How Psychological Safety Impacts Performance And Well-being

Psychological Safety

Psychological safety and confidence always go hand in hand, it is the belief that one can be themselves without the fear of judgment by others. Team members who feel psychologically safe tend to be high performers, risk-takers, and more effective at meeting goals.

The mood is the background music, the ambiance, the feeling we have about an environment. Does it make us feel productive and energetic, or does it make us feel ignored and lethargic? How do psychological safety Impacts performance and well-being?

In any team environment, one gets a sense of how people behave, how people are treated, and what is the state of morale. This all ties into the mood, which is fundamental to the acceleration of performance from average to excellent.

People often ask about the best indicators of a team’s performance. The answer seems to include the work by Prof. Amy Edmondson and her model of Psychological Safety.

Psychological Safety

How Psychological Safety Impacts Performance And Well-being
How Psychological Safety Impacts Performance And Well-being

She introduced the concept of psychological safety and defines it as “a shared belief that a team is a safe place for individual and interpersonal risk-taking.” Her approach to building psychological safety in the workplace starts with the leader being engaged.

The first indicator is whether or not team members are bad-mouthing management or each other. It is amazing how prevalent this is. Whether meetings happen as advertised and on time is also key. And if people do what they say they’ll do when they say they’ll do it is vital to have a healthy team. Early delivery of small promises is a very effective way to build a psychologically safe team culture.

In the Harvard Review, the Neuroscience of Trust is explained by Paul Zak. Zak is a professor at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California, who studies neural imaging of the brain at work. His research identified the role of oxytocin in developing trust. His research in the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies links how oxytocin is a primary indicator of a healthy organizational culture.

Neurological and behavioral markers of individuals in a team can be indicators if that team is likely to achieve high performance. A key behavior is a basic courtesy, which needs to be a two-way street; if it feels like one party is constantly having to initiate the courtesy, there is not a team in the true sense of the word.

And therefore, trust is paramount. A team is “formed, stormed, and normed” by the extent that trust can be earned and risks can be taken.

People need to feel it’s OK to take risks and to share an opinion that is different from the collective. Another key marker is empathy. If people feel there is no culture that is genuinely caring, there will be reduced performance.

The fourth element is energy. This is an essential ingredient in any successful team. If there is a lack of energy, there is no true team, or at least not one that is likely to achieve high performance.

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Google recently went on this journey to build the ‘’perfect team.’’ It launched the Aristotle project to find out if it can improve productivity and became fixated on building the perfect team. Google scrutinized everything!

How frequently did a team’s members eat lunch together? Did productive teams build larger networks? What were the traits of the best team managers?

During the project, it was highlighted that the executives at Google had always believed that the best teams were simply a group of the best people. But it turned out no one had really studied if this was actually true.

In this research, Google found something odd. No matter how they sliced the data, it was almost impossible to find any generic profile of that holy grail of performance and that ‘perfect team’. They kept finding that agreed ‘‘group norms’’ were instrumental in team performance. Norms are the rituals, or unwritten rules, that govern teams.

Their influence is often profound. Team members’ behavior is almost always outweighed by the group’s norms of the team. ‘’This is the way we do things around here’’.

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Dr. Justin James Kennedy

Justin James Kennedy, Ph.D., is a professor of applied neuroscience and organisational behaviour at UGSM-Monarch Business School, College & University, in Hagedorn, Zug, Switzerland. He is also the Ph.D. professor of applied neuroscience and supervision with Canterbury Christchurch University in the U.K. His book, Brain Re-Boot, is an overview of applied neuroscience which proposes various applications from behavioural neuroscience, neuroeconomics, social neuroscience, and health neuroscience, and offers brain-based tools and behavioural hacks shown to build resilience to stress-related pathology and improve cognitive performance in organisational life. His academic work recently defined the model of "Organisational Wellbeing Neuroscience," as described in his chapter of the academic textbook, The Handbook of Organisational Wellbeing. (SAGE publ.). His research informs his executive coaching processes, his licenced clinical practice in neuro-behavioural analysis and neuropsychology, and his consulting to various organisations globally.View Author posts