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How to Build the Psychological Safety That Drives High Performance

You need your team to give their best effort—but they won't deliver if they're living in a culture of fear. As CEO, you can help break that cycle.

Source | | Jerry Connor

Imagine this scenario: One of your employees comes to you, frustrated with a colleague who seems to be blocking their intention to embark on a new project.

What do you do? How you manage these kinds of situations determines whether you create a psychologically safe environment that allows your employees to thrive.

two-year study of team performance at Google found that teams that allow employees to take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed are consistently the highest-performing. That’s because employees can say or do what they know is really needed without worrying about others’ responses or getting negative feedback from the boss.

Psychological safety relies on trust: Employees need the security of knowing that others won’t think less of them if they say what they think, make a mistake, or share a crazy idea. As CEO, you play a central role: Studies consistently find that empathetic leaders more effectively create trusting relationships that translate into higher employee satisfaction and performance. Conversely, leaders who don’t relate to their teams often struggle to motivate employees.

If you can help others become more empathetic and open to the thoughts and ideas of people who are different from them, you will go a long way toward building psychological safety and, as a result, a high-performing organization.

Lead From a Place of Understanding

So how should this situation be handled? According to data from tens of thousands of similar scenarios, one response has a disproportionate impact. Teaching this response to your senior leadership and encouraging them to do the same with their teams will create a long-term impact and help drive your business:

1) See: Get in other people’s shoes

When facing a situation like the one at the beginning of the article, the first challenge is helping your employee get into the other person’s shoes. If employees are struggling to influence their teams, it may be that their own judgments and experiences are getting in the way of understanding others’ perspectives.

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