What Is Psychological Safety?

Many people confuse psychological safety and trust, thinking they are the same. They are similar but have distinct differences. Psychological safety is a group construct, which means it is experienced on a group level. Trust is experienced on an individual level.

Psychological safety measures if it is okay to share ideas and make mistakes in the group openly. On the other hand, trust looks at whether a person can be relied upon to do what they promised. Members of a team or group can measure if an environment is psychologically safe and open. One person determines trustworthiness about another.

The key takeaway about psychological safety is that it involves feeling comfortable in the group setting. A psychologically safe environment will foster open dialogue, free exchange of ideas, and let people be themselves. It encourages people to take risks and be creative. A psychologically unsafe environment will stifle creativity and communication and lead to a lack of team cohesion.

Why Is Psychological Safety So Important In Coaching?

A coach’s job is to lead a team, train a team, and teach them new skills that they can use. To achieve this, a coach needs to get feedback from his players or team members. To get constructive feedback, a coach must create a psychologically safe environment for his team members to freely share what they think and want.

If team members don’t feel comfortable sharing their concerns or new ideas, then those ideas will be lost. Communication will suffer, and this can lead to misunderstandings within the group. Underlying issues will then fail to be addressed. Simply creating a psychologically safe environment will improve communication significantly. That can increase the performance and cohesion of the team and help the coach address the issues that the team is facing.

How Do Teams Benefit From A Psychologically Safe Environment?

Imagine two teams working on the same project. One team has a psychologically safe environment. In this group, creativity and risk-taking are encouraged. Team members can speak freely and openly about the project.

The other team has a psychologically unsafe environment. Team members do not feel comfortable taking risks and creatively approaching problems. Communication is stifled because team members do not feel comfortable speaking their minds and sharing their ideas with each other.

It is now easy to see why teams benefit from a psychologically safe environment. Improved communication, creativity, and risk-taking boost performance and lead to creative and novel solutions to problems. Psychologically safe environments also help to eliminate barriers to productivity. So it pays to create psychologically safe environments whether your team is a sports team or a work team.

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