Team Accountability – Workshop 3 (Psychological Safety)
The Appleton Greene Corporate Training Program (CTP) for Team Accountability is provided by Mr. Teschner MBA BA Certified Learning Provider (CLP). Program Specifications: Monthly cost USD$2,500.00; Monthly Workshops 6 hours; Monthly Support 4 hours; Program Duration 12 months; Program orders subject to ongoing availability.
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Learning Provider Profile
Mr. Teschner is a transformational Leadership Coach and Trainer and Founder & CEO of VMax Group. VMax Group is a St Louis-based Leadership Development company specializing in teaching accountable leadership and high-performing teamwork to businesses across the globe. VMax Group has centered much of its signature training around the proper practice of Accountability. Real Accountability—positive, forward-focused Accountability centered around the process of taking Absolute Ownership for the outcomes the team achieves—is something Mr. Teschner and his team lived during their collective time as member of high-performance military teams. Now they’ve made it their mission to teach what they know to those who need to learn it.
A decorated graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Air University, and the National War College, Mr. Teschner is also both a Distinguished Graduate and former F-15 Instructor at the USAF Weapons School – the Air Force version of “TOP GUN”. It was there that he honed his craft of teaching accountable leadership to the top practitioners in the world. Additionally, Mr. Teschner was privileged to command an operational F-22 “Raptor” squadron, flying America’s most advanced air supremacy platform. Mr. Teschner was ultimately honored to be promoted to the rank of full Colonel but retired early as a result of a battle with colon-rectal cancer. Mr. Teschner has over 20 years of hands-on leadership experience in High-Performance, High-Reliability Organizations and brings all of that experience with him wherever he speaks, teaches or coaches.
Mr. Teschner has a special way of connecting with his audiences, blending high-impact stories of fighter aviation and personal humility to achieve the intended outcome. In addition, his story of his personal fight with cancer serves as the launch pad for talks about humility, growth, motivation, and constant improvement. Mr. Teschner is the author of the #1 bestselling book, Debrief to Win: How High-Performing Leaders Practice Accountable Leadership, and released his newest bestselling book Aiming Higher: A Journey Through Military Aviation Leadership, a book co-authored with 4 other former Air Force pilots, in May of 2022. His next book, Building Resilience, is due out in the Spring of 2023.
This is the introduction to culture, an exploration of Edmondson’s and Clark’s work on Psychological Safety. Outcome: the team understands. Psychological Safety. Desired Learning Objectives: We understand the impact Fear has on team dynamics. We understand and can start building Psychological Safety. We understand the upside of Failure. We understand Clark’s 4 Stages of Psychological Safety.
01. The Importance: departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development. Time Allocated: 1 Month
02. Measuring Safety: departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development. Time Allocated: 1 Month
03. Inclusion Safety: departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development. Time Allocated: 1 Month
04. Learner Safety: departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development. Time Allocated: 1 Month
05. Contributor Safety: departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development. Time Allocated: 1 Month
06. Challenger Safety: departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development. Time Allocated: 1 Month
07. Fear: departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development. 1 Month
08. No-Blame Culture: departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development. Time Allocated: 1 Month
09. Failure: departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development. Time Allocated: 1 Month
10. Manager’s Role: departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development. Time Allocated: 1 Month
11. Hybrid Workplaces: departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development. Time Allocated: 1 Month
12. Leadership Development: departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development. Time Allocated: 1 Month
01. The Importance: Each individual department head to undertake departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development.
02. Measuring Safety: Each individual department head to undertake departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development.
03. Inclusion Safety: Each individual department head to undertake departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development.
04. Learner Safety: Each individual department head to undertake departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development.
05. Contributor Safety: Each individual department head to undertake departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development.
06. Challenger Safety: Each individual department head to undertake departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development.
07. Fear: Each individual department head to undertake departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development.
08. No-Blame Culture: Each individual department head to undertake departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development.
09. Failure: Each individual department head to undertake departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development.
