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Psychological Safety for Team Performance

Psychological Safety is at risk of becoming just another superficial ‘buzzword’, but what is it and how important is it?

Psychological safety refers to the degree to which individuals in a team feel safe to express their opinions, ideas, and concerns without fear of negative consequences such as humiliation, rejection, or retaliation. It is a critical component of effective teamwork, and it is essential for building trust and fostering collaboration among team members.

Teams that have high psychological safety tend to see their collective IQ rise in a crisis, whilst teams lacking it will often see their collective IQ drop.

When team members feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to share their thoughts and perspectives openly, listen actively to their colleagues, and work together towards common goals. This, in turn, leads to improved performance, creativity, and innovation. People will project their respective behavioural strengths better and at optimal times when they feel safe to do so. Thus teams can collectively project strength faster and more effectively when needed.

A key factor in building psychological safety in teams is mutual understanding.

We use the Belbin Team Role Model and its profiles and reports to accelerate people’s ability to understand and talk more openly about the strengths and weaknesses of both themselves and others. This understanding helps create realistic expectations and also depersonalise natural clashes or conflict that arise from different behavioural styles operating side by side.

Another key factor that contributes to psychological safety is trust.

When team members trust each other, they are more likely to feel comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas, knowing that they will be respected and valued. Trust is built through mutual respect, active listening, and constructive feedback. When team members engage in open communication and give each other the benefit of the doubt, they create a safe and supportive environment that fosters growth and learning.

Another important factor in creating psychological safety is leadership.

Leaders who model open communication, vulnerability, and humility set the tone for the team. When leaders demonstrate that it is safe to make mistakes and learn from them, team members are more likely to take risks and innovate. Leaders who create a culture of psychological safety also encourage their team members to speak up when they see something that is not working, enabling the team to make improvements and achieve better outcomes. An individual Belbin profile is a great tool for managers and leaders to better understand the impact of their natural behaviours within their teams.

Team members also have a responsibility to create a culture of psychological safety.

By actively listening to each other, being open to feedback, and treating each other with respect, team members can contribute to a positive team culture. When team members take the time to understand each other's perspectives and experiences, and strengths and weaknesses, they can build stronger working relationships and work together more effectively. Belbin Working Relationship and Team Reports are very useful here for looking at the team role chemistry between pairs and teams of people.

On the other hand, when team members do not feel psychologically safe, they are less likely to speak up or contribute their ideas. They may also withhold feedback or criticism, which can lead to unresolved conflicts or mistakes that go unnoticed. This can ultimately lead to a lack of trust and a breakdown in communication, which can have a negative impact on the team's performance and morale.

To promote psychological safety, teams can implement a range of strategies, including:

  1. Encouraging open communication: Team members should be encouraged to speak up and share their thoughts and opinions, even if they are different from the majority. This can help to create a culture of openness and inclusivity, where everyone's perspectives are valued. Belbin Team Roles help provide a language to talk about behaviours in the team, and strengths and weaknesses.

  2. Providing constructive feedback: Feedback should be delivered in a constructive and respectful manner, focusing on specific behaviours or actions rather than personal attacks. This can help team members to learn and grow, without feeling attacked or criticized. The less threatening language Belbin provides enables more open feedback to be less confronting.

  3. Celebrating successes: Celebrating successes, big or small, can help to build trust and a sense of camaraderie among team members. This can help to create a positive team culture and foster a sense of psychological safety.

  4. Supporting each other: Team members should support each other through difficult times, both personally and professionally. This can help to create a sense of community and belonging, which is essential for building trust and fostering psychological safety.

Psychological safety is essential for effective teamwork. When team members feel safe to express their opinions and ideas, they are more likely to collaborate effectively, innovate, and achieve better outcomes.

By fostering a culture of understanding and psychological safety through open communication, constructive feedback, and support, teams can build trust and create a positive working environment where everyone can thrive. To find out more about how we use Belbin and other approaches in this area contact us: T – 1300 731 381 E –


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