Amy Edmondson defines psychological safety as “a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.” In a nutshell, for a team to perform at its best, it will need a safe, moderated environment. Not too hot, not too cold, just right, just like any animal species needs.
So, how do we create such a safe environment?
By creating a safety moderator to moderate potentially unsafe, heated discussions.
The Problem – No Safety Moderator.
Listen to any discussion, and we all know that people’s behavior changes when a disagreement occurs. One or more will get a little hot under the collar as the heat increases, and their tone will change, and volume rises. Rhetorical questions start to fly, and dogmatic and absolute language will prevail. Some will try to speak up, and others will try to talk them down or even worse, speak for them. Egos and feelings will get bruised. But most will stay silent, not wanting to risk taking sides, and try to avoid the melee.
The Solution – Create a Safety Moderator.
Firstly everyone in the team would need to agree to use a safety moderator. Here’s one I have prepared earlier; I call it Object123. It allows anyone to speak up in real-time and object when we feel offended or uncomfortable with how we are treated during a heated discussion. That’s it!
Later we can examine the nut and bolt details of the workings of this moderator and what happens if there is pushback from the offender, ie. if they want to challenge the objection.
The Manager – Is Part of the Problem.
Now, some of you may say, “the manager can be the moderator,” as though they are unique, objective, and unbiased beings that can be everywhere at one time. All is well and good if that were the case, but they are not God and, more often than not, part of the behavior problem; they are only human, after all, and a system is only as strong as the weakest link.
I think we need an independent moderator to solve this problem. There is way too much emphasis on the leader to lead us out of heated discussions, but I say they are failing us in this area. That explains why every second article on LinkedIn seems to me to be about fixing leadership behavior.
The Safety Network – Create a Safety Network.
Finally, suppose the disputing team members cannot resolve their dispute using the three steps of the Object123 moderator. In that case, their dispute gets bumped up to the cloud, where we have a network of independent peers (you and me) waiting to review any disputes. Here’s one I have prepared earlier called Disputz.com