October 29


Psychological Safety is a Critical Component of High-Performance Teams

By Robert Grossman

October 29, 2019

psychological Safety

What is a High-Performance Team?

At Black Diamond Leadership, our executive coaches help teams achieve peak performance by empowering change and focusing on improvements in essential areas like teamwork, communication, and employee engagement. Why is this so important? When given the opportunity and tools they need, high-performing teams create real value in their organizations, reduce turnover, and innovate.

A high-performing team values personal input, empowers each member to contribute, and decentralizes power to allow its members to manage their everyday lives. These teams recognize member accomplishments and value the importance of both qualities of life and employee engagement.

Success will come when employees believe their contribution is valuable and have the power to give back to the organization in new and creative ways. That’s why members of high-performing teams are multi-functional rather than stove-piped, providing them the opportunity to understand the entire organization and how their role fits in.

High-performing teams are governed by processes, not structures, and a code of conduct, not strict rules, allowing for innovation. Together, high-performing teams foster innovation, creativity, and excellence, and together, they make measurable impacts on their organizations.

What is Psychological Safety?

Another critical component of high-performing teams is psychological safety. Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School professor and the author of The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth, looked at how people interact in complex on-the-job situations and what variable impact the results positively and negatively.

Professor Edmondson’s research into psychological safety spans more than a decade. It provides practical guidance for teams to succeed in a continuously changing world by creating an environment where feedback and critical thought are welcome, not silenced or ridiculed.

She shares, “Psychological safety isn’t about being nice. It’s about giving candid feedback, openly admitting mistakes, and learning from each other. That kind of organizational culture is increasingly important in the modern economy.”

The psychological safety model enables mutual respect through candor and openness, setting high standards, and inspiring team members to reach them. Companies with a trusting workplace continuously perform better and reduce the risk of “headline-making” mistakes. People are empowered to speak up about what they see, helping to avert colossal failures (the headlines you don’t ever want to see) as well as human safety (injury causing) mistakes. These high-performing teams are dramatically more likely to avoid adverse outcomes.

Psychologically safety promotes a culture of ongoing learning and adaptability in an ever-changing world. In current conditions – with innovative companies disrupting marketplaces at a dizzying rate and social media increases the speed of breaking news announcements – you need people to speak up. But psychological safety isn’t a magic bullet. It’s not a specific new tool to be quickly implemented. And the results or ‘ROI’ can be hard to measure, with timelines differing dramatically from immediate, short-term effects to gradual long-term change.

However, psychological safety strengthens the underpinning of everything successful businesses strive for – innovation, teamwork, creativity, engagement, and more. All of these things happen more when you have psychological safety. Rather than embracing FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt), it’s time to embrace psychological safety. If not, you’re losing money, allowing for risk, and fostering staff turnover and disengagement.

How can I embrace Psychological Safety to improve my leadership style?

Want help identifying where to begin? Reach out to the Black Diamond Leadership team, and we’ll help you implement an assessment tool to measure your team’s psychological safety, identify gaps, and get you started down the right path.

The Psychological Safety Assessment tool measures responses to the following statements on a Likert scale:

  1. If you make a mistake on this team, it is often held against you.
  2. Members of this team can bring up problems and severe issues.
  3. People on this team sometimes reject others for being different.
  4. It is safe to take a risk on this team.
  5. It is difficult to ask other members of the team for help.
  6. No one on this team would deliberately act in a way that undermined my efforts.
  7. My unique skills and talents are valued and utilized on this team.

Once we evaluate your team’s psychological safety against these markers, we will determine the best interventions (workshop, coaching, group work) and set you on the road to success, as we work together to:

  • Focus on the learning, not just the results
  • Acknowledge our fallibility
  • Model curiosity; ask a lot of questions.

And create high-performing, curious, talented, and psychologically safe teams!

Robert Grossman

About the author

Robert S. Grossman is a business growth consultant, trainer/facilitator, coach and speaker with decades of experience. Having achieved success in both the corporate world and as an entrepreneur, Robert has helped hundreds of companies with high-performance strategic consulting, training and communications. He coaches business leaders, CEOs, presidents, entrepreneurs and sales professionals.

Robert brings 30 years of experience as a business owner, executive coach, Vistage chair and an award-winning communicator.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}