10. Manager’s Role: Each individual department head to undertake departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development.
11. Hybrid Workplaces: Each individual department head to undertake departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development.
12. Leadership Development: Each individual department head to undertake departmental SWOT analysis; strategy research & development.
01. Create a task on your calendar, to be completed within the next month, to analyze The Importance.
02. Create a task on your calendar, to be completed within the next month, to analyze Measuring Safety.
03. Create a task on your calendar, to be completed within the next month, to analyze Inclusion Safety.
04. Create a task on your calendar, to be completed within the next month, to analyze Learner Safety.
05. Create a task on your calendar, to be completed within the next month, to analyze Contributor Safety.
06. Create a task on your calendar, to be completed within the next month, to analyze Challenger Safety.
07. Create a task on your calendar, to be completed within the next month, to analyze Fear.
08. Create a task on your calendar, to be completed within the next month, to analyze No-Blame Culture.
09. Create a task on your calendar, to be completed within the next month, to analyze Failure.
10. Create a task on your calendar, to be completed within the next month, to analyze Manager’s Role.
11. Create a task on your calendar, to be completed within the next month, to analyze Hybrid Workplaces.
12. Create a task on your calendar, to be completed within the next month, to analyze Leadership Development.
What Exactly Is Psychological Safety?
Simply said, psychological safety is the confidence that you can be yourself at work – that you can work honestly, openly, and truthfully without worrying about criticism or repercussions.
Our confidence to enter the office each day, feeling strong and prepared to face whatever the workweek may bring, is supported by psychological safety.
Importantly, psychological safety fosters a culture of prudent risk-taking, encouraging you to take on new challenges with the confidence that your staff won’t criticize you or point out your “mistakes” if you fall short of the target. They’ll assist you in getting to your destination instead.
This is how corporate culture, or the assurance that “this is the way we do things around here,” plays a key role in fostering psychological safety. In the aforementioned scenario, it is probably because you are afraid of the unknown that your initial reaction is to get off the train and come up with reasons not to enter. How are errors like these handled in your company? Will your boss be furious? Will they shout? In what way will you be repaid? Will you face retribution? Do you have anything to worry about?
A culture that values education and views mistakes as learning opportunities rather than failures is a natural fit for psychological safety. Employees in these businesses are motivated to promote innovative working methods because they know that not only will their ideas be listened, but also if something goes wrong, blame will be shared.
Because of this, psychological safety is a requirement of effective organizations. Failure to establish a culture that encourages speaking up will probably result in skyrocketing turnover rates and declining productivity. Even worse, you’ll foster a culture where taking chances is discouraged, which will stifle innovation and demoralize your most skilled employees.
The Four Stages Of Psychological Safety
Dr. Timothy Clark identified the following as the four levels of psychological safety:
• Stage 1 – The first stage of safety is known as inclusion safety, and it focuses on meeting the fundamental human need for connection and belonging. You feel secure and loved just as you are at this initial stage, weird traits and all.
• Stage 2: Learner security. You feel comfortable learning, asking questions, and trying new things at this point. You’re more willing to provide and accept criticism now (and you even feel safe to make mistakes).
• Stage 3 – Contributor safety. At this stage, you finally feel secure enough to use your abilities and gifts to contribute in a meaningful way.
• Stage 4 –Challenger safety. In the last phase, you must feel secure enough to question the status quo when you notice a chance for improvement or change.
Dr. Clark asserts that team members need to move through these phases in order to feel confident enough to speak up and offer significant contributions.
It Takes Time To Establish Psychological Safety At Work
The goal of psychological safety in the workplace is to create an environment where people can be authentically themselves. The following excerpt from the New York Times Magazine story about Google’s hunt for the ideal team sums it all up wonderfully (and is more pertinent than ever given our efforts to create hybrid workplaces):
Nobody wants to leave a piece of their individuality or inner life at home. However, in order to be completely present at work and to be “psychologically safe,” we must be confident that we may occasionally be free enough to discuss the things that frighten us without worrying about being blamed. To have difficult conversations with coworkers who are driving us crazy, we must be able to talk about what is messy or sad. Efficiency cannot be our only priority.
