Prominence of Psychological Safety for Team Success

Allan Mullaly clapped and appreciated the lone member in his team, Mark Fields, who was ready to flag a RED and openly asked for help to deal with the concern. I don’t know if it is Incidental or by design, Mark Fields, became the successor to Allan Mullaly in Ford.

That was a dose of radical candor and transparency. Usually, the opposite happens in many organizations. Leaders often don’t know the answers but are afraid to admit openly. Many leaders tend to sugar-coat everything and try to push issues under the carpet fearing possible repercussion. Leaders pretend to know things and posture to others that they know, even when the truth is that they are unsure and need help. A culture of honesty and transparency allows issues to be brought out in open. Without admitting the problems, without facing the reality, there was little chance Alan, or anyone could turn a company around. Alan established this culture in his very first BPR.

Alan developed the culture of Psychological Safety at Ford. What is Psychological Safety?

Prominence of Psychological Safety for Team Success

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Psychological Safety at Workplace

Psychological safety is the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. At work, it’s a shared expectation held by members of a team that teammates will not embarrass, reject, or punish them for sharing ideas, taking risks, or soliciting feedback.

Psychological safety at work doesn’t mean that everybody is nice to each other all the time. It means that people feel free to “brainstorm out loud”, voice half-finished thoughts, openly challenge the status quo, share feedback, and work through disagreements together — knowing that leaders value honesty, candor, and truth-telling.

When psychological safety in the workplace becomes the culture, people feel comfortable bringing their full, authentic selves to work and are okay with “laying themselves on the line” in front of others.

This is exactly what Valmiki mentioned in Moola Ramayan without mentioning the term Psychological safety.

"Men who forever speak pleasing words are easy to be obtained. But one who speaks of useful but unpleasing words as also the one who listens to them, are rare to be obtained" - Valmiki Ramayan 6.16.21

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Eight Tips to Improve Psychological Safety at Workplace

Make Psychological Safety an Explicit Priority

Talk with your team about the importance of creating psychological safety at work. Ask for help when you need it, and freely give help when asked. Model the behaviors you want to see, and set the stage by using inclusive leadership.

Facilitate Everyone Speaking Up

Show genuine curiosity and empathy in the workplace and honor frankness and truth-telling. Be open-minded, compassionate, and willing to listen when someone is brave enough to say something challenging the status quo. Don’t be a Ravan putting down people when they express differing opinion.

Establish Norms for How Failure is Handled

Don’t punish experimentation and manageable risk-taking. Show recognition that mistakes are an opportunity for growth. Encourage learning from failure and disappointment, and openly share your hard-won lessons learned from mistakes. Help innovation instead of sabotaging it. Use candor when expressing disappointment as well as appreciation.

Create Space for New Ideas

Consider whether you only want ideas that have been thoroughly tested, or whether you’re willing to accept highly creative, out-of-the-box ideas that are not yet well-formulated.

Embrace Productive Conflict

Promote sincere dialogue and constructive debate, and work to resolve conflicts proactively.

Pay Close Attention and Look for Patterns

Focus on team members’ perceived patterns of psychological safety, not just the overall level.

Make an Intentional Effort to Promote Dialogue

Promote skill at giving and receiving feedback and create space for people to raise concerns. Ask colleagues powerful, open-ended questions, and then listen intently to understand their feelings and values, as well as facts. Provide opportunities to learn how to share constructive feedback to one another and what respectful responses look like.

Celebrate Wins

Notice and acknowledge what’s going well. Positive interactions and conversations between individuals are built on trust and mutual respect. Share credit and embrace expertise among many, and the success of the collective, versus a single “hero” mentality.

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Jaganathan T
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Jaganathan T
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