Some experts say psychological safety is essential in ensuring that teams thrive. But, how do we foster it and sustain it? How do we improve organizational performance by enhancing our culture of psychological safety?
The notion of psychological safety was created by Professor Amy C. Edmondson of Harvard Business School. It refers to an organizational culture where people are comfortable being and expressing themselves. It’s about safety and assurance. It’s about giving people the freedom to succeed and room to fail.
At Christiana Care Health System, Delaware’s largest health care system, we explore psychological safety in a day-long session on Employee Engagement which is part of a five-day leadership development program entitled The Diamond Experience. This program is geared to our top leaders. We explain that psychological safety comes from inclusive leadership where…
- Leaders are open and transparent with communications.
- Leaders foster a climate of trust and respect.
- Leaders establish clear accountability and step out of the way for people to do their jobs, but are close enough for guidance and support.
- Leaders understand that mistakes are part of growth.
- Leaders promote “out of the box” thinking without being shamed or judged negatively by others.
Each month we ask Diamond attendees if they believe there is psychological safety in their work area. Consistently, about half say “yes,” and half say “no.” While this is not “formal feedback,” it is extremely good information nonetheless. This type of informal sensing and polling is a good way to keep a pulse on the organization.
Our challenge is to increase psychological safety in our fast-paced, highly demanding work setting where our mission is to serve others. More specifically, beyond this one program, what actions, advice and/or training/coaching programs could help leaders and employees co-create a more psychologically safe work environment? And then most importantly, what can we do to sustain a psychologically safe culture?