Furthermore, it’s crucial to avoid making the mistake of assuming that once the prerequisites for an emotionally secure workplace are in place, employee engagement and a healthy workplace culture will naturally follow. These are likewise crucial components of a thriving organization and call for concentrated work.
But if you don’t put psychological safety at work first, you’ll find it difficult to engage staff members and watch your culture flourish.
Psychological Safety: What It Is Not
A psychological safety net does not protect you from responsibility. It’s not rhetorical assurance, political correctness, coddling, consensus decision-making, unearned autonomy, or niceness. Let’s agree on what it is first before talking further about what it isn’t.
In their 1965 book, Personal and Organizational Change Through Group Methods, Edgar Schein and Warren Bennis of MIT introduced the idea of psychological safety to the academic research community by defining it as “providing an atmosphere where one can take risks without fear and with sufficient protection.” Psychological safety allows you to:
1. Feel included
4. Challenge the status quo
And you’re free to engage in those activities without worrying about embarrassment, exclusion, or negative consequences.
Psychological safety is becoming a top organizational goal all over the world as it is the primary indicator of cultural health and the way to both inclusiveness and innovation. But there is some misunderstanding about what it is and is not (and occasionally deliberate misdirection). People continue to misunderstand and misuse the idea. Look at these instances where organizations and leaders fall short:
A Protection from Accountability
Using psychological safety as a defense against accountability is a frequent and misguided application of it. Employees who don’t perform well often use it as an excuse, arguing that a focus on psychological safety entails valuing people and developing relationships. That is accurate, but they argue that we should excuse them when they don’t perform, straining the idea.
The faulty reasoning goes on: We are now letting go of such industrial artifacts because we may have previously employed forceful and manipulative tactics, fear and intimidation, command and control, and other similar methods with people. People should be allowed to govern themselves completely without any kind of framework.
This point of view regards psychological safety as a form of diplomatic immunity from the need to produce outcomes. Organizations that adhere to this trend routinely transfer underperformers around and shove them into awkward positions in an effort to reduce risk rather than holding employees accountable for their performance. That suggests that someone may be avoiding responsibility by utilizing psychological safety as a barrier.
The fallacious justification that psychological safety entails being kind is closely related to employing it as a defense against responsibility. What happens when we are too cordial with one another? We produce phony peace and phony compassion. Although it is only a façade, leaders and institutions frequently cling to it. This overemphasis on being friendly, welcoming, and compassionate can result in a cheery disregard for the difficult choices that must be made. We avoid having the difficult conversations and intellectual friction needed to come up with new ideas, solve problems, make breakthroughs, and innovate.
Organizations that continue to act in this way become indecisive. We certainly don’t want to offend anyone, but a constant and uncritical focus on being polite creates a barrier between us and reality. Have you ever been in their presence and not felt safe despite their niceness? Although a barracuda could smile at you, avoid petting it. Niceness without sincere intentions is fake. It continues to inspire dread and mistrust.
The idea that psychological safety entails wrapping everyone in bubble wrap is a third trap. We lavish you with excessive care and attention rather than affording you the respect and liberty you are due as a human. We overprotect you against trauma, stress, worry, and other negative emotions.
Because of this misunderstanding, dependencies, learned helplessness, and victimhood develop. We cushion reality rather than empowering you with difficult effort and the presumption of some failure along the road. We give in to your demands rather than letting you battle through the challenges that will strengthen you and increase your sense of self-efficacy.
Being treated with respect, but no more than the next person, is necessary for psychological safety. There is no special consideration. There is no specific exemption for you. In spite of hierarchy and positional authority, psychological safety really acts as an equalizing force to produce a culturally flat company. Psychological safety entails maintaining your humanity rather than becoming more brittle.
