Create a psychologically safe environment and let yourself and others thrive
This Autumn our team, Motive, spent a bit over two weeks at the Riekes Center, close to Palo Alto, California. One of the Riekes Center’s core values is to provide a safe space for all members of the community, regardless of their background or goals. Coaches there encourage members to engage and challenge themselves, in a safe and understanding manner. We were mildly shocked when we heard we were to play at an open mic event held at the Center just over a week from then. We are used to challenging ourselves when it comes to sports and pushing our bodies to the limit, but performing music in front of an audience was something new to most of us. We formed two bands and began rehearsing. When it was showtime, we were all rather nervous. I was on drums, but I had an idea about doing a short singing/rapping bit towards the end of our song. It was big deal for me, since I am not much of a singer and have never properly sung in front of anyone. However, me and the whole team felt that nobody would judge or criticize us, no matter how bad the performance had gone. But apparently, people seemed to enjoy our little show.
None of this would have been possible if the general atmosphere had not been safe and accepting. All nine members of our team exceeded our own expectations, and felt extremely empowered after the performances. This sort of psychological safe space is also applicable in every workspace and team environment. Feeling safe means each individual can bring forth their ideas and suggestions, as well as having the courage to trial and error, or fail and learn.
Diversity is a fairly popular topic nowadays in business and corporations around the world. In a nutshell, it can mean the inclusion of people of different backgrounds. By “background”, I mean everything from ethnicity to intellectual attributes. I want to focus more on the latter, partly because I have not really looked into the former, and do not want to make statements about something I am not too familiar with. Anyway, everyone has their own story, and their own strengths, shaped by cultural background and experience in life. I believe that intellectual diversity should be prioritized when picking new team members or when figuring out roles for a certain task. In order for everyone to be able to realize and utilize their own potential, they have to feel safe in the environment they are in. If a person feels judged whenever they say something, or feels like they have to filter too much of what they want to say, their voice may remain unheard and this may result in a cycle that in turn could result in poor workplace wellbeing – and of course poorer performance of the team.
In our team, we have had a fairly safe environment. Since we all study physiotherapy, we are used to building a confidential relationship with our clients. However, we as a team might have taken the “safe space” mentality for granted, since we have not discussed this matter at all and have not set guidelines for this kind of environment to work. Over the 1,5 year period at Proakatemia, some of our team members have stated that at times they have felt overrun by others and have not felt comfortable asking or saying if they did not understand something. Luckily, as we saw in our final team test, the 24H innovation challenge, our team did very well. We still have not had a “Motorola” style debriefing of it, but based on our coffee table conversations, we all felt comfortable and safe throughout the challenge.
In the future, one of my goals is to implement this idea of a safe environment wherever I am working at. I have learned a lot about peer mentoring and team learning, and I want to take this acquired knowledge and pass it onwards.
What are you doing to create a safe environment for your team members or co-workers? Do you have any experience of feeling safe, or not feeling safe in a team environment?
More about the topic:
Building a psychologically safe workplace | Amy Edmondson | TEDxHGSE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhoLuui9gX8
“What is psychological safety and why is it the key to great teamwork?” By Impraise. https://www.impraise.com/blog/what-is-psychological-safety-and-why-is-it-the-key-to-great-teamwork