Some of humanity’s finest ideas arose because individuals and teams felt comfortable to express thoughts that were huge leaps of faith, and the support systems around them permitted the nurturing of fledging ideas.
All of us can probably identify a period at work where we felt safe, valued and actively looked forward to seeing our colleagues every day. Hopefully, you feel this now, or can see a period like this just around the corner. Feeling secure at your place of work indicates that you feel psychologically safe, and it is the responsibility of employers to strive towards a constant state of this for their employees.
Psychological safety is the principle of ensuring you can be your authentic self in the workplace, generating a sense of confidence in yourself through the understanding that your peers will not reject, punish or embarrass you for speaking your mind. One of the most fundamental breakthroughs in the understanding of how the structure of DNA worked arose when Dr. James Watson felt safe enough to explain to his colleagues about a peculiar dream he had.
The benefits of psychological safety are directly related to productivity, innovation and good decision making. Most of the benefits of a psychologically safe workplace will manifest over time as the ability to retain colleagues increases. This can be quantified through year on year opinion surveys, however a state of psychological safety can be a fleeting or temporary position and therefore work needs to be done to maintain this status, ideally indefinitely.
Teams or working groups that can achieve a state of psychological safety amongst all members demonstrate:
A willingness to take risks, as participants do not feel a sense of shame for ideas that may have been rejected.
Social empathy for others in their group, strengthening bonds and fostering resilience.
Lessons learnt from mistakes, making it less likely that mistakes are repeated, and that processes improve over time.
Innovation and creativity as all ideas are perceived as valid.
For an industry such as district heating, innovation is necessary to create an impact on the built environment and maximise the potential within the UK. Teams that can operate in a psychologically safe manner foster innovative thinking.