According to this article, Google has cracked the secret to building the perfect team. The key, they found, is that team members need feel ‘psychological safety’ in the workplace. That refers to the feeling of being free enough to share the things that scare us without any fear of recrimination, or in other words, not putting on a ‘work face’ and just saying and doing the right thing to get through the day unscathed.
So, it would appear that there is a key to building the perfect team. But how do you actually facilitate that? How can you help your team to feel that they’re ‘psychologically safe’ at work? And what can you do to foster an environment that encourages open, honest communication? Here are some ideas to inspire you…
Pay attention to varied personality types
Successful teams will often consist of a mixture of people who are more introverted or extroverted than others, as well as those who are more naturally confident or shy. However, in order to really make the most of your team, you’ll need to be aware of the personality types of each member and ensure that you’re accounting for their particular ‘quirk’.
For instance, quiet team members may not feel psychologically safe or able to express their opinion if louder team members always dominate the conversation – particularly if louder team members are going to be strongly opposed to or defensive about whatever the quieter member has to say.
Make sure you’re enabling quieter members by giving them the chance to speak up and express their opinion, by enforcing a ‘take it turns round the table’ rule, for example. It’s also important to tackle relationship rifts as soon as they appear – bad feelings among team members can create a very toxic atmosphere, and certainly won’t lead to anyone feeling ‘psychologically safe’. You might even want to enroll your team members in courses and workshops designed to strengthen their communication skills, as this is perhaps one of the key ingredients of a healthy working environment.
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Equip your team with tools to help them communicate
Busy teams will need software to help keep track of tasks, statuses and next-steps. But, as well as investing in software, it’s well worth investing in plug-ins for software that have been specifically designed to manage a winning team. Plug-ins can be used to facilitate continuous feedback on the tasks the team is working on, and can be used to enable regular performance reviews too. All in all, plug-ins can help team members to know what’s expected of them and what’s expected of one another, while giving them a platform to communicate on. Again, this kind of continuous feedback, knowing where a person stands and having a way to communicate thoughts and feelings is the key to enabling psychological safety.
Let your team members know you’re not perfect either
Psychological safety is all about creating an environment where people can express their true feelings: saying when they don’t feel valued, speaking honestly about what they think is being done well and poorly, and having the confidence to address issues and suggest ways to improve upon them.
One of the best ways to facilitate this as a leader is to be a bit ‘vulnerable’ yourself. Your team members will trust a team leader who is totally transparent and leads by example, and they’ll follow suit if you recognise your own weakness, admit when you make mistakes or didn’t handle something correctly. By not acting like you’re absolutely perfect all the time, your team will trust you and work in a culture where they feel safe to be their true selves.