How to Create Psychological Safety – 6 Simple Tips

Psychological Safety – “The belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes, and that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.” – Amy Edmonson, 1999

Psychological safety is critical to collaboration, leveraging ideas, fostering innovation, creating a sense of togetherness and reducing friction within teams. The question is, how do you go about creating it?

The challenge is that psychological safety emerges at a team level, where everyone, not just the manager or leader is responsible for creating and maintaining it.

That being said, the manager can take a leading role in establishing behaviours within meetings that encourage greater involvement and contribution.

Here are 6 simple and practical tips to get started:

1. Notice the signs of comfort overriding interpersonal risk-taking such as silence when you specifically ask for comment on a problem or idea, or people casually nodding in agreement.

This is especially important in virtual meetings where it is even easier to hide behind a closed camera.

2. Voice what the interpersonal risk might be that is making the team member(s) reluctant to speak. For example, ‘I know you have only just joined the team and seen the report and probably don’t want to question its recommendations. Nevertheless, your views right now are critical.’

Do this in private if you feel the discomfort may be made worse if done publicly.

3. Request another idea from the team or an individual. For example, ‘Mandeep, can you say what could happen if we chose to market this through another channel?’

Even more simply, you could just ask for input or thoughts from others on an existing idea.

4. Show curiosity about the new idea by reflecting on it out loud even if it doesn’t make sense to you yet. Feel free to show your own vulnerability here, and it will encourage others to do so.

5. Thank those who speak up and acknowledge that by doing so, it benefits the whole team. For example, ‘I’m really happy you were able to come up with a fresh view which means we didn’t just take the report at face value.’

6. Ask if there is anyone else who can build on what was shared before. An incredibly useful phrase here is, ‘Is there something else?’

CEDR’s Hostage and Crisis negotiators have found that using the word something as opposed to anything in this context opens up the dialogue and encourages contributions. It is a simple phrase but used consistently throughout meetings to help extract input from others. For example, ‘Is there something else anyone would like to add or share.’


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