Prevent business disasters by creating the right environment for your team

03 Oct Prevent business disasters by creating the right environment for your team

Psychological safety is a subtle but powerful factor when it comes to whether your business will succeed or fail.

Get it right, and you have a highly motivated, high-performing, collaborative team. Get it wrong, and you create a cut-throat work environment of mistrust, judgment, poor communication and unhealthy competition.

Have you ever wondered why your team isn’t more collaborative?

Do you have jobsworths in your team, those who just do their job and never step out of their box?

Have you ever been concerned by your team’s lack of ideas, creativity and motivation?

Do the members of your team ask questions, challenge mistakes, admit weakness and make suggestions?

Most people seek to avoid these interpersonal risks for fear of being seen as incompetent, ignorant or disruptive, but taking these risks in a psychologically safe environment where there is trust, respect and candour amongst team members can actually result in the opposite.

Challenging mistakes or making suggestions in a cooperative and collaborative culture can result in refined processes, improvements in quality and an increase in performance, both for the team and the business – this is all good news for you, your team and your customers.

In her book The Fearless Organization, Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School states that:

Without psychological safety, people cannot speak up, contribute or learn. They cannot contribute their unique perspective or value… Fear in the workplace is lethal to creativity, innovation and engagement.

And the consequences of an unsafe working environment can be catastrophic.

In 2010 the Deepwater Horizon drilling oil rig exploded, killing 11 and injuring 46. While the incident was primarily a human and environmental disaster, in the investigations that followed it transpired that those workers and contractors who had raised concerns about safety issues prior to the explosion were either ignored or faced negative consequences for speaking up. This lack of psychological safety where people felt they couldn’t voice their concerns likely contributed to the escalation of risks and the subsequent tragedy.

Businesses can learn lessons from the Deepwater Horizon incident as well, as it emphasises the importance of creating an environment where your team feel safe and comfortable sharing their perspectives, concerns and ideas.

An absence of psychological safety can also have wide-ranging detrimental effects on your team’s stability and well-being. Creating a psychologically safe culture encourages open dialogue, effective risk assessment and proactive problem-solving. If these had been in place on the oil rig, perhaps the tragedy would not have happened.

Click here to access our Business Bitesize library that includes our downloadable “Psychological Safety” report and read more about the importance of nurturing and maintaining psychological safety in your business and the value of your team taking interpersonal risks.

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