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Building Psychological Safety in Teams

Teams have online communities to work together. They set up Facebook Groups, Slack Channels, and even PeepSo Communities. But if leadership doesn’t intentionally create psychological safety, it won’t help your team. You need a framework built by humble and courageous leaders.

Build The Framework

Positive vibes only. How many times have we said it? Staying connected is helpful for us until it’s not. ‪If all you ever preach is “positive vibes,” how will you understand your team’s legitimate frustrations?‬ 

We don’t like to talk about the things that bother us or toxicity in the workplace. Still, the search for toxicity has only grown since 2004.

You can’t change something that hasn’t been identified as a problem. This is why it’s so important to build a framework of psychological safety within your teams and online community. ‪Before solutions can come, emotions must be recognized and validated.‬

“There’s this idea that telling folks they’re safe and saying they can share whatever they are thinking is good enough. If you’re not building a framework around that idea, like creating opportunities for folks to share safely or asking engaging questions publicly and processing those reactions together, then you’re not really doing much at all.

Posturing with a ‘good vibes only’ mentality does more harm than good in work culture. Ignoring the reality of tough times and issues is harmful to teams and individuals. It’s OK to have a positive mindset and support that first, but don’t forget you can approach difficult things with positivity too.

We should be focusing on providing a realistic view of what a healthy happy work culture is. As leaders we need to make sure that we have a plan for handling difficult scenarios just like we do for celebrating wins.”

Kimberly Lipari

Humility in Leadership

Building psychological safety requires humility that starts in leadership. Top-down humility is an important part of actual leadership that affects teams and communities. Amy Edmondson calls it “situational humility” in her TED Talk. See it below.

“Fostering curiosity and conversation will help people within your community to develop relationships with one another. These relationships allow your community to grow and become sustainable.”


Humility is the state of recognizing that we have much to learn. Whether we are a leader of a whole company or an agile team, we need to be humble. This sort of humility comes from a genuine curiosity about people and things. Is the way we’ve always done it still the right way? What can I learn from a ten year employee or the new hire? 

Expressing humility, however, is what establishes psychological safety. It’s one thing to keep that curiosity internal and another to say, “You know, I don’t know the answer to that.” The expression of humility among your team takes quite a bit of courage. 

Courage in Leadership

Courage is not discussed enough. We expect our team leadership to know the answers. We expect them to not have any fears or insecurities. It’s impossible. 

It could be said that courage is only surfaced in a person while they face fear. Understanding your role as a leader changes everything. Chris Badgett of LifterLMS goes even further to say that leaders should protect her team members. 

“One of the primary functions of a leader is to protect his or her team members and followers from unrecoverable mistakes, including psychologically harmful mistakes. An example of this for a website building agency would be a leader who steps up to personally ‘fire’ a client who is being psychologically abusive to his or her team members, even if this involves a significant loss of business revenue.”

Chris Badgett

Leadership Is Permission

Leaders who are courageous and humble build the framework of psychological safety. Give your teams permission to fail, permission to question, and permission to vent. You have all the tools you need to engage your teams in a productive online community. Create your community your way. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t start today.

About the author: Keith Waters
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