More Team Creativity? First, Look at Safety

Why do people hold back from sharing their thoughts and ideas in a team meeting?

Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson would say the team lacks psychological safety. Psychological safety is a belief that you will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.

Do you have psychological safety on your team? Here are a few symptoms that indicate that you may NOT:
  • People don’t speak up in meetings
  • People don’t admit their mistakes
  • People don’t challenge each other’s ideas
  • People don’t ask for help
  • People DO go along with whatever the leader says

Psychological safety is essential because a lack of it can lead to mediocrity, anxiety, stress, and boredom. The team consequence is a lack of risk-taking and refinement of ideas. Recently, our TH!NK Team led a department through a SWOT analysis. The manager was confident that no one would speak up; we assured her that the right environment allows an abundance of ideas to flow.

These are a few of the heavy-hitting ideas the team generated:
  • Rebranding the team internally
  • Need for revamped processes and procedures
  • Unique IT solutions for customers
We used these four tips to create psychological safety in this meeting:

Tip #1: Help your team get to know each other with a quick icebreaker before each meeting. It can be as simple as, “What are you grateful for today?”

Tip #2: Ask more questions. Create an agreed upon list of questions to process decisions. “How could this go wrong?” or “How does this align with our values?”

Tip #3: When teaming virtually, don’t assume that everyone is tech savvy. Provide tutorial sessions for your meeting platforms before your session.

Tip #4: Time. Give participants ample time to prepare. Provide an agenda or pre-work as an onramp to the meeting.


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