The new normal calls for psychological safety

“The decisions people and governments take in the next few weeks will probably shape the world for years to come. We must act quickly and decisively, taking into account the longterm consequences of our actions” wrote Yuval Noah Harari in his article about the impact of our decisions on the world after the coronacrisis in March 2020.

Companies, leaders, and their teams worldwide are trying to effectively adapt to the impact of the coronacrisis and the ‘new normal’ in which uncertainty is the default. Especially now, in these uncertain times, psychological safety in teams matters more than ever.

Psychological safety is described by Professor Amy Edmondson as a climate where people feel safe enough to take interpersonal risks by speaking up and sharing concerns, questions, or ideas. As we are working remotely and in virtual teams because of the coronavirus, these behaviours become even more essential.

First, the desperate need for organizations to innovate in our current environment requires a culture of open communication and feedback. This can only be accomplished effectively when employees feel safe to speak up and bring ideas to the table.

Second, psychological safety is a precondition to create a speak-up culture which helps to adequately assess risks and act wisely upon them. In a situation characterized by high uncertainty, ambiguity and fast-paced decision-making, employees must feel encouraged to raise concerns and mention potential hazards.

Third, in line with the need to raise concerns about risks, psychological safety can lead to greater error-reporting and knowledge sharing, which benefits decision-making. We need new or diverse perspectives and good discussions to make the right decisions, especially now.

And lastly, because not everything will go right the first time in this new challenging environment, we need to learn fast and adapt to become more agile. For this we need learning behaviour. Psychological safety boosts performance through an increase in learning behaviour such as asking for feedback¹. With quick feedback loops and the willingness to accept feedback, we learn what prevents us from making the same mistake again.

As a leader you need to be aware that psychological safety is not only beneficial for your team, but certainly as beneficial for the decisions you must make, and the opportunities being created to innovate. Are you interested in practical tips to boost psychological safety in your team? Contact our experts Roosmaryn Spliet and Koen Husmann from &samhoud.

¹ https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/what-google-learned-from-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.html

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