At the University of Maryland, we talk about Leading Fearlessly and moving Fearlessly Forward. Many people embrace the idea of being fearless, but what is it all about and how can you develop it in your team?
For Amy Edmondson, the Harvard professor who wrote the book The Fearless Organization, it is all about creating “team psychological safety.”
Here are some examples of how team members feel when they are “safe” on a team:
- If you make a mistake on this team, it is not held against you
- Members of this team are able to bring up problems and tough issues
- People on this team accept others who are different
- It is safe to take a risk on this team
- It isn’t difficult to ask others on this team for help
- No one on this team would deliberately act in a way that undermines my efforts
- Working with members of this team, my unique skills and talents are valued and utilized
So that’s our target! Here are some things you can do as a leader, to build this kind of psychological safety:
1. Make it clear why everyone’s input is needed and valued. Explain that everyone’s ideas need to be shared so you can all discuss and evaluate the best course of action.
2. Admit your own fallibility. Leadership is not about having all of the right answers all of the time. Admit when you make a mistake.
3. Actively invite input. Some people will be faster than others to share ideas. Make sure everyone contributes.
4. Respond productively. When problems arise and mistakes are made – and you should expect this – respond with a positive attitude. Don’t focus on blame. Look for things that could have been done differently and how you can all learn from the setback.
Developing a Fearless Team is not about being “nice.” It is about being supportive, forward thinking, and bring a learning mindset to your work. With this approach, you will move Fearlessly Forward!
*Ideas for this blog taken from: Gallo, A. “What is Psychological Safety?,” Harvard Business Review online, February 15, 2023.