to as a trainer for DEIA course work in my workplace and psychological safety is a large focus area for us. #5 Create Inclusive Rituals really resonated with me because it is a great example of leading with compassion and making space for everyone. I am working actively to implement a “Parking Lot” system where anyone who wishes to speak is noted down in the “Parking Lot” – a list of names that keeps the speakers in turn order – and, then when your turn comes up, you get to speak uninterrupted. I have found that it makes people more aware of the conversation space that they are utilizing and people are calmer overall knowing that they will be heard in turn.
I love the idea of an inclusive meeting where everyone gets time to speak. I have been in quite a few meetings where it is always the same speakers. I will take the time to ensure that those voices that don’t speak up get presented with the opportunity to do so. This is a great post. I can’t wait to share it with my team!
This was a topic for my team last week. We are focusing on improving internal communication, so the reminder is timely. Giving team members the space to express themselves is so important.
I have watched innovation get squashed on teams where psychological safety is not practiced! Thank you for your thoughts and insights!
Love the reminder that everything does not have to be done at once. Focusing on and implementing just one practice is impactful. We tend to stress ourselves out when we think we have to do everything at once so everyone is satisfied. One step at a time!
Psychological safety resonates with me, especially the notion of reframing failures as learning opportunities. What a powerful tool for growth. It can be used at both the individual performance level and the team performance level. It is reinforced by a leadership mindset that is open to growth and improvement by course correction to achieve desired goals. This book sounds fascinating and insightful. Thank you!
This is a wonderful summary of the core concepts of psychological safety. We’ve started this discussion in our team and I look forward to sharing this article with others. I especially love the advice to not formulate your answer while someone else is speaking. Listening is such an important skill, one I too often take for granted.
Great things to keep in mind! Specifically feeling challenged by “Design inclusive rituals” as I am naturally drawn to/gravitate to those that I most easily connect with and not so well with others on my team.
Another good post. Personally, I could improve on all the points, but number one is something in particular I know I struggle with at times. As a leader who has grown into my position, I have the benefit and the curse of having served in the roles of those who report to me. While times have changed, there’s still a lot that’s the same so I find myself trying to be cognizant of how I approach them with work being mindful of being open to letting them do their jobs the way they believe is best and not simply how I’m “telling” them how to do it. Just because I did it and it worked before doesn’t mean we have to do it that way again. I’m learning more and more as I gain experience as a leader to take a moment to get their buy-in, ask questions, and let them own it. I really like the question, “What am I missing?” or something along those lines and hope to incorporate it more with my team and others that I work with.
Thank you for this post. Being self aware is definitely an art.
Hi Dan, thank you for a great post sharing the leadership values from an excellent authors. For me, listening intently is a skill I am practicing with my new team. I would love to add “The Psychological Safety Playbook: Lead More Powerfully by Being More Human” book to my leadership toolbox. Thank you.
Mastering the art of listening! All great concepts when practiced.
A leader managing reactions probably has the most significant impact on psychological safety in a workplace.
This book is coming out at the perfect time. I’m using these terms constantly at work with fellow leaders and managers and think some feel lost at “how”. Looking forward to gaining ways to talk about psychological safety and offer actionable steps from the book (and not just me)!
Great post. I think that establishing safety with your team is a crucial first step in creating a culture of arguing well! The other points I. Then seeking to understand before saying anything helps you become a better listener
I needed to read this today! I feel that I have been hard on myself because of the failure that I have faced lately. I need to learn how to embrace failure and reframe to a learning opportunity.
I work with a motivated team of members who struggle with confidence and accountability, responding with a coaching approach is not enough, I wonder if this book could help. This blog has been a great support in my leadership journey.
What is the difference between psychological safety and trust? Seem the same to me. It all starts with Trust.
Taking a deeper reflective approach (active listening, team input, development of “thought” partners) is brilliant. Having to manage in our post Covid era takes not only business acumen but also emotional intelligence. This book is needed by all managers!
