Psychological Safety in Teams


Almost a year ago Google published its research on how to build the Perfect Team.  Not only did the research show that people who work in teams are happier, spot problems faster, and produce solutions much more quickly; it showed that the relationships between team members matters, too.

Most of us have memories of being stifled in a group that was highly competitive and even feeling as though contributing to the group might be personally harmful from the risk of being wrong or even ridiculed.

The key to making groups tick ends up being about values and norms among peers – some of us call it culture.  If we can understand and impact the motivations and normative expectations of the group, then teams can improve dramatically.  What the article coined as “psychological safety” is the ability of a team to relax socially and without the potential fear of being a failure.  These groups stood out as the constant winners in productivity and creativity.

It certainly seems that this type of research endorses an age-old theme of supporting each other’s dignity.  Since the future of our work will almost certainly require being a part of a winning team we should spend time understanding how the quickest and most satisfying road to success demands the development of relationships.

Do you feel safe to be the most creative person that you can be?  Are you called as a leader to sponsor safety for others?  How do you do it?

Peak Performance Considerations Even If You’re “Settled In”

Hard work in a focused and intentional way is, in the end, what distinguishes those who achieve remarkable results.

Gary Pulsipher Joplin portrait

Gary Pulsipher is a true “Tar” of industry, a friend, and a life-long learner. Gary and I have had many meaningful conversations about leadership and personal growth and his humble way of engaging those he leads prompted my request for his help in blogging.  He currently leads the Mercy Joplin Health ministry in SW Missouri and Kansas.

I’ve had the opportunity recently to review two books on the topic of ‘peak’ performance. Peak by Anders Ericsson; and Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin discuss and challenge whether some people are born with innate talents, while the rest of us are left to struggle.

Conclusions reached by two well-regarded authors show that while some people certainly  appear to have strong skills and abilities, those who truly excel are the ones who engage in deliberate practice over a period of  many years.

Hard work in a focused and intentional way is, in the end, what distinguishes those who achieve remarkable results.

Further, most truly exceptional performers start from a very young age to practice and perfect their crafts.  Examples include Tiger Woods and Mozart.  It seems that while the brain and body are developing in the young, tremendous progress can be made.

However, researchers have also proven that people of all ages, when engaged in a focused improvement plan with intentional practice and feedback, achieve amazing results.  So there’s hope – even for those of us who are aging and somewhat set in our ways.

One of my favorite Edwin Markham poems:

We are blind until we see, that in the human plan

Nothing is worth the making, if it does not make the man

Why build these cities glorious, if man un-builded goes,

In vain we build the world unless the builder also grows. 

So the challenge, as we age and become comfortable, is to continue to push for growth and development.


I would be interested in hearing from you:

Have you found any good ways to make sure you’re growing in your own excellence at work?

“Super Trouper isn’t a Person”



Of the three great motivations: coping, validating my identity, or other-centeredness; which one are you?

Kudos to a great mentor, friend and psychotherapist, Joe Gross.  He was a huge fan of following the “why”. Dr. Gross would often explain that if we understand the motivation then we can deal with the energy behind it.

When the idea that “what’s in it for me?” is expanded to include my need to be respected as a contributor, essential to someone else’s life, or valued as a person then our purpose for being energized into society becomes wrought with pathways toward becoming useful to others.

But here is an even deeper truth.  The greatest paradigm of this thought is unexperienced even in the validation of one’s own self-worth.  What if our “why” reached beyond the stars and into an aspect of value that permeates relationships?  Being validated as a good speaker on the public stage pales to being a portion of a process that succeeds in giving a modest hope for life to a desperately poor or ill individual, or advocating for change from a quiet place in the universe where we are not in the spotlight but still remain essential to the greater good.

We will never succeed in promoting every life to the place of honor at the figurative table – it is a perfectly failed proposition.  What we can do is give in to the ideal that leaders who hold perceived positions of prestige are propped up by the sinew, bone and spirit of the true sowers of the harvest.  If you have a culture that holds success to be the Super Trouper brand spotlight moment our parents told us all that we deserve then you are growing a large group of disenfranchised employees.

A leader’s truest function is connecting the success of their people with reason and purpose associated with the greater good of the community we serve. Being the figurative Super Trouper is actually doing just that – shining light on other people.

Do you spend time connecting people with their why?  Do you have a good vision of your own reason for working?