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Improving teamwork: Psychological security (1/2)

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What is the secret of successful teams?

Google spent two years answering this question Aristotle project and examined which factors characterize the most effective teams. Surprisingly, it is not the bundled intelligence of the team members or the longest work experience. A little true story helps to uncover the secret:

In 2011 a plane crashed and 12 people died & #8211; because the most critical factor for a successful team was missing. The co-pilot of the First Air Flight 6560 expressed concerns about the landing of the aircraft to the pilot. The pilot did not address the concerns, and the co-pilot abandoned the issue. The plane crashed a few minutes later.

Here the question arises: How could the crash have been prevented if the co-pilot had dared to persist in his opinion? This example shows how important the role of psychological security can be for improved teamwork. In fact, Google also has that in its study psychological safety recognized as the secret of the particularly successful teams.

Psychological security is the common conviction of all members of a team that it is safe (within the team) to take interpersonal risks. "

Edmondson (1999)

How can I improve teamwork now?

To increase the atmosphere of psychological security, one has to understand that it is mainly caused by interactions at team level & #8211; with colleagues and superiors & #8211; being affected. Accordingly, there is also the starting point for changes (Edmondson & Mogelof, 2005).

1. Record the status quo

Before taking action, it is important to find out where you are as a team. Maybe your team members already feel psychologically safe. For that you can judge the statements below. You can find more information about our approach here.

Exemplary statements for assessing psychological security

2. Clarify the common expectations

If it turns out that psychological security in the team can still be expanded, you should talk about why an open atmosphere in the team is important.

Ask the question in the room, what advantages would an improvement have for the team. Only if you develop a common expectation in the team can you really increase your potential in this point. The common expectations create a positive framing for possible measures.

3. Break the & #8222; golden rule & #8220;

Treat the team members not how you like to be treated, but how she happy to be treated.

You can do this by asking for their preferences: What kind of feedback do you like to get? How often should we sit together in a team to talk about teamwork and the team atmosphere? How can team communication be improved?

You can already implement these three methods to improve collaboration in your team with the help of psychological security. in the second blog article for psychological security we describe three more practical tips. If you are interested in how echometers help in team development, have a look here past.


Edmondson, A. (1999). Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(2), 350.

Edmondson, A. & Mogelof, JP (2005). Explaining Psychological Safety in Innovation Teams: Organizational Culture, Team Dynamics, or Personality? In Thompson, L. & Choi, H.-S. (Eds.), Creativity and Innovation in Organizational Teams. New York: Psychology Press.

Do you want to develop your team further? We have developed a software tool based on the latest psychological findings. You can also use it to reflect psychological security with your team - more information here:

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Christian Heidemeyer, Psychologist & Scrum Master