Phycological safety is a big deal when trying to get feedback or even by-in on projects or just leading a team. Managing your emotions to not be confrontational or have feelings of being attacked, to understand we are all trying to get the to same place, is huge.
I especially like this note in #2: Develop the discipline of not preparing your response when someone else is speaking.
If you find yourself with a response, were you truly listening intentionally?
Love that this came up today. This is something we can’t talk about enough–especially post pandemic where people may feel disconnected already. Thanks.
Great article! All of these points are important parts in creating a safe environment for our teams. In doing so, you’re building trust and credibility as a leader and not just a boss. Good stuff.
I like the “no interruption rule” in a meeting. Sometimes meetings can turn into classic family Thanksgiving dinner chaos. Where the introverts never feel comfortable to share. Emotional intelligence and empathy is a big part of psychological safety.
To me psychological safety is more about trust and faith in a leader. It’s letting go of wanting to survive as an independent person and willing putting that “survival” into someone else’s hands – not as a dependent, but as a “I trust your direction will help both of our hierarchy of needs, and I don’t need to focus on mine, our work together will get us all where we want to go. I’m willing to jump on board your ship!”
Having a leader that demonstrates the 5 listed actions is great. I agree the tactics help with psychological safety.
I’m not sure that those tactics alone are the key.
I’m thinking the big objective is to show the team (and others the team works with) that our (as the leader) intentions are about the real results the team should be chasing. That everyone matters, everyone together is making a difference, and everyone is on board as the actions we choose to undertake all come with a certain clarity around their strategy and what we hope will come of them. Plus when we fail, we use the mantra “A bad day can make for great data” (I credit Crucial Learning for this one, as that is where I heard it said).
The creation of a safe place starts with the person who desires to do so. The cannot be a “safe” (fill in the blank, ie work, home) environment is there is no trust. As a leader you garner trust and create the opportunity for trust to be built. What you do with it creates the ability to have a safe environment for people.
Great post, thanks for the insight
I am going to share this with some of my staff. Thank you!
I’d love a copy! Thank you!! I’m in the K-12 school safety space.
As a middle school principal, this post is a timely reminder as we are pushing through a difficult part of the school year. I need to continue to work on my listening. Great post!
These are good tips. I was surprised that demonstrating vulnerability was not called out. When a leader can be authentic and openly share where they have made mistakes and grown, it helps humanize them for their teams and can foster a sense of trust.
Psychological safety is key to great teams. Staff need to feed safe speaking with leaders. I just completed a training at my organization called Psychological First Aid, this was a wonderful training. I am always looking for ways to improve myself so I can be a better leader for those on my team and people I encounter in my life.
Safety….some leaders think it is 100% “on” the employee.
“What am I missing?” is a great way to enter a conversation with curiosity and openness. I can’t wait to read more!
Great post. Psychological safety can often sound “airy fairy” to type A leaders, but the points in the post above are very concrete and pragmatic. It sounds to me that it’s about accepting our own humanity as leaders, before we can accept that others are human. It means embracing feminine leadership qualities. Love the point that “you can’t have innovation without failure.” That’s a tough one for leaders to wrap their heads around. Having a culture of testing is so important…and very human!
Great post, sharing this with my leaders, thank you!
As a School leader and Doctoral student, I would interested in reviewing your book.
Mastering the art of listening can be most challenging to me since I don’t want to appear as not having a ready comeback.
Great refresher post. #2: Being a great listener is sometime harder than it sounds.
Periodically I need to remind myself to pause and not try to start formulating a response while someone is still talking. Would love a copy of the book if still available. Thank you!
Psychological Safety is even more important in a virtual world, creating environments for effective communications, vulnerability and diverse perspectives is critical to a teams success. Thank you for this post.
This seems like a great book to read and implement as we build teams in schools.
