I do a lot of work helping teams improve their performance. Although many factors cause dysfunction within a team, I believe one is the most destructive. A lack of psychological safety.
When team members don’t trust each other enough to speak with candor, there is no way they can perform optimally. The team must create an atmosphere where it is safe to speak up.
Here are some topics that team members must be able to discuss openly.
- There’s a big problem that we need to deal with.
- I made a mistake.
- I disagree.
- I have an idea, but I don’t want to be embarrassed if people don’t like it.
- I’m upset with someone on the team.
- I’m upset about the way I’ve been treated.
- I think someone on the team is not being a good team player.
- I’m afraid I will get fired if I upset my boss.
- I’m worried there will be retribution if I say something someone else doesn’t like.
- I’m afraid of being verbally attacked or harassed.
You may look at this list and say it never happens in your company. I hope not. Unfortunately, these sorts of issues are all too common. I sit in many meetings where people simply don’t speak with candor. You can see the eyes darting around the room when someone brings up an uncomfortable topic. People squirm in their seats. They look down at their notepad. Anything to avoid getting involved in the discussion.
Then there is the “meeting after the meeting,” where small groups of people get together and discuss what they should’ve discussed during the meeting. They complain. Gossip. Disagree with the decisions that were made. Laugh at other people’s ideas. And further destroy the trust in the team.
You must make it safe for people to voice their opinion. You need to thank them when they work through a contentious conversation. It’s crucial that you support people when they throw out an idea. Trust is built on a foundation of honesty, safety, and candor. Without that, no team can be truly successful.
Please visit my site at https://johnspence.com/contact/ if you want to get in contact with me. I’d love to hear from you.