You gotta love Google. Who else would conduct a data study on human soft skills dynamics to teach us what we already know? Ok, maybe we don’t already “know” that psychological safety produces more successful teams, but we each individually know:
we’re more comfortable adding our two cents on the teams where we don’t fear being shamed for offering up our ideas (i.e., psychological safety).
And thus the key finding beneath Google’s research that teams that enforced norms that made people feel psychologically safe:
When teams invite everyone on the team to contribute, team intelligence goes up. – Click To Tweet
Teams aren’t smart because smart people are on them; teams are smart because everyone—no matter how small—contributes and feels comfortable doing so.
Key Criteria for Team Performance
So if you’re working to build a corporate culture where psychological safety runs rampant through team norms and culture, what do you do?
- Psychological Safety
- Structure and Clarity
Learning To Create A Safe Team Space
But what if you don’t work at Google? What if you’re on your own for making your team psychologically safe and more productive? Here are several things you can do yourself to make your team more effective, and it will grow you as a leader at the same time.
Listen without judgment: We all judge things; it’s how the human brain is designed. But when people feel judged—particularly by a leader—they tend to shut down and hold their ideas inside. So practice reserving judgement until you’re in private. You don’t have to withhold judgement completely, just withhold it while people are talking and don’t allow others to pile it on. Practice separating the time for listening from the time for judging by some “consideration time” to help you truly open your mind to hearing what people say. When you get good at it you’ll be surprised how much your immediate judgment screened out information that made it hard for you to truly hear what people were saying before. You’ll pick up information and ideas this way and your team will feel more psychologically safe.
Spend time with people one-on-one: It’s easy to look at team-time as time-saving time so you don’t have to deal with all these pesky individuals, but when you take the time to talk to people outside the team context, you can learn what is really bothering them, and why they may not feel safe in the team dynamic. You learn more about what they think and how to “read them” so you can invite them into the team discussion in the right way at the right time. The team dynamic is unique, but understanding how people individually interact with it makes you a better team leader.
Be very clear about team purpose: People don’t now how to offer their best if they don’t understand the group’s purpose. And people forget. You think because you explained it three months ago everyone else remembers as clearly as you do what you’ve come together to do. Don’t assume. Reiterate and—importantly—invite everyone to frequently put the team purpose into their own words (this is when it becomes more real to them.) Having a shared purpose can be magical in the way it naturally brings people together. Got a tough team-member who’s not bought into the purpose? Spend some one-on-one time with them to find out what they have at stake when the group is successful. That will help them align to the group goal in a personally meaningful way.
There’s more, but these are some of the core concepts that will help you be a good team leader. Want to hone your team lead skills? Become an InPower Coaching member and explore Library 5: Managing Change to become a master!
Check out the resources in the InPower Coaching EQ at Work and Soft Skills Research Index.
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