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Reflections on Psychological Safety in Teams

In this 21st century world of work, the only source of competitive advantage comes from people, it comes from the interpretation of the different aspects and perspectives that each one of the team can offer on the market scenarios. It comes from integrating these different visions to find ways to delight customers, simplify processes and find ways to use technological solutions in the best way.

The bottom line is that people will only offer their best if they feel that their perspective will be respected and welcomed. Psychological safety is about an environment in which people feel comfortable to express their opinions and share their experiences. An atmosphere where everyone has the security to expose themselves and put their ideas.

The term “psychological safety” was coined by Dr. Amy Edmondson, a professor at Harvard, and according to her “is a belief shared by team members that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking”.

It is up to the team leadership to get to know each member, their desires, passions, beliefs and skills in order to be able to assess what level of psychological safety is necessary for each situation. If we could measure safety on a scale of 0 to 10, a level of 7 might be enough for one group, but it might be low for another, where people have had less auspicious experiences with criticism, judgment, and recriminations.

Some relevant aspects about psychological safety are:

Do I feel supported and valued?

Do I feel confident asking for help, giving and receiving feedback, and talking about “difficult” topics?

Am I accepted as I am?

Do I feel comfortable coming up with ideas and questioning the status quo?

Are my opinions and preferences respected and am I free to propose changes?

Am I free to take risks, experiment and learn from mistakes?

There is no point in hiring talented people and seeking diversity in teams if these people do not feel willing to give their opinion and contribute to discussions and decision-making. We must organize the means to offer people in need to be themselves and be able to express themselves.

Octavio Alves Jr is an International Executive, Soft Skills Trainer, Leadership Specialist, MBA Professor at FGV, Podcaster and Columnist at Gente Mais Portal.


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