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The Power of Psychological Safety in Teams

Organizations are often reliant on teams or groups of people working toward a common goal. Team members typically have complementary skills that help them support the mission and vision of the organization. When teams are highly effective, you see it in the innovation, profitability, and growth of an organization. Solutions are found and at the same time, team members feel connected, appreciated, and valued in the workplace. The search for what makes a highly effective team has been studied for decades. Organizational leaders are tasked to find the right formula, the right combination, the right environment, and the right people to ensure success.

In 2012, Google began studying their teams to determine what created success. The results of their research project Project Aristotle, surprised many when they determined that psychological safety was the key factor.

Psychological safety is the cornerstone of trust. It’s the knowledge that if you take risks, make creative choices, or try something new, you won’t be penalized. When team members feel psychologically safe, they are able to express thoughts, ideas, and concerns without consequence. Team members are also more likely to admit mistakes and use them as a learning opportunity.

The “Why” Behind Psychological Safety in Teams

When there is psychological safety, teams operate without fear, which provides many benefits. As organizations evaluate successful teams, they often find the same types of results, including:

Enhanced Trust. Trust is the bedrock of strong team relationships, and encourages open communication and collaboration.

Improved Innovation. In psychologically safe teams, individuals are more likely to voice unconventional ideas, challenge the status quo, and experiment with new approaches. This freedom to innovate leads to breakthrough solutions and a competitive edge.

Increased Engagement. When individuals feel safe at work, they are more motivated to contribute their best efforts, leading to increased productivity and overall team success.

Better Problem Solving. Diverse perspectives and collaborative problem-solving become the norm, enabling teams to tackle challenges more effectively.

Greater Resilience. When team members trust one another and know they can rely on each other's support, they are better prepared to navigate difficult situations and emerge stronger from setbacks.

Creating Psychological Safety in Teams

How does an organization create psychological safety? How do you build the perfect environment for employees to thrive?

Soft skills make a big difference in promoting psychological safety in the workplace. When the great resignation found 47 million employees quitting their jobs in 2021 and an additional 38 million in 2022, the key factor was dissatisfaction in the work environment. Employees did not feel psychologically safe or valued.

Since 2004, The Folke Institute has served as a trusted advisor to organizations, helping them find answers to pressing questions. Everything begins with leadership and leaders establish the tone for workplace culture. When a leader models vulnerability, encourages open dialogue, demonstrates humility, and shows a willingness to listen and learn from others, they play a crucial role in signaling that these traits are both welcome and valued.

Through our “Influence with Integrity” training, leaders learn to understand the difference between merely holding power and leading through inspiration. They are introduced to strategies that foster trust, credibility, and authenticity.

Inclusive and respectful communication is essential within the workplace and should resonate across all departments. Training can enhance teams by teaching soft skills such as active listening, posing open-ended questions, and offering constructive feedback. This feedback should emphasize learning and growth through effective conflict resolution. In our “Communicating with Impact” workshop, we stress that verbal and nonverbal communication are both crucial in ensuring clarity and leaving a lasting impression.

Mistakes and failures should be recognized as an intrinsic part of the learning process and as avenues for improvement and growth. Our “Building Resilience” workshop empowers teams to adapt to change and embrace challenges head-on. Training in resilience and emotional intelligence equips team members to develop self-awareness, express empathy, and cultivate meaningful connections.

Diversity of thought, background, and experience is a cornerstone of psychological safety. An organization that values diversity reassures its team members that their unique characteristics are not only accepted but celebrated. However, diversity is about much more than just race or ethnicity. It encompasses gender, sexual orientation, upbringing, family status, and all other intersections of one’s identity. The Folke Institute provides a plethora of diversity training programs including “Gender, Identity, and Pronouns 101,” “Bridging the Racial Divide,” “Diversity and Inclusion for Leaders,” and “Future Shifting for Creating an Inclusive Organization.”

Successful teams manifest the power of psychological safety through trust, innovation, engagement, and resilience. As you evaluate the effectiveness of your teams and identify areas of improvement, particularly to foster a culture of openness and collaboration, reach out to The Folke Institute. We will curate training opportunities tailored specifically to align with your organization’s needs.

We look forward to helping your teams soar to new heights of trust and innovation.

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