The Secret to Team Success

Different hands
Marissa Ellis
Marissa Ellis

Diversily Founder

For mental health awareness week 2021 Diversily put on an event on the intersection between mental health, psychological safety and inclusion. 

Why we did it

One of our key areas of focus at Diversily is developing inclusive leaders. Inclusive leadership is a foundational skill for business success in the modern world. This means humans leading and supporting humans. This means creating a team culture where it is ok not to be ok.  Let’s face it, all of us at some point or other are not okay,  that’s the reality. We wanted to provide a safe and open forum to get people thinking, talking and importantly being inspired to do things differently. We also raised some money for Mental Health Foundation who are doing fantastic work in this area.

Why we are doing it again

The feedback from the session was fantastic. The conversation was very thought provoking and importantly people shared concrete steps they would take to improve. However the technology failed us. Several people were ejected from the session and were unable to rejoin! Somewhat ironic for a session on inclusion!
When you fail, what matters is what you do next.
The silver lining is that what was meant to be a one off event, will now be rerun. This means we can go deeper and offer value to more people.
If you are serious about leading an inclusive, high performing team, come and join us for an authentic conversation on the 18th of June 2021.

Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable

The more we have, what may feel like uncomfortable conversations, the easier those conversations become. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable will pave our path to high performance.
Here is  a really interesting statistic to get you thinking. 
A survey was conducted by Business in the Community in 2019, that asked 4000 employees this question;
“Do you feel comfortable talking to your manager about your mental health?”
Only 44% of the people surveyed said yes.
We still feel a lot more comfortable talking about physical health than mental health. Yet, our mental wellbeing plays a vital role in our performance and satisfaction at work.

Why is mental health at work important?

1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any year.  Many successful people and celebrities have talked about their mental health problems. 30% of the UK workforce have been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their life. The pandemic has had a massive impact on employee mental health with 41% of employees reporting that they have experienced mental health symptoms caused, or worsened, by work in 2020 and 51% reporting that this was due to increased pressure.
However, the pandemic has also acted as a catalyst to elevate discussion on mental health. Employers have made impressive progress and this creates optimism for the future.
Organisations need to get serious about creating inclusive cultures to improve the mental health (and productivity and motivation) of their staff – they need to create conditions where people feel safe to show up as themselves, share their reality and explore solutions to their issues.
By creating an inclusive culture in which employees can grow, feel listened to and feel treated with empathic understanding, organisations can boost employee productivity, motivation and mental wellbeing. In fact, research has shown that people who are supported in this way are 60% more productive and committed at work. Reason enough to take action we think!  

Project Aristotle

Google ran a project called Project Aristotle: they studied lots and lots of different teams, to try and understand the single most important factor that drove team success. 
Google spent two years studying 180 teams to find out what influences team success. Why do some teams excel while others fall behind? The results were surprising. 
The hypothesis before the study started was that the answer was bringing together the best people. However in the words of Julia Rozovsky, Google’s people analytics manager, “We were dead wrong.”
After analysing over 250 team attributes over multiple years the study concluded that the most important factor for team success was psychological safety. 
More than anything else, a sense of psychological safety, or a shared belief that the team is a safe place for interpersonal risk-taking, was critical for making the team function effectively.
The real question is how do you, as a leader, create a feeling of psychological safety for your team? 
If you can crack that, you will increase the performance of your team. 

What is psychological safety?

Psychological safety is a term coined by Dr Amy Edmondson and it refers to a function of a group. Psychological safety is where team members feel safe to take risks and to be vulnerable in front of each other in the moment, because they feel valued, because they believe they will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or importantly mistakes.
It’s connected to trust but it’s not the same as trust. It’s within a group environment whereby trust is something between two people. You trust someone to do something for you at a future time or to hold your trust. It’s in the future. Psychological safety is in the now.
It doesn’t mean an ‘anything goes’ environment. It’s not the same as comfort. It’s very important to know that. It’s not a place where people are not expected to adhere to high standards or meet deadlines. It’s important to note that working in a psychological safe environment, does not mean that people will always agree with one another, for the sake of being nice. We need to be able to disagree with respect. It also does not mean that people have to give unequivocal praise or unconditional support for everything you have to say.
It’s about enabling candor, openness and creating an environment of mutual respect, as well as broadening your lens in order to break free of judgment and strengthen the relationship between members. It’s important to have an open mindset. Often we look at things through our own lenses. But approaching things from a different angle can really help bring perspective. However without feeling safe to speak up those different perspectives are not shared.

