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KEY POINTS:

1. Psychological safety is when people feel that there are no negative consequences for risk-taking, such as being viewed as ignorant, incompetent, or disruptive. They also feel they will not be embarrassed or punished for making a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.

2. Here are two questions that help co-workers, students, or your family members feel that the environment is a psychologically safe place: What went well? Where do I need support?

When it comes to building healthy, high-performance teams, the Google study identified psychological safety as most important to team success.

If you’ve ever been in a perfectionist work environment or on a less than great team, you may have experienced things like this: people getting shot down for having wacky ideas, or being criticized for not having the right answer, or being afraid to speak up because someone might roll their eyes or snicker.

I would call that a psychologically unsafe situation! People feel under attack and protect themselves by clamming up or playing it safe. Kids do this in classrooms all the time – maybe you did too, when you were a student. No surprise that careful contributions – lacking in original insight or creative whimsy – lead to uninspired learning or weak solutions.

Let’s define psychological safety so you can start to integrate it into your teamwork:

·       A person’s perception that there are no negative consequences for risk-taking, such as being viewed as ignorant, incompetent or disruptive

·       Teammates feel they will not be embarrassed or punished for making a mistake, asking a question or offering a new idea

I think Saturday Night Live is a perfect example of psychological safety. Actors come together during the week to generate new ideas, and they pitch them constantly – basically, competing with one another to get their ideas on the air. Obviously, only a few get picked and make it to Saturday night. Once the final skits have been selected, the highly competitive atmosphere switches to a highly cooperative one. Everyone comes together to work on them. Both in the competition stage and in the cooperation stage, there is a high level of support. Just because you want your idea to win doesn’t mean you’re trashing everyone else. And if your idea doesn’t win, you join someone else’s to make it the best it can be.

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On any team, you want members to feel free to offer new ideas without penalty, to stick their neck out. That’s a vulnerable position. The creative flow will shut off if disapproval results. People protect themselves from harm, whether emotional or physical. It’s a survival instinct, and we need to have it for situations that really risky. A great team isn’t that situation.

Psychological safety is what got Melissa McCarthy to her Sean Spicer impersonation. It’s one of the best SNL characters ever. In order to be so creative, the support has to be greater than the risks.

This is true for the workplace, for schools, even for families. Co-workers, students, even your own teenagers need to feel that the environment is a psychologically safe place. Here are two questions that help make that happen: What went well? Where do I need support?

Those two positive questions can lead to amazing outcomes. Try it in a team meeting or at the end of every work week and see what happens when you go around a table and everyone asks and answers these questions. Or do it with your family or your spouse. What went well this week? Where do I need support?

When we talk about these things in a safe environment, everyone wins. And every team gets better.

Today's POWER UP: Daily Reflection

TO ENSURE THAT YOU ARE CREATING AN ENVIRONMENT AND CULTURE WHERE SUPPORT IS GREATER THAN RISK THERE IS AN EXERCISE THAT WORKS WONDERS. 

ASK YOUR TEAMMATES TWO QUESTIONS AT THE END OF EACH WEEK THAT YOU ARE WORKING TOGETHER ON A PROJECT. THE FIRST QUESTION IS “WHAT WENT WELL?” AND THE SECOND IS “ WHERE DO YOU NEED SUPPORT?”

I LEARNED THESE QUESTIONS FROM MY FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE ALEX CHARFEN (YOU CAN CHECK HIM OUT AT WWW.CHARFEN.COM). 

ADD THESE QUESTIONS TO YOUR MEETINGS AND ROUTINES AND YOU WILL CREATE A POWERFUL POSITIVE CULTURE IN YOUR TEAMS.