As a Scrum Master my purpose is to create the space for teams to achieve great things. The learning of the week is that psychological safety is the most important attribute for successful teams. It’s obvious and proven by a Google study that showed these 5 themes were exhibited by their most effective teams. This post is only about number 1, Psychological Safety.
Interpersonal risk is driven by a fear of failing, being judged or shut down. This is a risk to speak out, share ideas, raise an issue, own a mistake, suggest an improvement, anything that could lead to a change.
This impacts an organization’s ability to thrive and innovate because we don’t create the space to speak openly.
We need to change this.
Let’s create open sessions to share ideas, fix it Friday’s where people can fix things they want. Let’s encourage talking about errors by calling them learnings. Let’s study these and learn from them as a team.
Failure is and never will be a bad thing. Yes, it can suck because something hasn’t gone as we wanted it to, however we:
- have learnt something new
- know one way it won’t work
- know what not to do next time
- know we need to find another way
- can share our learnings and advise others this way won’t work
This is all good stuff that gets covered up because we don’t allow a safe space for these conversations. Collectively we learn from failures, this can only work in an environment where it’s safe to fail and the word failure doesn’t cause our heart rates to rise.
Once the walls start to come down and the team become more comfortable in the space, encourage it by showing appreciation. No matter what the idea, issue, error raised; the first response is key. Let’s thank our people for coming forward and going against human nature to self-protect and not put ourselves out there. Then respond with humility to the situation at hand. A positive response to sharing an idea or owning an error promotes the behaviour. This is us taking one step closer to psychological safety.
This works both ways. As leaders, bosses, managers, we also need to speak openly. Let’s be honest a good leader doesn’t have all the answers. A good leader knows how to inspire others for answers and lifts the team when they need it. So when we don’t have an answer, let’s be honest about it. As teams see us being open about not knowing, they start to follow and recognise it’s okay to not know everything and we create space for real conversations and real value. The second benefit to saying we don’t know; it creates space for the team to share their ideas. Now we see idea generation that didn’t have a space in our old ways. Innovation starts to bloom.
If you take one thing away from this post, let it be that teams thrive when it’s psychologically safe to speak. So I ask you to help me create more of these spaces.
There are plenty of tools here at rework from Google to help. https://rework.withgoogle.com/