What makes us feel safe?

In the first session we explored what make people feel safe and unsafe. A LOT was discussed during the session and we are looking forward to going deeper in session two. If you are interested in the topic and serious about improving your team, book your free ticket and come and join the discussion.

Here are some highlights…
Things that make us feel unsafe to speak up include:
  • Being the only person like me in the room.
  • Being criticised before I had finished speaking.
  • Knowing I have a different opinion.
  • Being interrupted.
  • Not being listen to.
  • Knowing that my suggestions will not be taken forward anyway.
  • People taking things personally.
  • People not being comfortable to talk about feelings and emotions.
Things that make us feel safe to speak up include:
  • Knowing that I will be listened to, even if other don’t agree.
  • When I am explicitly asked for my thoughts.
  • Knowing that when people make mistakes they are supported.
  • Knowing what other people feel vulnerable about.
  • When all ideas are welcomed before we jump to the solution.
  • When I know I am not being judged.
As a leader, if you can understand what make people feel safe or unsafe you can start to intentionally create those kinds of safe environments for your teams where everyone can thrive.

What has all of this got to do with inclusive leadership?

Inclusive leadership plays a vital role in creating an inclusive culture where mental health can thrive and people can feel psychologically safe. Leaders need to create teams where diverse perspectives are represented, authentically, and those diverse perspectives come together in an environment where everyone feels like they belong. Leaders need to raise their ‘inclusive intelligence’, because ultimately it’s a high performance tool that changes the way you think, feel and act. It’s something that once you start doing it, it’s very difficult to turn it off and it become embedded into everything.
To create psychological safety, we need to cater for all aspects of diversity. So much of feeling ‘unsafe’ is connected to people feeling like outsiders or like they don’t belong. So therefore, as inclusive leaders we need to offer equity to create opportunity for everyone.
Mental health is just one aspect of diversity, but it can be invisible. Like so many aspects of diversity, some things are very visible and others are invisible.
You can have anxiety, but still sound really confident.
You can have depression, and still smile and make jokes and be very jovial.
You can feel suicidal but you can still turn up to work every day and appear, absolutely fine.

What can I do to create psychological safety within my team?

This is the ultimate question that all leaders should be asking themselves.
During the first session we shared twelve ideas and invited further discussion on this topic. Everyone took something away to do differently. Here are three of those suggestions:
  1. Acknowledge your fallibility: Admit you’re wrong. By demonstrating vulnerability and directness, you can show employees that it’s OK to make mistakes (and to acknowledge them with the wider team). People respond more favourably to humans rather than emotionless, super hero bosses.
  2. Be self aware – People thrive when they bring their whole self to work—their unique personalities, preferences, and work styles. Build self-awareness on your team by sharing how you work best, how you like to communicate, and how you like to be recognized. Encourage your team members to do the same. Show that it’s OK to talk about emotions by sharing yours.
  3. Nip negativity in the bud – If you have a team member who speaks negatively about peers, talk to them about it. Be clear; let them know that you work together as a team and negativity will not be tolerated. When leaders allow negativity to stand, it can become contagious and spread to others. Employees will think that either it’s OK  to talk badly about others, or that others are probably talking about them. In, either case, it’s a psychological safety killer. Remember critical challenge is not the same as negativity.
If you are serious about leading a thriving team come and join our next session.

If your organisation is ready to empower your leaders to achieve more, Diversily can help. 

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