Making Decisions via Consensus
The idea that psychological safety democratizes decision-making and provides everyone a voice is another serious fallacy. According to this line of reasoning, choices are now being made by consensus, and we cannot proceed until everyone is on the same page. Often employees have been observed assuming that a focus on psychological safety suddenly gives them power and a place at the table, not just to discuss matters but to determine them. This is certainly illogical. It’s untrue.
Yes, psychological safety should greatly reduce the power imbalance brought about by hierarchy, titles, and position, but there are workers who mistakenly assumed that they had veto power since their company placed such a high priority on psychological safety. Although psychological safety should give you a voice, it does not alter who has the final say. The level of participation and collaboration that guides decisions needs to alter. You should always be free to bring up and talk about topics. But to be heard is not to be heeded, as the saying goes. Only consultative decision-making can keep up with the pace of change in large, complex organizations.
People occasionally think that psychological safety reflects a move to universal and self-directed empowerment, which is related to the fallacy that it legislates consensual decision making. If people participate more actively, psychological safety does have the potential to redistribute influence, but that doesn’t mean you suddenly have more autonomy. You are not entitled to less supervision. You are not entitled to be handled carelessly or not at all. You don’t have the right to act as though you already have permission to be your own employer without consulting anyone else or getting their agreement. These goods may someday become available to you, but skill, not entitlement, will be required.
Some workers who have adopted this incorrect view, thinking they have been suddenly given the authority to act even if they have not demonstrated the ability to do so through a personal record of performance. We now have psychological safety, they remark as they turn to face you. You must have faith in me. Please keep in mind that freedom must be gained, not given.
Another fallacy is the idea that establishing psychological safety entails abiding by political correctness’ unwritten rules. Psychological safety does entail attention to the opinions, sentiments, and characteristics that make persons unique. In actuality, it depends on respect and permission, respectively. Psychological safety increases when we treat each other with more respect and give each other the freedom to be who we are and accomplish our best work. In fact, preserving psychological safety necessitates that we guard the lines of decency and refrain from saying or acting in a way that would intentionally denigrate, disparage, or mock others.
However, psychological security is independent of politics. It doesn’t affix itself to any organization, person, or policy. There are others who would hijack and weaponize the idea, but that won’t happen since psychological safety is really an apolitical, non-partisan, and unifying concept that refers to a social setting that frees people’s potential. Nobody should or can attempt to use it to further their political goals.
Reassurance through Rhetoric
Last but not least, some leaders use language to create psychological safety. They incorrectly think that by just declaring that “Psychological safety is a priority for our organization,” they can make it happen. Do not be silent. Please share your frank opinions with us. It is now secure. Just saying it won’t make it happen.
When a leader acts in this manner in a culture that is only marginally healthy, it is one thing; acting in such a manner in a toxic atmosphere is quite another. Lip service of this nature just serves to exacerbate the already present poisonous environment and the underlying fear of reprisal for speaking your thoughts, and it shows that the leader is either culturally tone deaf or hypocritical. Keep in mind that leaders’ modeling conduct is the single most crucial element in the building of cultures. Therefore, a leader that adopts this strategy is putting on a show.
Knowing what psychological safety is not will help you build and maintain what it really is, an environment of rewarded vulnerability that enables you to:
1. Feel Included
4. Challenge the status quo.
Best Performance Requires Psychological Safety
What causes a worker to be content and effective at work?
Role independence? Yes. Sense of direction? Most likely.
But what matters most are the interpersonal connections they make with their teammates and managers. Lack of business culture, lack of appreciation from coworkers and seniors, and unsatisfactory relationships with the boss and/or team are typically the most frequently mentioned reasons given by employees for quitting a job. In fact, managers “account for up to 70% of the variance in team engagement,” according to Gallup.
Furthermore, psychological safety is necessary for effective working relationships. In fact, psychological safety was “the most crucial dynamic in team effectiveness,” according to Google’s research on team dynamics.
The significant impact employee-manager dynamics have on employee experience is a given for many HR managers and leaders. But do we go far enough to maintain direct lines of communication between team members A and B?