Given what most of us have been through in the past year, Psychological Safety is more important than every. I love mastering the art of listening but it is also about applying the learnings from the listening. I am going to try the no interruption rule as part of my next team meeting. Thank you for the insightful post
More important than ever that our teams feel safe and heard. I’d love to read more!
As I have been looking into leadership more, since being moved into a leadership role in my work, I am realizing how important these qualities are in life in general. I want to embody them in my entire life, not just my role at work. These are all things I aspire to!!
Mastering the art of listening and manage your reaction, these resonate with me. I do need to work on the manage your reaction as my facial reaction always clearly speaks loudly at times.
This is so relevant to both large and small businesses. My practice focuses on the small business owners as they seem to miss a lot of the “things” that the large corporate world has been forced to address. I would love to share your book with my clients.
Great thoughts! Would love a copy of the book as I am moving into a management position for the first time next month.
I connected most with the line from #4 “Focus on what you can learn from taking intelligent risks rather than looking to blame or shame. Reframe failures as learning opportunities.” I would love to read more about this and especially about how to live this leadership style with the Team that I lead when organizational culture sometimes swings closer to the “blame and shame” management style.
Excellent post. I would add that as a manager, it is also vitally important to be able to say “I was wrong”. Showing vulnerability to your team lets them see you as human, and that its safe to express that. Lord knows I’ve done it plenty of times on this leadership learning path.
I love #1. Something that I’m working on now.
Courageous communication requires leaders to get out of their comfort zones, invite other perspectives, and let go of their need to be right and have all the answers. For example, make it a habit to ask, “What am I missing?”
Sounds like a great book to read and then share. Thanks for sharing.
I love #1 – Communicate courageously. I especially love the question – What am I missing? I need to practice this skill to become more comfortable with this.
Psychological safety is so important now and always. We must continually review and shape our school culture to embrace these thoughts and practices. I would love a copy of the book.
Love your posts!
Communicating effectively is built into all of these practices. And at the heart of these and psychological safety is being in good relationship with yourself, your team and your organization – especially in this environment where many are managing mental health issues.
All good and valid points. Much easier to read than put into reality. I frequently struggle with #2.
This message really seems to be hitting home and reinforcing the training my team took on Monday. We have been working on Turning a negative team culture into a positive one.
After reading this article, the one that resonated with me the most was needing to communicate courageously. I have a habit of biting my tongue when things need to be said.
I would love to look into this book and strengthen my skillset to better my team.
I try daily to listen more and speak less. You can learn a lot about a colleague by allowing them to speak and share their challenges or opportunities. If you have kids, try doing this with them also. It will make an impact on how they communicate with you down the road.
All of these are great pieces of advice. My number 1 priority right now as a team leader is to be a good listener.
Specifically, I need to make sure that I am not formulating my response while team members are talking. I am making this a conscious part of leading meetings and conversations.
If I am more concerned and attentive to my response than what I am about what others are saying and feeling, then I am running the potential of missing important information and losing a learning opportunity.
This is in total alignment with our Just Culture we have adopted and practice in our healthcare organization. It is rooted in our zero preventable harm work with patient safety that requires psychological safety for our employees so that we are made aware of their errors, process breakdowns, and near misses. They will be hidden and unreported (therefore not fixed or remedied) without it. Appreciate the deeper dive into the topic.
My team is working to pioneer this as a cornerstone of the team’s success. We’re in a position in our organization where candid communication is a must have, and by showing our vulnerability when we need to we hope to foster stronger relationships.
Love the posts on here
Great article. As a relatively new leader in the field of education, I appreciate the concepts of the Art of Listening and Communicating Courageously the most. It seems like honing these two skills alone might move us towards more innovative ideas because the culture of safety will allow for exploration. Thanks!
We just completed Psychological Safety training with our whole agency. I am very interested in this topic.
This is so true not only for adults but when working with children. We spend a lot of time trying these same ideas in our classrooms with students.
