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BONUS: Psychological safety for teams, an interview with Stephan Wiedner

Psychological Safety is a commonly discussed topic in Agile circles. We’re frequently reminded how important it is for team performance. But how do we, as Scrum Masters, help our teams achieve that state, where they are free to express their thoughts on the challenges they face as a team without the fear of being overruled, ridiculed, or chastised for having a non-standard opinion?

In this episode, we explore Psychological Safety with Stephan Wiedner, and discuss what we can do to help create an environment where each individual can excel and help the team perform.

A personal lesson learned about the critical importance of Psychological Safety

Back in 2007 when Stephan was working with his team on a new product, they had decided to work behind closed doors to create the best product possible, and later launch it. However, even if they succeeded at developing the product, when they launched it, they quickly discovered that products that don’t get exposed to the audience they seek to serve, get mostly ignored. And that’s what happened in this story. However, the reason why the product did not succeed was only later understood by Stephan, when he visited a seminar with Eric Ries, before the days of Lean Startup hype. It was only after attending that seminar that Stephan understood that the team had missed a key aspect when developing their product, they had not exposed themselves to failure, and had therefore failed to learn what worked, and what did not work!

Conflict as the key indicator that a team is progressing… or failing

Conflict is  a regular topic in the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast. However, conflict can be both a sign of growth, as well as an indicator of impending failure. It’s the psychological safety in the group that determines if the conflict can be turned into positive, constructive energy, or if it will turn the team into a toxic wasteland for collaboration. When conflict emerges in our teams, we can observe how team members react. Are they avoiding the conflict? Are they “taking the conflict offline”? Or are they, in contrast, addressing the conflict together, as a team, and seeking to move on from conflict to rebuilding?

How can the coaching stance help our teams develop Psychological Safety?

Stephan has done a lot of work with counselors, and researched their approach. In that work, he sought to make his coaching approach more effective for his clients. In that research, he found a wealth of knowledge about how to create a safe environment, and learned how we can develop our own approach when working with teams. In this segment, we talk about how important it is to develop facilitative interpersonal skills so that we can help our teams develop a safe environment.

For Scrum Masters that want to develop those skills, we discuss deliberate practice an approach defined in the work by Anders Eriksson and popularized in the book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.

How can we measure Psychological Safety?

In her work that popularized the concept of Psychological Safety, Amy Edmondson used a survey with 7 questions. This survey, and the analysis done subsequently, led to the discovery of Psychological Safety as a team performance predictor. You can read more about Amy’s work in her book: The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth.

If you want to get different perspectives on this topic, be sure to check out our backlog of episodes on Psychological Safety!

About Stephan Wiedner

Stephan Wiedner is a psychological safety expert whose career has focused on developing sustainable high performance leaders, teams, and organizations. His passion for unleashing the collective potential of people has led him to cofound Noomii.com, the web’s largest network of independent life coaches, Skillsetter.com, the deliberate practice platform for interpersonal skills, and Zarango.com, the psychological safety training experts. Stephan has been a guest speaker for ACETech, MAGI, Marketing IMPACT Council, and many other audiences interested in psychology, business, and technology. His writing has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, and other popular publications. Stephan is married with two children and enjoys spending quality time in the outdoors, hiking, biking, camping, and reading.

You can link with Stephan Wiedner on LinkedIn.

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