Building Psychological Safety to Scale Your Business!

Research shows that when organizations foster a work environment where people feel safe to share their thoughts and input, ask for help, or challenge the status quo, the same organizations are more likely to benefit from innovation, get strategic output of their diversity, and be better equipped to adapt to change. All key aspects of successful businesses today and a do-or-die focus for any startup & scaleup. 

There is little controversy around the importance of psychological safety in the workplace today and most leaders understand what it entails as well as its benefits. However, how we actually go about building psychological safety on our team(s) is not as straightforward as we might like. 

Establishing a safe space

It is hard to keep the needed pace of innovation and tune a product or a solution to fit with the market needs and wants, if your business is unable to optimally tap into the strategic potential of your diverse team(s). And in order to unleash this potential, as a leader, you need to build psychological safety among your team members. 

Your focus must be on creating the right behaviors, expectations, and mindset within your team. Building a climate where each team member feels safe to raise their voice and offer their (differing) opinions. While doing this is far from rocket science, it requires your continual focus and perseverance. 

We find that the following behaviors support the creation of such a climate:

  • Actively and openly seeking out opinions that differ from your own
  • Reinforce behaviors that invite others to share their thoughts
  • Openly provide positive feedback to those who dare to ask questions or raise concerns; show an interest in their input
  • Be honest about your own shortcomings, areas of uncertainty, and ask for advice

By leading by example and supporting others who display the needed behaviors, you make it easier for your team members to do the same. As an extension, these behaviors also foster an environment where people value each other’s opinions and contributions, care about each other, and about the team’s output - which are again important for building and sustaining psychological safety at work. 

It often boils down to treating others with respect, regardless of their formal status on the team. 

An authoritative leadership style can be truly damaging for a team’s psychological safety, whereas supportive leadership behaviors promote it. We’ve previously written an article on leading for growth, where we describe how we work to foster a safe, supportive, and positive work environment at the New Normal Group.

Ready to scale

Once you and your team have established a safe space where team members feel comfortable speaking up, you are in the sweet spot for really scaling your organization through your people. 

Using the established positive team climate as your foundation, you can further strengthen psychological safety by challenging the team even further; encourage each team member to perform their best work at the edge of their abilities, exceeding expectations, and fulfill their potential. 

How can we reach our goals more effectively? Where can we improve further? Can we rethink our initial assumptions or tune the challenge at hand in a different way? 

This will facilitate creativity and innovation, helping team members feel empowered and challenged, and be a driver for growth and development - for each individual and for the organization. 

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