The Positive Effects of Psychological Safety

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When working from a distance, the challenge of collaboration can increase exponentially. Limited involvement, troublesome technology, and even varied work schedules can drive a wedge between teams. Even more, we’re starting to experience virtual meeting fatigue which is impacting attention, feelings of connection, and engagement. These challenges are increasingly common and felt by many.

Whether working from home or side-by-side, one tenet of high-performing teams remains constant. Psychological safety is a foundational building block for creating a rich environment in which collaboration can thrive. Google conducted a two-year study on team performance that they dubbed Project Aristotle. Astoundingly, they uncovered through their research that high-performing teams all share psychological safety. It’s a simple concept that almost seems to reach back to what we’re first taught as children in how to treat others with kindness and respect. In this video about Psychological Safety from Tech Insider, Charles Duhigg explains Google’s findings.

As a practice psychological safety lies in the ability of teams to create space for one another and ensure that a sense of belonging is a core practice of the team. As an attitude, it means making sure that everyone knows they have permission to be themselves and perform at their highest level. As a behavior it means checking an ego or competitive nature at the door to make sure everyone has a chance to speak, be listened to, and be seen for the value they bring.

When in-person, we’re aided by subtle clues like body language that become a tell-all for when someone doesn’t feel a sense of belonging. But with the added complexity of virtual work, it might not be as quickly apparent that someone doesn’t feel included, invested, or valued during the short time together. For that reason, we all must make a greater effort to ensure the distance between us isn’t compounded by technology.

Today, consider the impact you have on your teammates. Then consider the impact they have on you. Together, are you doing enough to ensure a sense of psychological safety for everyone to feel connected, listened to, and valued?

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”

-Ernest Hemingway

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