Have you ever been in a meeting or discussion and been afraid to hold back? Something that could possibly have been quite beneficial to the team, yet for some reason you didn't feel comfortable in saying it. I know I have and looking back at it, it was because I didn't feel safe. This is something that I'm sure that any team faces, and when I came across some of the work from Amy Edmondson, I found it quite valuable and though it would be good to share.
As a leader you need to set the expectation around failures. It is okay to fail, and this message needs to come from you! You need to make people understand that no matter what your work there will always be accidents and as a team you all need to hear about them. Even if you are a high performing team, there is always things you can make better. Another thing to remember is that everyone in the team can contribute and make things better. Often people feel that only the more senior people are "qualified" to do that, which is absolute rubbish.
Interestingly enough, one of the things that she mentions is that the choice of words matters. People often have a negative connotation with the words error and investigation, so by simply swapping out those words with ones such as mistakes and study can go a long way in creating that psychological safety. One thing to be aware of is that you need to match your external behaviour to the words, else the people just won't believe you. You need to be authentic and walk the walk!
Closely related to this, is that we normally have the tendency to get upset or angry when things go wrong. We just need to be aware that if we do let our emotions take over then people may be afraid to speak up and tell you what is going on. The worst thing that can happen is when people hide things and you don't know what is going on and are blindsided. You need to make it a positive experience and a simple "Thank you" can go a long way along with a "How can I help?"
It is okay to say that you don't know. I have mentioned this a lot of times in the past, that no one has all the answers. The higher you go, the more often people think that they must have all the answers. As per the previous topic, you can set the expectation for the team and "send out a signal" to them to let them know that it is to say that "I don't know".
A good question is on that you don't have the answer to
High performing teams didn't always start off by having no accidents. They were the ones that more than likely had a lot of accidents, were able to speak out safely and without worry of "punishment". Over time they managed to reduce their number of mistakes by being open and honest.
Until next time…keep learning!