How To Instill Psychological Safety And Trust In Teams

I believe trust is an essential ingredient to a successful team. In 1999, Amy Edmondson published a study on learning behavior in work teams and concluded that “building trust may be an important ingredient in creating a climate of psychological safety.” This term, psychological safety, is defined as a commonly held belief among the team that the workplace is a safe place for interpersonal risk-taking. All great teams should have this.In a 2016 study by PwC, we learned that 55% of Global CEOs surveyed think a lack of trust in business is a threat to growth prospects.

One HBR writer’s research illustrated (paywall) that compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies reported over 70% less stress, 106% more energy at work and 50% higher productivity.

If you want to create that type of team, then here are three tips to increase psychological safety and increase trust within your teams and organizations:

1. Decrease the pressure in your communication channels.

Stress and pressure can be a good thing in the workplace, but too much pressure can be debilitating to psychological safety. This is not to suggest you cannot have a pressured environment, but I believe the right type of pressure is key. Some research covered by UC Berkeley suggests that anxiety can reduce empathy. To increase empathy, balance your approach of issuing commands in communication with asking open-ended questions. For example, rather than saying what you think first in a meeting, facilitate discussion by asking a colleague, “What are your thoughts on this?” or “How would you implement this if budget weren’t a concern?” This sparks the conversation and can get things going.

2. Expect people to bring ideas and participate in meetings.

In Steve Rogelberg’s book The Surprising Science of Meetings, he emphasizes how important it is to prepare agendas and, more importantly, to expect people to participate — or they shouldn’t come to the meeting. When people do no participate, pull them aside after and, first, let them know that you wanted more feedback from them during the session. Second, set the expectation for participation in the future.

To help, if you are the meeting organizer or facilitator, call on individuals and ask for their genuine opinions about what you’re discussing. Further, try unique ideas like having them write their ideas on paper and share them anonymously. Above all, avoid discouraging an idea or participation by interrupting or being critical. As business author Patrick Lencioni is credited with saying, “It’s as simple as this. When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they’ve been listened to, they won’t really get on board.” It can be difficult to realize when people aren’t offering up their ideas — seeing that “not doing” is often an invisible act. A leader should pay attention and identify opportunities for team members to share.

3. Implement a culture-measurement system.

For example, Gallup has a set of 12 questions that can help employers measure employee engagement. Gallup research showed that “teams at the 99th percentile [of engagement] had four times the odds of success (or above-average performance) compared with those at the first percentile.” To start measuring engagement and culture, you can measure simple things like employees’ opinion on the company’s values, mission statement or purpose. You could also measure innovation by tracking the number of ideas submitted quarterly (and who submits them). The key is to make sure someone on the team measures these items and that they’re responsible for reporting them so you can use these metrics to judge and improve trust. As Thomas S. Monson is quoted as saying, “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement increases.”

Your success at growing your business or sales may rest in part on increased psychological safety and trust. As an entrepreneur, leader or executive, it is important that you build trust on your team. Implement these three steps — decreasing pressure, actively increasing engagement and measuring culture — to help build the elite teams you want.

This article was sourced from Forbes