A few years ago, Google published their studies on how teams with a high degree of psychological safety outperform teams that have lesser degrees of safety.
This led to many learned articles on what psychological safety entails and how to achieve it. Often, it sounds quite complicated, but not always. I wrote a simple version here.
The research breaks psychological safety down into four key components:
In simple terms, that means it's important that everyone feels included, that you set clear expectations, and that you try and limit the surprises. There shouldn't be an excessive focus on authority and positions. Finally, the ultimate motivator for your team is if they get to have a say in how they do their work, not what they do—that's a management decision—but how they do it.
But we can actually simplify this even further.
When we feel safe, we do our best work because our brain is not preoccupied with survival.
There is no real need to make it more complicated than that.
But first, we need to agree on what we mean by relationship.
Edgar Schein has this definition:
A relationship is a set of mutual expectations about each other’s future behavior based on past interactions with one another.
Meaning, your relationships are a result of how you showed up in this world until now!
Second, we need a way to talk about relationship levels. Edgar Schein uses this scale, which I like a lot:
As you can see we need to be at level two or above in order to have productive and safe relationships. This clashes with what I hear from many managers who have the opinion that being a professional manager means maintaining relationships levels at level 1, no more nor less.
Well, in my view, they are wrong.
I believe that all team leaders worth their salt should be should be asking themselves two things:
First, to what extent do I and my colleagues feel safe on this team?
(Not because you should be touchy-feely and all that, but because it has a direct relationship to your team’s ability to "perform!")
Here’s a simple test you can take. If you have the guts for it, have your team members take it as well. Then compare notes.
Second, what are the things that I and each of my team members need to be aware of in order to develop at least Level 2 relationships with each other?
Well, it so happens that you are in luck because here comes Mike's ABC of developing healthy relationships. 😉
Okay, I admit that was the short version of the ABC of building great relationships. But as I already mentioned, I’m in the process of developing a series of training modules under the banner of The Art of Working with Others that will explore in much more detail how when can improve our skills at this.
If you would you like to review the first module of my Working with Others training once it’s ready for free—well, almost for free—because I would appreciate some feedback in return. That will help me improve in the early stages. Just leave your name and e-mail address here.
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