Power to of the Team

Do you feel like team work leaves no time for your work? No surprise.

In early 2016, Harvard Business Review reported an increase of more than 50% in the amount of time spent in collaborative activities.

Over the past 20 years, globalization, strategic partnerships, and the demand for innovation and speed have resulted in a heavily team-based work environment. For many companies, more than three-quarters of an employee’s workday is spent in meetings, on the phone, and responding to emails.

Even though a team environment may have you feeling overwhelmed and strapped for time, various studies indicate that collaborative work yields positive results. 

Why are teams so powerful?

In an article by the New York Times an M.B.A. study at the Yale School of Management found:

  • People working in teams tend to achieve better results and report higher job satisfaction
  • Teams innovate faster, see mistakes more quickly and find better solutions to problems
  • Profitability can also increase when employees collaborate more

Google – the gold standard of work environments – shared insights and conclusions from its three-year research on productive teams. While they found five characteristics differentiated successful teams, the #1 driver of team performance was psychological safety.

What is psychological safety?

Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School professor, describes it as “a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking”. For example, no one dominates the conversation: team members speak in roughly the same proportion, empathy, and enthusiasm for others’ ideas are expressed, and each member feels able to voice his or her ideas. Studies show that when team members feel emotionally safe, they are relaxed, energized and comfortable being themselves.
Frame Does your team measure up (2)

Reflect for a moment on your own less-than-positive experiences in a team. How did you react when…

  • everyone wanted to be the smartest?
  • people talked over each other to establish themselves as the expert?
  • your ideas were dismissed? Or open season for other members?
  • conflicts festered?

If you’re like me, you left the meetings feeling frustrated, drained of energy, and dreading team projects. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Team leaders must foster psychological safety quickly and efficiently to build a better work environment.

Build a better team by nurturing psychological safety.

Simon Sinek introduced the concept of the “Circle of Safety” – a boundary within which members feel safe and free to take risks. In his book Leaders Eat Last; Sinek explains how to create a “Circle of Safety”, “…by giving people a sense of belonging. By offering them a strong culture based on a clear set of human values and beliefs. By giving them the power to make decisions. By offering trust and empathy.” By taking these steps, team leaders can facilitate strong team performance.

Edmondson offers these tips on psychological safety:

  1. Frame your work as learning problems, as opposed to execution problems.
    • Be clear that there are areas that still require explanation and each team member’s input matters.
  2. Acknowledge your own fallibility.
    • Make simple statements that encourage peers and subordinates to speak up, such as “I may miss something – I need to hear from you.”
  3. Model curiosity by asking a lot of questions.
    • This creates a necessity for voice because team members need to generate answers.

Remember, one size does not fit all when it comes to effective teams. Behaviors can vary greatly and have different degrees of political correctness. Select and foster those behaviors that will contribute the most to creating psychological safety within your team.

At Kinetic Insights, our PathFinders are skilled in helping leaders unleash the greatness in themselves and in their organizations. Call or email us for a quick discussion that just might put you and your team on the path to significant change.

Kristi Thompson, a seasoned professional with more than 25 years experience, devotes herself to aligning people and processes to meet strategic goals with direct impact on an organization’s bottom line.

Kristi Thompson, a seasoned professional with more than 25 years experience, devotes herself to aligning people and processes to meet strategic goals with direct impact on an organization’s bottom line. View full bio