Psychological Safety - What's In It For You?

It’s easy to get flustered and frustrated when you have to consider theoretical concepts such as purpose and long term satisfaction. 

Let’s face it, the good of the enterprise is too lofty a goal. No one wakes up in the morning and goes to work powered solely by the need to ensure more end customers have access to their product irrespective if that is gas, fleece jackets or insurance policies. 

For the most part, even the good of the team is too lofty a goal - previously castrated by process and with little ways to do anything for the good of their people other than show compassion by commiserating over beers once in a blue moon, leaders find it hard to want to affect change.

Our bet at PeopleNotTech and why we are investing in Psychological Safety Works is that they do want said change and betterment to happen. That they don’t scoff at it as an afterthought in their hearts of hearts.

The further up the chain leaders are, it seems the more removed from deeply caring about “the people” and that’s -partly- a function of size - the vast number of individuals underneath you become a line item in a budget spreadsheet as opposed to real-life humans, so it’s easy to detach and if you couple that with the disdain for anything “soft” such as emotions in the workplace and then factor in the lack of Psychological Safety and extreme Impression


Management taking place in boardrooms and management teams, it’s little wonder that nothing is truly better in the lives of the employees. 

Together with some of our evangelists and partners, we’re addressing the top with using the data we collect from Psychological Safety Works and our many years of experience in leadership coaching to build a “PS at the Top” program, an intervention designed to make management groups become teams again if you will, but meanwhile, we are focusing on the leaders who can make a change right away on their own. Today. 

We realized early on that neither the team leader who cares enough to ask the right questions nor the team member who answers, can be motivated by a greater sense of purpose of their work, no less because many don’t have one so we would have to find more tangible and faster wins.

While we were designing the system we looked at Dan Ariely’s theory on “rewards substitution” and decided to include an element of “What’s in it for me?” in the DNA of the product design itself.

We don’t want to build any feature just because we can or it looks good. We don't want to flash any of the data just because we have it. We want everything the user does in the system to feel overall important but also immediately potentially rewarding.

The theory states that there are ways to replace long term rewards into micro-rewards on the spot thus replacing delayed gratification with more instant ways of getting a hit of pleasure. It’s the same principle behind breaking long term goals into smaller ones so that results are evident faster and it’s the only want to keep motivation levels up.

In our case, for the team members who answer questions while we measure the way they do, it was a lot easier to show tangible rewards thanks to our partnership with the amazing team at Huggg.me and their relentless quest for awesome rewards. It’s an easy equation - answer this question for us and you may be getting a coffee, or a movie ticket, or a donut. In testing, we were further stunned to see that our other experimental engaging feature of using splashes of humour was perceived as a reward in of itself as well. (It is worth digging into why that is in a separate article as I presume it’s a function of how dreary and grey we expect anything we do at work to be.)

With team members’ “What’s in it for me?” taken care of, we needed to tackle the tougher one and provide their team leaders with enough motivation to pull out their credit card, subscribe and even put this in front of their teams. 

Arguably, most of the ones who will, are "woke" enough to be keenly aware that it’s an undeniable, fundamental truth that a lack of Psychological Safety in their team is the single, biggest risk factor they face. 

If failing because their people don’t trust each other, don’t learn with each other, aren’t resilient, flexible and courageous and don’t function as a well-oiled machine, doesn’t keep them up at night, and if they can’t see the correlation between that and their velocity, their delivery, their project KPIs or even their entire P&L, then they won’t succeed as a leader anyhow, so no amount of software can help them. 

But for those who know, is the good of the team as it translates into their own success strong enough of an impetus? The answer we came up with was “no, it won’t be strong enough” and it is why we refocused around the Emotional Intelligence Trainer. 

Training one’s EQ is instinctively valuable. Much as we try to pretend they don’t exist in a work context, we all know that it is our emotions that power every interaction so who doesn’t want to get better at reading them and ensuring they stay on the positive side within their team?

We’re taking team leaders by the hand and saying “Look, of course, you want the good of the team but you have trouble understanding how asking them the right questions will help them be more Psychologically Safe in particular as you know you’ll be looking at those results like you’re a meerkat perusing a menu in Mandarin so here’s what we propose - kit them with this - reward them for answering things while you learn both what they think and how they interact, and your reward is that we’ll teach you what to look at to understand them. We’ll show you what to keep an eye on, help you think of ways to get more of the good and minimize the bad and in general, make you into an extraordinary leader they’ll love. All on the company’s dime.” 

Ironically that last part sees team leaders shift uncomfortably - as if becoming a better version of themselves shouldn’t be funded by the very people who employ them but that’s a story for another time. 

For now - here’s What’s in Psychological Safety Works for you: if you’re a team member - Huggg rewards, humour and the chance to speak your mind and see things move in the right direction; if you’re a team leader - finding out exactly where your team is, a chance to make them Psychologically Safe hence truly productive and therefore kill your own KPIs and a splash of EQ practice that will see you be a better leader; and finally if you’re management - a chance to win like Google. 

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