How straightforward is it for teams to create their own system of psychological safety? Do the members of your team have colleagues they can talk to if they need to run ideas by someone or seek their opinion on a delicate business matter? Do people feel free to express their opinions and contribute their ideas at meetings without fear of being judged as “correct” or “wrong”? Is perseverance rewarded? And mistakes viewed as opportunities for learning?
These are the inquiries we should be asking ourselves to better understand the level of psychological security we should anticipate from our personnel. Consequently, how effectively we may predict their performance.
It’s important to note that providing psychological safety for your staff does not require you to be too sentimental. We shouldn’t try to shield our teams from controversy, risk, and failure by covering them in cotton wool.
Advantages Of Psychological Safety
Teams perform better in cultures where there is a higher level of psychological safety. Intuitively, this makes sense. You’ll almost surely waste time and effort attempting to seem like everything is fine if you don’t feel comfortable around your coworkers to ask questions, make errors, and learn from them.
A team’s or organization’s culture is supported by psychological safety so that members can:
• exchange information and knowledge;
• recommend organizational improvements;
• take the initiative to create new goods and services;
• draw lessons from their own and others’ errors.
Building A Culture Requires Time
According to Edmondson, psychological safety is a result of three things: mutual interpersonal trust, respect for one another’s knowledge, and concern for one another’s well-being.
For team members to feel comfortable speaking up, asking questions, and accepting responsibility, all three conditions must be met.
Developing psychological safety takes time. It requires persistence over time. Interpersonal trust is therefore a pipe dream if a leader declares that learning from mistakes is something to be valued but then criticizes someone who made a mistake.
Additionally, team members need to be respectful of one another’s abilities and treat one another with compassion. This indicates that psychological safety is unlikely to arise in situations when team members are competing with one another.
What About Accountability And Motivation?
Trust, respect, and care do not excuse us from being productive or from holding ourselves and others responsible for the decisions we make and the results we encounter.
To build a high-performance learning culture where employees are motivated, held accountable, and capable of doing their best work, our organization needs to address both of these dimensions (motivation and accountability as well as psychological safety). Anything less would be a disservice to both our organizations and our workforce.
Anxiety is likely to be produced in environments with strong drive and accountability but low levels of psychological safety, which tends to lower people’s performance. As anxiety increases in response to poor performance, the downward spiral that results can be quite dangerous.
Apathy is brought on by a lack of motivation, accountability, and psychological safety. People think there is no use in striving to do anything and that there are no negative repercussions for failing to produce. Additionally, there is probably little to no support for attempting novel approaches. That’s the ideal environment for passivity and disengagement to flourish.
In contrast, comfort is produced in environments with great psychological safety and little motivation and accountability. Although everyone feels valued, respected, and cared for, there is little motivation to move things along. Given that employees enjoy the setting, get along with their coworkers, and feel appreciated at work, this scenario may perform pretty well on traditional workplace culture metrics. However, it doesn’t provide opportunity for people to grow, learn, and take on new challenges—all of which are fundamental to human flourishing.
Taking Lessons From Errors (A.K.A. Continuous Improvement)
Since perfection is impossible, we must acknowledge mistakes when they happen and foster a culture of learning that will allow us to identify methods to advance in the future. This necessitates a readiness to own up to errors and discuss honestly what went wrong and what needs to improve. And before we have those dialogues, we need to have high levels of psychological safety in place.
As you can see, fostering a climate of psychological safety does not lessen the significance of accountability and drive. Your motivation and willingness to hold yourself and others accountable will actually increase if you create a psychologically safe atmosphere. Likewise, it will affect the other members of your squad.
While acknowledging it’s hard to stay there permanently, your goal should be for you, your team, and your organization to spend as much time as possible in the learning zone. Changes in internal and external circumstances will impact how motivated, accountable, and psychologically safe people are. Recognizing when they have changed is crucial so that you may take strategic and tactical actions to turn things around. A little bit of preparation now will spare you hours of stress and misery when the unavoidable occurs!
Chapter 1: The Importance
How Vital Is Psychological Safety?
