Helping develop psychological safety on teams is central to Range’s mission. At its core, Range is an async check-in tool that allows team members to share updates with one another, without using up valuable meeting time. Each person shares what they are planning to do and what they have recently accomplished. As part of each person’s update, there is also a daily question designed to improve your understanding of your teammates and cultivate psychological safety. Some are simple ice breakers such as “what did you do last weekend?” or “what’s your favorite holiday destination?”, others probe more deeply into work dynamics, such as “what are you most proud of on your team at the moment?” or “what’s one skill you’ve improved over the last year?”
At Range, we start each meeting with a check-in so that each of us can give context for how we’re feeling and how that might affect how we participate. Naturally, we then use our own meeting tool – agendas are dynamically assembled, and everyone is empowered to raise topics: a tension, an area where they’re blocked, or any other relevant topic.
At the end of every two-week cycle, we reflect as a team on each of our highlights and noble failures from the week, with zero judgement on the self-identified failures. We believe that building high-performance culture begins with building a diverse and inclusive environment that every member of the team feels safe in, so we aim to be models of this ourselves.
Digital therapeutics for common mental health conditions
San Francisco, London, or Remote (Global)
At Big Health, our mission is to help millions get back to good mental health with non-drug alternatives for conditions like anxiety and insomnia. Our digital therapeutics deliver meaningful real-world change by providing positive clinical outcomes for individuals and lowering companies’ health care costs. The pandemic has only underscored the importance of mental health, and with our recent $75M Series C, we’re growing faster than ever.
In order to deliver the most value for our customers, we must lead by example and foster a psychologically safe environment. Our goal is to create a culture where everyone on the team feels safe enough to be industrious, make and learn from mistakes along the way, and ask for help when needed. Blameless post-mortems are the norm. This means we actively avoid silos and encourage engineers to have productive conversations and debates to get to higher-quality answers. The curiosity to learn and ability to get along well with others is something we actively look for in interviews.
1 Open Positions
Operating system for building and growing communities
San Francisco, Paris, or Remote (US/Europe)
The best communities protect the psychological safety of their members, and we believe it should be the same at Orbit. We are a community of teammates. This means creating a space where you feel comfortable speaking up and sharing your thoughts without fear of risking your reputation, back channelling, or having an idea called stupid. At Orbit, our goal for ourselves (and anyone who joins the team!) is to ensure we trust and respect one another. This makes for a more resilient, fulfilling, and long-lasting work environment.
It’s important that team members feel safe to speak up and ask for help, whether it’s about something technical or personal. One way we help foster a safe, caring environment is by using Range, an async check-in tool that allows team members to share updates with one another. In addition to work updates, you can also share how you’re feeling that day with an emoji and a short description. There’s also a daily question such as “What’s your favorite vacation destination?” or “What are you most proud of on your team at the moment?” to help bring the team closer together. As Alana says, “Of all the teams I’ve worked for, ForUsAll values mental health the most.”
We use anonymous surveys to ensure that employees are happy, including one that allows them to ask anonymous questions of the CEO every week. We’re working on more ways to take the emotional temperature of the team and make sure everyone has what they need to feel safe and cared for at work.
At Asana, teaching with compassion means sharing your knowledge and realizing the strength that comes with empowering your teammates. It’s not about making someone feel inferior for not knowing what you know, but rather giving them the patience they need to make progress. To do this, we strive to understand from the learner’s perspective: where they come from, what their learning style is, and how they absorb information.
We place a huge emphasis on mentorship. Everyone has unique knowledge, skills, and experience, which they can share with others. From onboarding buddies, to managers, to interview mentors, we look for every opportunity to create meaningful relationships. We’re mentoring each other all the time – there’s always room to grow!
Ultimately, we view failure as a crucial step toward success and an opportunity to learn. When things don’t go as expected, we practice an exercise called “Five Whys,” which encourages us to analyze a problem with a curious mindset without blame.