Psychological Safety is one of the main topics of conversation and attention in our organization, this is timely informative as we are redesigning our agency’s culture.
What am I missing? That’s the question I have learned to ask in team setting when putting together task list. With that said, communications is still probably the area where I could learn more.
Honestly, could not be timelier. We face the challenge of helping each other navigate each and every day. Reflecting as humans and creating a genuine safe zone is increasingly more relevant. It is a true cultural shift in leadership style which is being challenged in the post pandemic environment. Important reminders here. thank you.
Becoming skilled at managing one’s reactions especially when the situation gets intense can be a game changer!
Great post – I need to do better at the art of listening.
I shared this with all my direct reports!
While some of the article covered things I “learned” back in the day, it is obvious that I had forgotten or have a bad habit of ‘overlooking’ it.
It is very important for your team to feel ‘safe’, or else there will be no input into group conversations, or no feedback on issues in general. When a team member stops speaking up, they stop being engaged.
I need to focus on #5 first and with that, I believe the rest will come along in time as long as I take the lead to do it!
One through five are all equally important to creating a safe environment for us to work in. This isn’t only for leaders. It is good advice for the entire team!
An essential element that is often downplayed is routine. Having regular timelines, expected cycles, as opposed to random spontaneity whenever possible reinforces psychological safety.
As a shop steward, sadly, far too many of my interactions with workers are about the LACK of psychological safety where they work. Many of these workplaces are rife with bullying and discrimination.
The costs are huge: increased sick leave, reduction in employee self confidence and creativity, lack of resilience or trust, high turnover rates, a poor reputation for the employer, etc.
We as a society need to do better. Employers particularly have a responsibility to their employees to lead the way (even if their only motivation is to avoid compensation claims for avoidable injuries due to bullying that can happen in unsafe workplaces).
Thanks for what you do to help leaders BE leaders (because leadership isn’t about the position, it is the person and their behaviours).
Thanks for the helpful post and the offer of a free book. My team would appreciate the benefits of this book to me.
A vital topic to any leadership/workplace culture success. We as leaders not only have to be vulnerable and admit being wrong, we can also demonstrate our commitment to psychological safety when we are not perfect in doing so either, for example, in reacting negatively, not carefully engaging in crucial conversations, etc. When we admit to the group how we came up short and apologize for doing so, it reinforces both the commitment to “walking the talk” but also modeling the type of vulnerability and safety we are hoping to achieve.
It can be a great opportunity to read the book as a team, to put in practice and apply the 5 ways to develop this psychological safety in the workplace. Then, help each other to continue evolving this culture.
Very few are expert listeners – something most of us can improve upon.
Inclusive rituals can be difficult to implement, even when intending to. It takes some practice. The suggestion of gathering feedback after the meeting is strong.
Excellent insight! I look forward to reading this book. we were given one mouth and two ears for a reason.
I am working on managing my emotions. So worth it!
Excellent post. Communication, establishing trusting relationships are also essential.
Our organization is experiencing some metal challenges. This is so timely. You certainly covered all of the essentials. Whether I am selected to receive the copies or not, I am using this post as a reference to guide my department. I facilitated a meeting today just to gauge the temperature of my staff. Point # 2 “Master the Art Of Listening” was critical and a necessity for the flow of the meeting.
This topic is so timely. I love when we refer to “mastering the art.” Mastering the art of listening is one of the hardest skills to master. Resources like this help all of us be better. Communication, psychological safety, and practice matter.
#3 Manage Your Emotions. Man, this one convicted me. It’s so easy to say, “I want the truth.” But Jack Nicholson’s character in “A Few Good Men” was spot-on when he hollered, “You can’t handle the truth.” I cannot. At least not very well for some of the times. Until I get better at this, it may never truly be a psychologically safe environment for all.
Anything that helps us to be more human and in community with each other, especially in the workplace, is a much needed tool! Thanks!