Psychological Safety in High Performing Teams

Published 16/04/2021

Culture and Leadership Matter

What is psychological safety?

The term ‘psychological safety’ entered the business lexicon in 1999 when psychologist Amy Edmonson, then of Harvard Business School, defined it as: ‘a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.’

Originally, more of a focus in high performance sports teams, psychological safety has now been forged and implemented into high level business and corporate organisations around the world. The promotion of 'taking a risk', 'making your voice heard' or 'I feel supported' is crucial and the links between this and high performing teams whether it be sports or business is that it creates an environment where your talent feels supported and promoted to perform at their best.

If there are no risks being taken because your talent does not feel safe, then it's unlikely there will be any meaningful development in their skill, job or contributing to a team.

“What’s going to happen is that your talent is going to avoid taking any risks,”.“When we take risks we’re more likely to be creative, more likely to be innovative.” says Dr Mustafa Sarkar, Associate Professor of Sport and Performance Psychology at Nottingham Trent University.

How do create more psychologically safe environment?

Whether you are a Leader or a team member, we can all contribute to improving our work cultures that will allow ourselves and those around us to perform at their best. In a recent publication from the Leaders Performance Institute, the following factors should be considered towards the promotion of psychologically safe environments.

  • Our social skills are important
  • Everyone feels they have a voice within the organisation and are supported
  • Safe doesn't mean comfortable
  • Promotion of calculated risks
  • There is a collective responsibility for mistakes
  • Everyone can bring themselves to the team
  • Psychologically safe environments lead to better outcomes

“It’s creating an environment conducive to team building, problem-solving and being able to create a deeper level of trust among individuals that comes together to work towards that common goal.”

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