Resources / Business Agility

EPiC Quick Tips: Boosting Psychological safety in your team

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Quick tips for building safety

In our experience, we have found that there are ten possible scenarios that impact the sense of team psychological safety:

  • Meaningful listening
  • Whole team collaboration
  • Shared and equal voice
  • Personal Sharing
  • Rituals and Ceremonies
  • Leadership behaviours
  • Transparency of work 
  • Team Stability
  • Supply and Demand of work
  • Self-protection behaviours

Working with organisations of all sizes, we have found that active and regular feedback loops, retrospectives and social contracts all have a critical role to play with building safety.

A spotlight on: social contracts

Social contracts are a simple but effective way to build Psychological safety in your team.  

Social Contract (aka Working Agreement) is a set of agreements that a squad make with themselves to define those values and behaviours that are important to them when they work together. 

Social Contracts help create an environment that is safe for people to share and enable us to highlight those values and behaviours that are important to the squad. By agreeing how we want to work together upfront, enables us to call out those areas important to us, enhances our experience working together and reduces the risk around conflict and challenges working together.

Include video calling/remote working etiquette as part of your remote team’s contract.

Explainer: how to run a social contract session:

  • Ask the team to create a combined list of behaviours that they value in each other, and how they like to work together. Things such as ‘being on time to meetings’, ‘being present in the moment’ – not distracted by technology during meetings and ‘equal voice’ amongst the team are common examples. 
  • Once you have the list, group and rephrase if necessary and prioritise them until the team is happy with the agreement.
  • Use Roman Voting to confirm commitment to the Social Contract, discussing any thumbs to the side or down:
    • Thumbs Up: agree
    • Thumb to the side: have some concerns or on the fence
    • Thumb down: disagree
How safe are you and your team members feeling?

Whether as part of a social contract, a team building exercise or simply some individual reflection, consider asking yourself and team members how ‘safe’ they feel in your team by asking this series of questions. 

  • I feel accepted for who I am
  • I feel like my unique skills/ talents are valued and utilised
  • I feel like mistakes are not held against me
  • I can bring up problems and tough issues without criticism
  • I am comfortable asking for help
  • I don’t feel like anyone acts to undermine me
  • I feel safe in my team

At the end of the day, psychological safety is a key ingredient of a high-performing team. If there’s one thing you can do as a leader to help build psychological safety it’s to create an environment where team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other.

Team members feel safe when they can ask other members of the team for help and they know no one would deliberately act in a way that undermines ‘my’ efforts. If you are interested in reading more, check out Google’s case study around how to build the perfect team.

And finally, remember to work with team members so that they feel that their unique skills & talents are valued and utilised. It’s all about building that human connection.