48 Open Positions
While creating a safe environment to fail (see below) is important for encouraging technical risk-taking, we believe psychological safety is equally important for interpersonal risk-taking. If you’re having a bad day, really love a tool we aren’t using at Repeat yet, or are feeling anxious about a big architectural decision, we want you to be able to share those feelings without fear of rejection or retribution in any form. Since we work in a highly collaborative environment, it’s essential that everyone feels empowered to speak up, share their ideas, and ask for support when needed. Doing so in a safe and respectful environment is not only critical for reaching the optimal decision, but also for building the best product possible.
We treat each other with respect, work collaboratively, and listen to each other to find the best path forward. Team members should always feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions. Starting on day one with new employee onboarding, we solicit as much feedback as possible about our processes, platform, and our team. In every 1:1 with managers, direct reports are encouraged to voice their ideas first. We also provide built-in opportunities for people on different teams to collaborate. For instance, there are two weekly meetings for this very purpose, where a customer success team member might surface a frequently-requested feature to the product team or an engineer might suggest a tool that will streamline a process for the sales team.
Mistakes are inevitable, but we always focus on the issue at hand and never point fingers. Previously, we had a book club and read Beyond Blame, which walks through how a company handled a postmortem for a major infrastructure issue. We model our postmortems in the same vein and acknowledge that issues can happen to any of us. The emphasis should always be on improvements we can make in the future. A great example of this happened recently: we had the biggest spike in our server traffic that we’d ever had, which brought our infrastructure down. Ben, our co-founder and CEO, openly shared that it was related to a decision he made back when he made the first version of the server. The entire team came together to focus on the problem: while customer support communicated with customers, engineers resolved significant bottlenecks to our server traffic and shored up the necessary parts of the codebase.
Our team values hard work, but we are also there to help one another when needed. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or have taken on too much and need help delegating tasks, it’s a safe environment to reach out and ask for support.
We’re learning every single day, especially as we look to build our engineering team from the ground-up. Not everything we do is going to be a win right away, and that’s okay as long as we acknowledge and learn from our mistakes. Losing clients is tough, but it provides us with an opportunity to learn from what went wrong and coach each other through these instances. That could mean re-examining how we set expectations or communicate.
For every project we do, we make it a point to have a recap at the end. For example, at the end of each training class, Joy Liu (Head of Trainer Development), puts together a deck summarizing what they did in class, what they learned, and what she’d do differently next time. This is then shared with the leadership and executive teams.
1 Open Positions
Even as a small startup with 15 people, we prioritized hiring key People roles to help build solid foundations for an inclusive environment. While technical skills are critical, empathy is a key company value and we evaluate candidates on both during the hiring process. As we grow, it’s important to us that everyone feels safe to do their best work. A large part of this means being able to give and receive constructive feedback. We know giving feedback is a difficult muscle to build, so we’ve implemented forcing functions or feedback structures to help our team give feedback more regularly, such as anonymous engagement surveys and anonymous feedback forms that we send out before every all-hands meeting.
We’re currently in the process of developing a feedback training with our managers and also plan to run psychological safety focus groups where teams sit down with managers and someone from HR to go over what’s working well and what can be improved to help everyone feel supported. Last but not least, we have 360-degree reviews twice a year as well as more informal check-ins every other quarter so we can keep a pulse on how we’re doing.
One key driver of engagement is psychological safety, creating an environment where team members feel the freedom and safety to engage, without fear of retribution, embarrassment, or harm to their relationships. This concept is an integral part of our leadership development programs, where we teach managers how to create psychologically safe environments for their teams.
We place a high value on empathy, integrity, craftsmanship, and collaboration in all of our work. We also recognize that kindness without courage is not always enough: successful companies should foster healthy internal debate, driving positive change. We assume the most favorable interpretation and give the benefit of doubt, listening and seeking to understand why people have the positions they do in order to come to the best conclusions. When we disagree, we are respectful and humble toward each other. We create a safe and inclusive workplace and embrace different thoughts, people, and backgrounds, which allows each of us to be uniquely ourselves.
