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The Role of Psychological Safety in Creating High Performing Teams

By | David Green | Tom Marsden |

To create highly effective teams, organisations have to enable two things: One is psychological safety and the second is High performance standards: through training, coaching, clarity about goals etc. Google’s two-year study on team performance revealed that team effectiveness is grounded in psychological safety – the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake. Many studies have shown that psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, creativity, innovation and a level of openness that allows you share how you feel — it’s these types of behaviours that lead to market breakthroughs. With multiple studies highlighting that attrition rates are rising, creating a work environment that promotes psychological safety, employee wellbeing and a sense of purpose has never been more important.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to Tom Marsden, CEO of Saberr to hear more about how his company is helping organisations driver greater business value by creating high performing teams.

1. While many companies are currently experiencing increased attrition rates, it’s becoming apparent that many organisations don’t really understand why this is happening or the necessary steps they should take to turn the ‘great attrition’ into the ‘great attraction’. What can organisations do to begin to work with employees to transform this threat?

The way we work has been changing for some time. The pandemic simply accelerated that change. Now employees have genuine choices in terms of how they work. Dan Pink was smart when he highlighted three key areas of motivation: purpose, autonomy, mastery. As we rethink the employee value proposition, we should bear these in mind more than ever.
Articulating the purpose of the work in ways that employees grasp and find meaningful. There has been a moment of reflection. People are taking stock. More than ever they need to feel what they do has meaning.

Giving employees more autonomy to decide where and how they work. This is complex. It needs to be appropriate for the needs of the individuals, the teams, the clients they serve and the tasks at hand. Organisations probably need some overall ground rules for company-wide collaboration but also to devolve decision making where possible down to the team level.  

As employees seek to develop mastery the role of the manager is to become a coach to the team. This isn’t linear. It means developing mentoring and coaching relationships within the organisation. Eric Schmidt outlines this in his book about the trillion dollar coach, Bill Campbell|:

“Coaching is no longer a speciality; you cannot be a good manager without being a good coach. It’s not possible or practical to hire a coach for every team in the company, not is it the right answer, because the best coach for any team is the manager who leads the team.”

Underpinning all these is the fact that many of our greatest achievements are not achieved by individuals but teams of people. Small groups working together. The search for vaccines was dominated by teams of researchers working together. The ‘agile’ movement harnesses the power of small teams.

Working in small teams is good for business, it’s also good for individuals. Creating healthy functioning team environments is core to addressing problems of burnout at work. We are social animals and the bonds we develop are vital for wellbeing.

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