4 ways leaders can nurture their team by fostering psychological safety
Psychological safety is a critical concept for teams and those who lead them. Research confirms its positive impact on a team’s performance, innovation, creativity, resilience, and learning, as well as the negative impact of missing psychological safety – namely stress, burnout, and turnover.
As a leader, it is important to create a workplace environment where your team members feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their thoughts and ideas. Psychological safety refers to an environment where individuals feel comfortable taking risks and speaking up without fear of judgement or reprisal. Here are four ways to nurture your team by fostering psychological safety:
1. Model vulnerability
By modelling vulnerability, leaders demonstrate that it is acceptable to make mistakes and that failure is a natural part of the learning process. This helps team members feel more comfortable taking risks and trying new things, which in return leads to greater innovation and creativity. When leaders model vulnerability, they also build trust with their team members. Trust is a critical component of psychological safety because it allows team members to feel secure in their interactions with each other. When team members trust one another, they are more likely to be open and honest about their thoughts and feelings, which can lead to better communication and collaboration.
Additionally, modelling vulnerability helps to create a culture of openness and authenticity. When leaders are willing to share their own experiences and emotions, they encourage team members to do the same. This can help to break down barriers and create a more inclusive workplace culture, where team members feel comfortable expressing their true selves.
2. Encourage open communication
One of the most important aspects of fostering psychological safety is encouraging open communication within a team. This means creating opportunities for team members to share their thoughts and ideas, whether through team meetings, one-on-one conversations, or other channels. Effective leadership communication is built on three core pillars: accuracy, openness and timeliness. Studies suggest that employees who work in an environment where communication is open, timely and accurate are more engaged and demonstrate a greater intent to stay with the organisation.
Leaders who make time to listen to their employees’ perspectives and make them be heard and valued, create a sense of belonging. However, it’s not just about how they listen, but also about how often they listen. Creating an organisational culture where continuous efforts are being made to listen to employees, on organisational, team and individual levels, is essential for employees to feel psychologically safe.
3. Build a culture of continuous learning
Most of our learning occurs at work - we learn through those who manage and work with us. Learning isn’t just about spending the day in the classroom. It’s about day-to-day micro-learning, peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, coaching, mentoring and feedback.
A successful learning environment recognises employees when they make progress on a new initiative, even if they don’t hit the end goal. Learning can also be supported by not hiding failures, as this creates an environment that encourages transparency and allows for teams to discuss issues without blame. A good starting point for leaders is to open up about their own development and their personal areas for improvement. By doing so, it becomes more acceptable for everyone else to do the same.
4. Emphasise team collaboration
One of the most important elements leaders can pay attention to in creating a culture of collaboration is actively promoting it. By walking the talk, leaders can demonstrate the impact of individuals coming together, not just by promoting a more effective way of working across the organisations, but also exchanging ideas and driving innovation. It is essential that leaders consider how the decisions they make affect the values, ideas and culture of the organisation.
When your team members feel like they are part of a cohesive team, they are more likely to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. This, in return, enables a more innovative and productive workplace, where individuals are not afraid to take risks.
Psychological safety leads to team members feeling more engaged and motivated, as well as better decision-making, as employees feel more comfortable voicing their opinions and concerns. In addition, they are more comfortable sharing their mistakes and learning from them. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering training and development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops, and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org.