What makes Psychological Safety so important in Coaching

  • Anita Rajendran-See
  • 18 Mar 2022
  • 3 MIN READ

What Is Psychological Safety?

Many people confuse psychological safety and trust and consider them the same. However, they are similar with distinct differences. Psychological safety is a group construct and so 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 the trustworthiness of another. The key takeaway about psychological safety is that it involves feeling comfortable within the team. 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.

Importance In Coaching

Cultivating a culture of Psychological Safety empowers teams to increase their performance. During team coaching or one on one coaching sessions, providing psychologically safe spaces means this is where leaders are encouraged to overcome their biases and consider the situation with new lenses. Psychological safety enables open communication, connection, creativity, collaboration and moderate risk-taking. These are all essential ingredients for high value-creating teams. Creating psychologically safe spaces sounds easy but is a soft skill that must be developed deliberately. If team members don’t feel comfortable sharing their concerns or new ideas, then those ideas will be lost. This affects diversity and inclusion as well. Communication will suffer, and could 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 in the knowledge that their inputs and opinions are valued and they will not be penalised for speaking up. 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. 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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