Plenty of past research shows that psychological safety in the workplace drives innovative performance.

McKinsey shares with us that innovative organisations have agile organisational structures that allow collaboration and communication throughout their departments. However, in order for this to work well, there needs to be a strong level of psychological safety.

At Make Happy, clients often approach us and ask:

  • How might we facilitate collaboration between our departments?
  • How might we strengthen communication channels between teams?
  • How might we enlighten teams on their role within the larger company structure?

However, collaboration and communication require the organisation to have strong psychological safety.

Building blocks of psychological safety

McKinsey state that organisations that create positive team climates, mindsets and behaviours help to build psychological safety.

  • Climate – A positive team climate occurs when team leaders value members’ contributions, care about members’ wellbeing, and allow members to input into how the team functions.
  • Mindsets – The teachings of creative problem solving (CPS) highlight the importance of positive mindsets. Teams are required to shift from a Yes, but mindset to a Yes, and mindset. In doing this, teams are required to suspend their judgement and open themselves up to new possibilities.
  • Behaviours – To cultivate psychological safety team leaders should role model and reinforce behaviours that they expect from the team. For example, if team leaders listen mindfully when members share ideas, this behaviour is more likely to be replicated throughout the whole team. Recent research highlights that the way role models convey messages is important to employees and impacts their leadership aspirations.

Impact of leadership styles

Another key point is that leadership styles impact a team’s psychological safety. McKinsey found that consultative and supportive leaders have a significant effect on a team’s psychological safety.

  • Consultative leaders support their members, search for input, and consider team members’ views on issues and how they are affected.
  • Supportive leaders demonstrate concern and support members as individuals, not just colleagues.

Once a positive team climate is created teams can then be challenged.

The role of challenging leaders is to reexamine assumptions at work and ask team members how they can complete work whilst exceeding expectations.

Next Steps…

Finally, McKinsey suggests that organisations should invest in leadership development programs, specifically programs that:

  • Focus on a series of training sessions across all levels of the organisation
  • Create experiences that are emotional, sensory and aha moments

Overall, the aim is for leaders and role models to “evolve from being the example of a finished product to examples of [a] work in progress”.