Psychological safety – how it drives teams to excellence and boosts innovation

Innovation and creativity are central to business success. However, if team members are hesitant to express their thoughts, share ideas or discuss mistakes, the team’s performance and innovation capabilities could be compromised. If this concern resonates with you, consider the role of psychological safety in the workplace as a solution.

What is psychological safety and how does it influence employee performance and satisfaction? How can leaders and colleagues nurture an environment that champions innovation? In this blog post, we will address these questions and provide valuable insights on strengthening psychological safety in the workplace.

Understanding psychological safety

Psychological safety gauges the level of trust and comfort among team colleagues when confronting uncomfortable truths, admitting mistakes or displaying vulnerability. Teams with a robust psychological safety culture value constructive feedback. Mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities, and feedback is welcome. Every team member is encouraged to share their opinions and seek assistance without their skills or knowledge being questioned. In teams that are psychologically safe, everyone’s opinion matters.

Why is psychological safety crucial?

In today’s world of fast-paced change, unpredictability, intricacy and ambiguity, companies and teams need to evolve faster than ever to succeed. Psychological safety has positive effects: mistakes are out in the open, leading to rapid remedial measures being taken; collaboration is improved; and potentially game-changing ideas for innovation can be shared. Psychological safety in the workplace can foster a positive working environment and improve the well-being of employees.

Three practical tips for continuous improvements in psychological safety

The following three tips will enhance psychological safety in your team:

Tip 1 – Give constructive and appreciative feedback: Feedback and psychological safety are closely intertwined. By using the four-part of the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) method developed and described by Marshall Rosenberg based on observations, feelings, needs and requests, feedback can be delivered constructively and appreciatively, based on facts rather than stinging criticism. Forexample, “When I noticed you didn’t attend the meeting yesterday (observation), I felt concerned and disappointed (feeling) because I value reliability and collaboration (need). Could you let me know in the future if you can’t attend a meeting (request)?”

This communication method is useful for trust, authenticity, accountability and transparency while stimulating collaboration and performance in teams.

Tip 2 – Try “yes, and” thinking: One method for putting psychological safety into practice in teams is “Yes, and…” thinking. Often our conversations centre around “Yes, but”, which typically introduces criticism or leads to pushback. Instead, try framing a “Yes, and” statement, which connects an objection with a forward-looking idea from the outset, fostering a positive and constructive atmosphere.

Tip 3 – Try an appreciation circle (including being the one in the centre): Appreciation is a key building block for psychological safety, and the appreciation circle aims to emphasise this. Here’s how it works: Pick a team member and for two minutes have all the other team members tell them what they appreciate the most about them, focusing solely on positives. The person in the middle listens during the discussion and provides comments afterwards. This gives team members the opportunity to get to know each other better and appreciate each other’s strong points and abilities.

“Psychological safety is the soil, not the seed”. Psychological safety provides the fertile ground where ideas can germinate, fostering an environment where innovative thoughts can thrive and blossom.

XpertCenter AG’s Health Management Competence Centre supports you in your efforts to protect the health and well-being of your employees. Our WHM experts can be relied upon to provide you with personal advice and support, wherever you are, in setting up or expanding your WHM policy. Click here for more information about our services. We look forward to connecting.