When I think about psychological safety, I remember working in the corporate world and having to present project status to a team of executives. It definitely felt like I was being fed to the lions. It seemed that every sentence I said was being scrutinized for error. I definitely did not feel psychologically safe.
Psychological safety is about feeling comfortable to share your thoughts, ideas, and opinions with the team. It is about not having fear that what you say will be used against you. You don't worry that you will be ridiculed, talked about behind your back, or passed over for a promotion.
How I Found Out About It
I first learned about psychological safety while taking a training while working for a large engineering firm. The instructor spoke a few words about a study that Google performed. The study showed psychological safety as being the number one factor affecting team performance. I thought that idea was very interesting and I (ironically) Googled it to learn more.
It made perfect sense to me. I even noticed that the concept could be useful at home with my children. I realized that if parents get upset at children for making a mistake and telling the truth about it, the children most likely will lie in the future. They will lie because they don't want to be yelled at for doing something wrong. Therefore, they don't feel psychologically safe.
Why We Need It
Too many times we don't listen to each other. I have found myself falling into the trap of only thinking about what I want to say and not taking the time to understand what the other person is trying to tell me. I struggled with interrupting someone in order to speak my self-perceived more important thoughts.
Now I know better. I realize that I learn much more by listening and giving others a chance to speak. I still find myself wanting to return to my old habits. However, I am much more vigilant about making an effort to stop myself.
Psychological safety gives everyone a voice and let's it be heard. It encourages sharing, listening, and collaboration. This, in turn, helps teams perform better. That great idea that will save the team time gets utilized. That risk down the road gets mitigated early and avoids costly project mistakes. It builds trust and comradery which promotes compassion and helpfulness.
Why I Love It
What I love about it is that it has so many benefits. Imagine a world where we all feel free to voice our thoughts without retribution and each of us truly listens to and respects each other. How much more creative and innovative would we be if we shared more ideas with each other? How many less mistakes would be made if we listened to those who might know better? How many fewer people would be disgruntled that their voice was not heard?
I have used it to foster a better relationship with my teenage children. They feel comfortable to tell me the issues they are wrestling with. Instead of keeping silent and hiding them from me, we can have an open and honest conversation. At this point in their lives, I am not going to change them. But I can still provide my guidance based on my experiences.
If you want your team to learn more about psychological safety and learn how to use it in a fun and safe environment, contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Our training program is not another boring video or lecture. We make it into a game that challenges your mind, engages the team, and put those new skills into practice so that you retain and know how to use them.