5 Steps to Create a Safety Zone for Strong & Effective Teams

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5 Steps to Create a Safety Zone for Strong & Effective Teams

As we work with leaders looking to grow their organizations and their team’s capability, there’s a single question that we are asked quite frequently.

How can I help my team become more effective?

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It is the personal commitment to mission from leaders to create the environment that enables strong and effective teams.

To demonstrate what we mean, we recently shared an article from Inc.Com that’s become one of our most forwarded posts to others. The article and it’s many shares to others indicate that there’s a “secret formula” that leaders are searching for.

In studying 180+ teams (over two years) with the objective to determine what factors are most important for success in teams and creativity, the article presents a summary of 5 key factors and learnings on building strong and effective teams.

Here are the five items extracted from the article:

1. Dependability – Team members get things done on time and meet expectations.
2. Structure and clarity  – High-performing teams have clear goals, and have well-defined organizational structures as well as explicit roles within the group.
3. Meaning – The work has personal significance to each member.
4. Impact – The group believes their work is purposeful and positively impacts the greater good.
5. Psychological Safety –  Leaders create an environment where ideas are freely expressed, built up, and not held back by the team.

Note that Item 5 is the important one.

It’s the secret of leading an effective team. The job of leaders is to create that “safe space” for creative efforts on the front end of the innovation funnel.

So, how do you create psychological safety?

You have to set out to build strong teams. You have to design strong teams, intentionally. Also, you the as the leader, have to become very comfortable with how uncomfortable building strong teams might make you feel, when you first start.

You may be thinking, “this all sounds great, that’s what I want to do, but how do I actually do that with my team?”

In a create sessions with clients, we always preface new team members and those new to the front end create sessions methods with very direct and specific language. We create the psychological safety zone needed for front end of innovation and creative idea generation. We do this with a common language, direct and to the point, and demonstrate with real world case stories. The idea in sessions is to help the team become comfortable with the concept of the “safe zone”.

So, what does this look and feel like from a leader and team behavior perspective.
After some initial guidance to the leaders, there will be some skeptics on your team. That is expected, and actually, quite natural. The key for leaders, on the early stage concepts is to give the concepts space and room to grow. Here are some approaches and words you can use that use to get started.

  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Set the stage for the team. and be explicit with your words. We suggest discussion points like these;
    • “This is a safe space. We will build up ideas together. Will will be aspirational. We will think deeply about the opportunities for our teams, and customers and we will work backwards. For now, ignore the technical challenges. If there were no constraints, how would our team or our end user benefit?”
  • Give the team space to build up and amplify the concepts. It’s way too early in the innovation process to shut anything down.
  • Ask open questions. Say things like, “Tell me more about that…”
  • If it’s a close-in idea, that seems similar to other things, ask, “how could we provide more value to that existing concept with our customers?”
  • Help them make the concept bigger and bolder.
  • If you know a concept is beyond the team capability, encourage them to move it to a place for an experiment,  then evaluate it’s merits further and learn more about it.
  • Recognize up front as the leader that you have no idea on how to implement that larger than life concept and big risk idea.  Tell your team that. Take action and give your team the charge have them learn about the idea over a period of a few weeks.
  • “If we ignore the technical challenge and those were out of the way…what if we did…that’s a great idea…that company did this, so what can we do…”
  • Get them out of the office. Send them to places to observe and learn. Then, meet as a group and share what you learned.

The only way risks will EVER be taken in your organization, and your team holds NOTHING back, is when your leadership provides the air cover and support for your team, enabling the team to let their guard down and do great things to grow your organization.

Make time to experiment with this.

Try some of these approaches with your team. You will be uncomfortable at first.  You can deal with that. That’s why you’re the leader. We assure you, that once you take the initiative to create that safety zone, and continue to reinforce the safety zone concepts with your language and your actions, you will build that more effective team you are looking for.

If you’d like to learn more about the simple steps and have a custom experience on how make it real with your team, please reach out to us at info@the-innovation-garage.  You can also click here to visit our events page to learn more about upcoming educational experiences that are focused on education, methods, and tools for driving team alignment, creativity and effectiveness.

Connecting with The Innovation Garage®  will give you the actionable steps, process, and a system for creating that safety zone for an effective team.

At The Innovation Garage®…

We help organizations grow. We build strategy. We build ideas and the capability of teams. We design products, services and supply chains. We guide leaders from non-profit, startup, government, privately-held, and global Fortune 500 organizations to intentionally self-disrupt their offerings and organizations. We provide world-class education, tools and technology on how to craft business operating systems focused on long-term profitable growth.

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