Three Steps To Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is now a prominent part of the engineering leadership lexicon. It began with Google, who reported that it is the strongest predictor of team productivity. According to those reports, this one factor trumps all other reasons that a team can perform well.

It sounds good, but how do you create psychological safety within a team? My approach is based on personal experience in my closest relationships. I’ve found that in order to trust others, I must first feel acknowledged, validated, and supported. Here’s how I try to extend that benefit to others in my life.

Friends

I learned this trio of trust behaviors while working on one particular relationship. Someone helped me see my partner in a new light by asking me to take the time to assure them of three things:

  1. I hear you. By listening, and making sure they know I’m listening, I am actually validating that they exist. Everyone wants to know that they exist to others. This is why the “silent treatment” is such a cruel punishment for children.
  2. I care. By making it clear that I care about what they’re experiencing, I’m saying that their existence and experiences matter to me. We all want to matter to others.
  3. I’ve got your back. Not only do I acknowledge them and care about them, but I’ll support them. I’ll be there if they need me.

So simple—and yet so powerful. What possibilities could this open in your life?

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I'm Baron Schwartz, the founder and CEO of VividCortex. I am the author of High Performance MySQL and lots of open-source software for performance analysis, monitoring, and system administration. I contribute to various database communities such as Oracle, PostgreSQL, Redis and MongoDB. More about me.


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