Psychological Safety

“Psychological safety is defined as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes”. Professor Amy C. Edmondson, Harvard Business School

Professor Edmondson has spent nearly 30 years researching Psychological Safety. She started by studying two teams in a hospital.

Her thesis led her to conclude that the most cohesive team reported making the most mistakes, not because they were making more mistakes, but they were honest in their reporting compared to the other team.

In other words, they were more willing to admit and talk about what happened so they, and their team, could learn and learn quickly in order to improve.

When Google conducted a two-year study on what makes a great team, the results surprised some.

They found the highest performing teams had one thing in common; they felt ‘psychologically safe’.

This understanding has established psychological safety as the must have for all teams.

Psychological safety is where employees feel free to share their ideas and concerns without being judged or criticised.

 When employees feel mentally and emotionally safe to be themselves in the workplace, they inspire each other to learn and grow, creating new solutions to save time, energy and in some industries even save lives!  

Where are leadership’s weakest links that are letting down the whole system, for example?

Managers can be invited to discuss how well their organisation works, and how it may be improved, reflecting on such questions as:

  • How safely can people disagree with their boss?
  • What does no one dare talk about?
  • Where are feedback channels not working?
  • How can coordination be improved across boundaries and silos?
  • How can the organisation get better at learning from its mistakes?
  • How can leadership be more widely distributed?
  • How can the hierarchical structure function more effectively?
  • How rigorously is accountability practised?
  • How clear is it where responsibility lies for the healthy functioning of the system?