top of page
  • Writer's pictureKate Chaffer

The Importance of Psychological Safety and the role Leaders Play to Create it

Psychological safety quote

Creating psychological safety within a team or organisation is a vital aspect of effective leadership and team dynamics. Coined by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, psychological safety refers to an environment where individuals feel safe to express themselves, take risks, share their opinions, and be vulnerable without fear of negative consequences or judgment.

“A commitment to excellence is thwarted if your voice is not welcome…” says Amy Edmondson is the below video.

In today's rapidly evolving workplace landscape, where collaboration, innovation, and adaptability are crucial, the role of a leader in fostering psychological safety cannot be overstated. Several Harvard Business Review articles emphasise the significance of this concept, highlighting its correlation with team performance, creativity, and overall well-being.

Refer to HBR.

Psychological safety is essential because it lays the groundwork for open communication, trust, and risk-taking within a team. When team members feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to voice their ideas, admit mistakes, and contribute their unique perspectives, which can lead to increased innovation and problem-solving. 

Leadership Strategies to Encourage a Psychological Safe Workplace

In the below video, Amy talks about it being one of the most important jobs of any manager and leader to work like crazy to build a culture, or a climate of psychological safety.

Leadership plays a pivotal role in cultivating psychological safety within teams. Here are some effective strategies:

1. Open Communication Channels

Encouraging open and transparent communication is crucial. Leaders should actively listen to team members, welcome their ideas, and create opportunities for everyone to contribute. Regular team meetings, one-on-one sessions, and open-door policies encourage an environment where voices are heard and valued.

2. Embrace Vulnerability

Leaders who show vulnerability and admit their own mistakes or uncertainties set an example for their teams. This openness creates a culture were taking risks and admitting failures are seen as natural parts of growth and learning, rather than reasons for punishment.

3. Set Clear Expectations

Establishing clear guidelines for respectful behaviour and communication sets the tone for the team. When expectations regarding mutual respect, collaboration, and constructive feedback are communicated clearly, it creates a safe framework for interaction.

4. Value Diverse Perspectives

Recognise and appreciate diverse viewpoints within the team. Leaders should actively seek input from all members, valuing different experiences, backgrounds, and opinions. This encourages a rich tapestry of ideas and solutions.

5. Encourage Risk-Taking and Experimentation

Leaders can create an atmosphere where calculated risks are encouraged. This involves supporting innovative ideas and projects, even if they carry the risk of failure. Celebrating efforts and learning from setbacks reinforces the idea that taking risks is part of progress.

6. Provide Constructive Feedback

Feedback should focus on growth and improvement rather than fault-finding. Constructive criticism, delivered in a supportive manner, helps team members understand areas for development without feeling criticised or belittled.

7. Invest in Training and Development

We have found at Culture Zone that offering workshops, training, or coaching sessions focused on communication, empathy, and conflict resolution can help build the skills and mindsets that everyone needs to build a psychologically safe work culture. 

These initiatives equip team members with the skills needed to engage effectively and respectfully with one another. It’s a shared responsibility.

8. Lead by Example

Ultimately, leaders must embody the behaviours they wish to see in their teams. Consistently demonstrating respect, openness, and a willingness to listen lays the groundwork for psychological safety to flourish.

“If you change the nature and quality of the conversations in your team, your outcomes will improve exponentially. Psychological safety is the core component to unlock this.” - Amy Edmondson

A safe environment is fundamental for a healthy and productive work culture. As leaders embrace their role in nurturing psychological safety, organisations stand to benefit from increased engagement, innovation, and resilience among their teams.

Edmondson has developed a simple 7-item questionnaire below to assess the perception of psychological safety (if you want to run this survey with your team, there’s an instrument you can sign up to use on Edmondson’s website).

How would you and your team answer the below questions?

  1. How psychologically safe do you feel?

  2. If you make a mistake on this team, it is not held against you?

  3. Members of this team can bring up problems and tough issues.

  4. People on this team often accept others for being different.

  5. It is safe to take a risk on this team.

  6. It isn’t difficult to ask other members of this team for help.

  7. No one on this team would deliberately act in a way that undermines my efforts.

  8. Working with members of this team, my unique skills and talents are valued and utilised.

We are here to listen, if you feel the need to talk about how to strengthen your team’s psychological safety.

13 views0 comments


bottom of page