Teams and organizations in the modern economy are looking for qualities like ideas, innovation, and creativity, which require the right system (environment) to spark. Talent attraction and retention are also crucial. Can a team that is extraordinarily bright, imaginative, and creative reach its full potential if they do not feel free to express their opinions? With a few lone geniuses (bosses), you might be able to get some results in a command and control structure, but these outcomes are not long-lasting.
Okay, so not every idea is a game-changer. Yes, there are questions that are foolish. Yes, disagreement can make things take longer (again). However, discussing these issues is a crucial step in the creative process.
Taking a chance around your team mates may sound easy, as Google’s research noted. However, a simple query like “what is the purpose of this project?” could give the impression that you are unaware of the situation. To avoid appearing ignorant, it could be simpler to carry on without seeking clarification.
Taking a chance in front of your team members could seem easy. However, a simple query like “what is the purpose of this project?” could give the impression that you are unaware of the situation. To avoid appearing ignorant, it could be simpler to keep going without seeking clarification.
In addition to supporting innovation, workplaces where psychological safety is a core component of the culture and system also promote a more positive, productive, and creative environment.
We need to decentralize decisions and ideas more than ever in a VUCA/BANI society. Teams require freedom to come up with ideas based on the environment they are working in. Failure is a necessary component of innovation, thus people must feel free to attempt new things without worrying about being fired or subjected to other negative consequences if their experiments do not turn out as planned.
Organizations will lag behind the competition if they continue to think that only leaders can come up with ideas or recognize dangers and possibilities. And here is one of the main advantages of having a psychologically secure workplace: People who do not hesitate to speak up, share their opinions, or ask questions serve as the organization’s sensors since everyone is present and aware of what is actually happening.
Where are the advancements, innovations, dangers, and chances? These inquiries are not delegated to executives or leadership. Everyone in the system should be concerned with these issues.
What Advantages Does Psychological Safety Offer?
The NHS National Workforce Skills Development Unit has named psychological safety as one of five interrelated pillars for building a healthy workplace.
Good psychological safety fosters flexible thinking and intrapreneurship within workforces, according to PwC research.
This conclusion is supported by MIT professors Warren Bennis and Edgar Schein, who believe it is a crucial element for empowering individuals to more effectively change their behavior in response to evolving organizational difficulties.
Over a two-year period, Google examined 250 qualities and the dynamics of more than 180 active teams. The results showed that all of the top-performing teams shared a high level of psychological safety.
Organizations that foster psychological safety benefit from things like: improved employee wellbeing, engagement, and problem-solving skills; increased collaboration and knowledge sharing; stronger workplace diversity and inclusion; lower employee turnover; higher-performing teams; and employees who are more change-resistant.
Silence can appear to be the safest course of action in situations where there seems to be a threat. Organizations lose out on chances for short successes and minor learning because of this silence.
Chapter 2: Measuring Safety
How can psychological safety at work be measured?
When assessing the psychological safety of an organization, those in HR roles or people analytics teams should make sure they have the necessary training and abilities to adopt a data-driven, business-focused, and experience-led approach.
Maintaining awareness of the psychological safety of your job is the first requirement. Before meetings, conduct check-ins. If a new dynamic occurs, such as the promotion of an ineffective leader, a change in teams, or the hiring of a toxic new employee, psychological safety may be quickly lost. You’ll stay informed if you send out pulse surveys with crucial questions.
Ask your team members and staff the challenging questions. Utilize surveys to gather and analyze data. The level of psychological safety at your company will be determined by the answers provided by your employees. Some things to ask include:
• Do they believe that their mistakes are held against them? If the answer is yes—whether the mistake is large or small—there is a chance that their psychological safety is not good. In this situation, analyzing performance reports can also provide you with a clear picture of how errors are handled.
• Are there instances where team members undermine or sabotage one another? If you discover that multiple people are criticizing bad teamwork, your psychological safety may be in danger.
• Do they feel confident asking for assistance when they need it? If not, they c