With the uncertainties of the world swirling around us, as leaders it can be a challenge to figure out how to create a high-performing and sustainable culture where employees and team members thrive over time. According to Gallup there was a historic drop in employee engagement with only 36% of employees in the workforce engaged in their jobs this summer.
Google’s “Project Aristotle,” provides a clear solution to creating higher-performing teams. Through extensive research they found the number one trait of high-performing teams vs. low-performing teams is psychological safety, or value. When employees and team members feel psychologically safe, or valued, they feel comfortable speaking up with relevant ideas, questions, or concerns without judgement or consequences. However, psychological safety is not synonymous with nice. Instead, it’s about having mutual respect, candor and willingness to engage in productive conflict while valuing others and learning from different points of view.
In addition to Google’s efforts, there are extensive lines of research in various fields that show overwhelming evidence on the impact of psychological safety on performance. As leaders, it’s essential to create environments where people are connected and have a sense of psychological safety and value to create a high-performing and sustainable culture.
Try these five activities to help build a culture where team members are engaged and feel valued, enabling them to bring their very best on a regular basis:
Week 1 – The lion, the fox and the saint bernard
This is a fun, self-awareness exercise to help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of your personal style, also known as your voice, and how it may shift under pressure.
- Ask team members to consider if they most identify with a lion, a fox, or a saint bernard. If you want to have team members take the assessment prior to the activity, click here to download.
- Have everyone get into a small group with their fellow animal.
- Have each small group create a list of all the advantages of their selected animal. For a quick activity simply discuss and be prepared to share.
- Then ask each group to create a list of the disadvantages of each of the other animals.
- Once everyone has recorded their lists, start by allowing the lions to share their advantages. Then, have the other two groups share their perception of the lion’s disadvantages.
- Repeat this process for each of the other two animals.
- Now, ask team members to consider if their style, or voice, changes or shifts when under pressure.
- Close with a discussion around what you learned and how you can use this to provide helpful feedback to each other going forward.
Week 2 – Genuine “no-fix” listening
Decide a topic the team members will discuss regarding the value they bring. Examples include:
- Why are you here? Why are you at this business, on this team, at this program, doing this specific job, etc.?
- What do you like most about being a part of our team?
- What is your biggest challenge, frustration, or fear?
- What is one thing that would make being part of our team a better experience for you?
Pair team members up with someone they’re most dissimilar to or know the least. Have team members take on the roles of both speaker and listener for 3 minutes each.
To debrief ask questions like:
- What was it like to be the speaker?
- What was it like to be the listener?
- Was there anything the speaker did that either facilitated, or interfered with, you feeling valued or understood?
- What is one interesting thing you learned about your teammate that you didn’t know?
- How might anything you learned help you better connect with or value your teammate?
Week 3 – Strong teammate activity
Start by asking each team member to write down two to three strengths, or values, they think they bring to the team. Then ask them to write down one strength for each of their teammates.
One team member at a time, ask them to share what they wrote down about their own strengths, and then have each of them share what they wrote down about their teammates or colleagues. Team leaders could share their thoughts at this point as well. Repeat this process with each team member.
Have someone write down all of the strengths for each team member, and then come up with a creative way to display in your locker room, break room, common area, or in another visible location.
Week 4 – Safe container activity
In this activity, each team member writes down two things and puts them in a sealed container:
- What is one thing you need from the team in order to feel okay sharing and asking questions?
- What is one thing that will get in the way of you sharing and asking questions?
Review and discuss all of the items. Then create some ground rules for how your team interacts and communicates, or shares their voice, with one another.
Week 5 – What’s your “why?”
Ask each team member to share their “why?” Why are they working at your business? Why are they in this career path? What is their underlying purpose or motivation for doing what they’re doing? Team leaders can share their “why” as well.
As an additional option, this initial conversation can be a thought-starter and then you can ask team members to come up with their why and put it into one phrase or sentence to share with the team.
How does their “why” connect to their teammates, coaches, and/or team?
A key factor in employee and team member motivation is trust. A 2019 research study by the Trust Edge Leadership Institute found that for trusted leadership, employees would offer more ideas and solutions (feedback), be better team players, and be more loyal. That sounds like a culture every leader would want to have! By engaging intentionally and consistently with your team using the activities shared above, you can create a psychologically safe environment and build trusting relationships that will lead to, or enhance, a high-performing and sustainable culture.
Interested in learning more about building a high-performing and sustainable culture where employees thrive? Reach out to Beth today at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Contact tab for a free 30-minute consultation.