Creating Psychological Safety Among High Performing Teams

Creating Psychological Safety Among High Performing Teams

“Paul Santagata, Head of Industry at Google knows that the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety, the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake. “ (Laura Delizonna)


Increase psychological safety among your team by replicating the steps that Santagata took:

  1. Taking conflict as a collaborator. We hate losing more than we love winning. True success is a win-win outcome, so when conflicts come up, avoid triggering a fight. You may ask,“How could we achieve a mutually desirable outcome?”


  1. Remember they are “Just Like You”. Universal needs such as respect, competence, social status, and autonomy of every individual should be recognised. This naturally elicits trust and promotes positive language and behaviors. In every negotiation, just like you, the other party aims to walk away happy. Reflect on questions to consider:


The person’s beliefs, perspectives, and opinions.

The person’s hopes, anxieties, and vulnerabilities.

The person’s friends, family, and perhaps children.

The person’s want to feel respected, appreciated, and competent.

The person’s wish for peace, joy, and happiness.


  1. Plan countermoves for anticipated reactions. This helps ensure your content will be heard, rather than your audience hearing an attack on their identity or ego.

Gather concrete evidence to skillfully confront difficult conversations head-on. This third-party oriented perspective exposes weaknesses in your positions and encourages you to rethink your argument.”


Specifically, you ask:

Your main points?

What are three ways your listeners are likely to respond?

How will you respond to each of those scenarios?


  1. Be curious rather than put blame. The alternative to blame is curiosity. Adopt a learning mindset, knowing you don’t have all the facts. Here’s how:

State the problematic behavior or outcome as an observation, and use factual, neutral language.

Engage them in an exploration.

Ask for solutions. The people who are responsible for creating a problem often hold the keys to solving it. That’s why a positive outcome typically depends on their input and buy-in.


  1. Get feedback on delivery. Asking for feedback on how you delivered your message disarms your opponent, illuminates blind spots in communication skills, and models fallibility, which increases trust in leaders. Close difficult conversations with these questions:

What worked and what didn’t work in my delivery?

How did it feel to hear this message?

How could I have presented it more effectively?


  1. Measure psychological safety. Periodically ask your team how safe they feel and what could enhance their feeling of safety. You make conduct surveys on psychological safety and other team dynamics.


If you create this sense of psychological safety, expect to see higher levels of engagement, increased motivation to tackle difficult problems, more learning and development opportunities, and better performance.