High Performing Teams NEED Psychological Safety

This month I have been reminded of the importance of building a culture that is “psychologically safe” if you want to create an environment that enables people to work at their best. I remembered an article from Harvard Business Review from a couple of years ago that starts with this great quote from the Head of Industry at Google, Paul Santagata, “There’s no team without trust.”  Luckily there are several things you can do that build trust.

One of the tools we use at Decida, as a part of our betterTEAM program is to support the creation of a “social contract”. Social contracts is an age old theory that is the view that a person’s moral obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement among their group to form the society in which they live. We have found that encouraging teams to have honest conversations about culture and to create a set of simple rules that form the basis for the social contract, is an effective way of setting expectations and taking accountability for their behaviours. You’ll find more information about creating a social contract below.

In addition to hopefully giving you pause for contemplation, in this month’s update we are also excited to:

– introduce you to this month’s awesome human, Gerard Doyle
– share a practical process for developing a social contract in your organisation, and
– announce our new distribution partners at Amazon

As always, please reach out if you have questions, feedback, or would like to get involved and thank you for your ongoing support, we are eternally grateful.

Regards Roshelle and the Decida team

Social Contracts for Teams

A social contract can be an effective mechanism for encouraging teams to be explicit about the accepted standards of the group that defines the way of working. Having said that, developing an effective social contract is dependant on the group feeling safe enough to contribute authentically in the process, so there are a couple of steps we would recommend before jumping in.

  1. Collect data: Undertake research to collect perceptions on the current strengths and areas for improvement for the team from each of the team members. Also, consider collecting feedback from managers, other teams and customers to get a balanced perspective.
  2. Sense making: Objectively collate and analyse the data to identify themes.  Affinity maps and word clouds are both particularly useful for helping to organise this type of information. Collate the information into a summary document that can be shared with the team.
  3. Develop insights: As a team discuss the feedback collected and share the insights gained. Consider what is surprising, what is concerning, and what shows the most opportunity. Developing these insights without being defensive or dismissive can be challenging so be mindful of this bias.
  4. Compelling vision: Discuss with the team why a positive culture is important and describe what success looks and feels like.
  5. Non-negotiable behaviours: Ask the team to identify the behaviours that everyone can take immediately to start moving toward that future state. It’s important these “rules” are agreeable by every member of the group and may take some word-smithing to get right. If you have too many points, consider a prioritisation or ranking activity to keep it to a short memorable list of those non-negotiable behaviours that will have the most impact on culture. Document the social contract and keep it visible.

It is useful to repeat this process from time to time to ensure the social contract is having the desired impact and helping your team to grow from strength to strength. As you can appreciate, this can be a sensitive process, particularly for teams that aren’t working well together so it is often useful to have an experienced facilitator assist.  If you would like help with tools or the process please reach out, the Decida team would be happy to help.