Healthy habits leaders can promote to ensure psychologically safe and high-performing teams in 2023
In this guest article, Dr Adam Greenfield, Co-founder of WorkLifeWell outlines some habits to help leaders create high-performing teams in 2023.
It is recognised throughout industry that high-performing teams can deliver both efficient and effective results and are able to work well in both an individual capacity as well as a cohesive unit. However, these results don’t happen by chance. They are often the product of good communication, effective collaboration, mutual respect and a shared vision.
So, as we prepare ourselves to journey through 2023, it is important to consider how business leaders can create an environment that promotes high-performance but is also psychologically safe. In order to understand this, let’s turn our attention to psychological safety.
The psychological safety net
The foundation of any high-performing team is to create a psychological safety net. A place where one can make mistakes without condemnation, be free to pose innovative ideas without judgement, and an environment where people are willing to share ideas for the collective, rather than individual win.
Imagine being in a business meeting in front of all your peers, listening to the CEO. You suddenly get an urge to ask a question and clear up some minor confusion. You notice your hand slowly elevating to signal to the speaker that you want their attention and as you do, you feel the weight of possible humiliation come over you. You suddenly ponder whether you will be laughed out of the room, instantly change your mind and sit deep into the chair hoping that nobody else noticed this poor attempt to raise your arm. You most likely felt slightly uncomfortable, were worried about feeling embarrassed, and unwilling to take that risk. This is an example where you didn’t feel psychologically safe.
Alternatively, if the culture stated that, ‘no questions are silly’ and ‘we appreciate that some of this material can be confusing’, then you get an idea of how leaders could communicate and create more psychological safety.
Healthy habits of successful leaders
1. Focus on self-awareness
Successful business leaders recognise that their emotions have an impact on their communication, their actions and inevitably their teams’ performance. When leaders focus on their own self-awareness, they are able to modify their behaviour, their communication style and eventually lead their peers more effectively.
One simple way of establishing your own self-awareness is each day taking stock and writing down how you feel from one to ten. Should this number be below five then you may need to be more careful with how you communicate, understanding that you may not be in the best frame of mind to motivate your team at that moment. Later, as your skills improve and with higher levels of self-awareness, you can learn how to control those emotions more effectively.
2. Change your language
It is well known that good business leaders are able to communicate clearly and effectively. One of these methods includes modifying language away from a negative standpoint and more towards a positive one. A simple example is using the word, ‘challenge’ rather than ‘problem’. Teams that are faced with problems may feel overwhelmed and negative. However, simply using the word ‘challenge’ instead, one instantly gets a more positive sensation and an opportunity to create solutions.
3. Learn to give feedback rather than criticism
Although the difference between criticism and feedback may seem subtle, there are key differences between the two. When a leader criticises, the receiver can become deflated and unmotivated. Criticism is focused on past mistakes, weaknesses and outcomes we don’t want. Feedback, on the other hand, enables the receiver to become clearer on the desired outcome and focuses more on strengths and the future.
4. Be open to taking on feedback
One powerful way to create psychological safety in the team is demonstrating your willingness to take on feedback. Often business leaders are fearful of receiving feedback from their team, under the false illusion that they are managing and leading without fault. However, when we are willing to listen to the concerns of the people that we manage, irrespective of their position in the organisation, then the workforce may feel more empowered to share openly and truthfully.
In summary, for a team to remain high-performing, there are a multitude of factors that are interplaying. The base foundation is one where a team feels safe to share ideas, collaborate and communicate without fear of judgement, criticism and condemnation. With these foundations fully implemented, a team is free to be innovative.