Psychological Safety in Theory and In Practice – Harvard Business Review

Psychological Safety in Theory and In Practice – Harvard Business Review

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I’m Morra Aarons-Mele, and this is The Anxious Achiever. We look at stories from business leaders who’ve dealt with anxiety, depression or other mental health challenges, how they felt down, how they pick themselves up and how they hope work can change in the future. We’re wrapping up season five of the show today, and I want to look at a concept I’ve long been a fan of, psychological safety. It’s an idea pioneered by the Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, my first guest today. Psychological safety, it’s not about being nice. It’s the idea that you aren’t going to be embarrassed, shamed or even punished for speaking up with your questions, concerns or mistakes on the job. It’s really important in today’s workforce says Amy Edmondson, and psychologically safe teams get things done and move big ideas forward. Later in the show, we’ll hear from Christopher Yates, chief talent officer at Ford Motor company on why psychological safety is important in his organization and how he helps create teams that feel more psychologically safe. But first here’s my conversation with Amy Edmondson. You’re right. I had long been interested in the idea of learning from mistakes for achieving excellence. And this was when you were a doctoral student. And I’m curious, why were you interested in this as a young person?

AMY EDMONDSON: Well, I had read a lot of books on this topic book. I mean, there’s a fundamental truth, which is to error is human, right? We will make mistakes, right? Like it or not. Now, we can all do our very best to minimize certain kinds of mistakes and to prevent certain kinds of mistakes. But we have to learn how to be comfortable with ourselves in terms of our fallibility. We are fallible human beings. That’s a given. The only question is, can you become comfortable with that? Is it okay, right? And certainly your whole topic is very much about the challenge here, that it’s not always okay. So I was interested in this because early on I really took to heart the notion that we’re living in a fast paced world, a world that keeps changing, the knowledge explosion. We can’t just keep doing what made us successful in the past. All of us have to be lifelong learners, right? That just became something very interesting to me. And then when you start thinking about what does it take to be a lifelong learner, you have to be willing to look at your failures. You have to be willing to look at mistakes so that you can learn from them and do better next time.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Did you grow up in a family where it was okay to make mistakes?

AMY EDMONDSON: Not really. It’s funny. I grew up in a family that cared very much about hard work, but probably even more central was caring about other people, right? So there was a strong message of you’re here to help others, to make the world a better place. So achievement is a mixed bag. It can’t …….