Cultivate Psychological Safety

Feeling safe to jump in!

A survey published by Google reveals that psychological safety is a predictor of team success. Engineering managers can take these concrete steps to foster and cultivate a risk-positive environment.

Ask tough questions

Ask questions that get to the heart of issues your team may be facing. Demonstrate openness to criticism. A tool I’ve used for managing my 1-on-1’s, Lighthouse, helps me do this by providing an exhaustive and growing list of just such questions:

  • What would convince you to leave
  • What is the #1 problem at our company?
  • Are you uncomfortable giving any of your peers constructive criticism?
  • What worries you?

Embrace mistakes

We’re all human and make mistakes. Embrace them publicly as an opportunity for growth, whether the mistake was yours or a teammate’s. Neal O’Mara, HelloSign’s CTO, responds to problems like a production bug by saying, “Good catch,” or “Thanks for the heads up,” followed by a suggestion to fix it or a question as to how we should proceed. This blameless, forward-looking approach opens dialogue and focuses on avoiding the same mistake in the future.

Celebrate effort

Failing to meet a goal can be incredibly draining and demoralizing. Make it a habit to regularly celebrate shared experiences, milestones, or big pushes towards a goal. Refill the team’s emotional tank. Doing this proves that you’re learning, improving, and are in this together. Don’t forget to schedule the post-mortem.

Say, “I don’t know.”

Don’t bullshit. If you don’t know something, say, “Let’s figure it out.” Solicit answers publicly. Show that not knowing something is an invitation to learn as a team.

Ask for specific feedback

At the end of 1-on-1s, HelloSign’s CEO, Joseph Walla, is known for asking: “Do you have any feedback for me?”

Use this tactic often. If you find that your team is reluctant to answer constructively, make it specific:

  • “Do you have any feedback about how I ran that meeting?”
  • “What else should we be prioritizing right now?”
  • “How can I be a better partner?”

Originally published on the HelloSign Tech Blog