47 Open Positions
The science of high-performing teams is a topic of interest here at Aptible, and we’re constantly thinking about how to build the best work environment. Company-wide, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. It’s more than okay to ask things in a way that isn’t perfectly polished. In fact, our executive team leads by example in our all-hands meetings, which are super informal (in a good way!) and open for anyone to speak up and share their thoughts. On the engineering team, we encourage folks to point out things that didn’t go well so we can learn from them and make ourselves better together. Similarly, when a project or process goes well, we want to learn from that, too.
In addition, we check in with each other both qualitatively and quantitatively. Each team member has a weekly 1:1 where they can discuss anything with their manager and we view this feedback as a two-way street. As a team, we also conduct a quarterly Team Experience Survey to understand how we’re doing as an organization. One of the key components that we assess is Team Psychological Safety. We ask questions derived from the work of Amy Edmondson, PhD – the scientist who developed the concept of psychological safety – to understand how the team is feeling about taking risks, asking for help, and making mistakes.
Agile product development consultancy
San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chattanooga, and New York
It’s amazing how companies are able to move quickly when they give a certain level of autonomy and agency to their team. Whether it’s through an actual system or by teaching inherent values within the working paradigm, it’s necessary for teams to have a way to do risk assessment. What is reversible risk? What isn’t reversible? When everyone trusts that they are within those guardrails, the team can move and make decisions quickly. We are incredibly thoughtful about this not only at Carbon Five but also when assessing the companies we take on as clients. We gather a lot of metrics for all of the companies that we work with, and demonstrating psychological safety is one of the strongest signals for success that we’ve seen over the years.
In each retro a team member claims the “Kintsugi Cup,” an award that lets teammates share a time they made a meaningful mistake and grew from it. It’s a time to share our growth with the team, and to reinforce across the team that we all make mistakes and we are stronger for it. As often as not, a founder claims the cup with their own misstep. Alongside Feedback Fridays, this helps constantly reinforce that we all have flaws and are working to improve all the time, and prevents doubts or negative feelings from festering.
“There's a real sense that everyone's opinion matters and that anyone can share their ideas without judgment or fear,” says Spencer Brody, one of our engineers who has spent time at Google and MongoDB. The team balances a sense of individual ownership with a knowledge that the entire team is standing by to help collectively improve everything we do. Team members of all levels regularly share incomplete ideas with the rest of the team because the culture is one that assumes good intent.
In our “Wednesday Wonderings” we have bi-weekly discussions on inherently difficult and disagreeable topics – for example, "what is our responsibility for moderating dangerous content on our decentralized network?" These conversations allow us to share our values, beliefs, and ideas – and personal backgrounds – in an understanding setting. There's no expectation or even possibility that we will all reach agreement or consensus. Rather, it helps us strengthen our commitment to a shared understanding of our differing perspectives and experiences.
Innovation is driven by insights from a team of passionate, curious, and diverse individuals, who can show up as whole, quirky human beings and solve hard problems together. To spark that innovation, we align around shared goals and values and create a space for what makes you you, where your journey and your story matter. Our differences in identities, interests, backgrounds, and experiences bring with them a variety of creative ideas, knowledge, skills, thoughts, and techniques. We need you at the table.
We take our work seriously, but we try not to take ourselves too seriously. As we’ve learned from the patients we support or from our own medical journeys, levity and joy – especially in the face of daunting challenges ahead – keep us resilient and help make solving those problems a little easier. Laughing with each other and embracing mistakes as learning opportunities helps us be more creative and resilient as we work together to change the future of all patients and medical research.
Our leadership team takes their responsibility to create space for others very seriously. We are among the few companies with a female CEO & Co-Founder and a number of other key leadership roles (COO, Head of People), and have LGBTQ+ representation within our senior leadership (COO). While having diverse leadership is important, we recognize as we grow we need to be conscious of creating opportunity and extending pathways so that we can not only win, but win with you.
Astrological app for self-discovery, mindfulness, and healing
Los Angeles, CA, or Remote (US/Canada)
In other words, it’s okay to make mistakes and fail because those missteps become pathways to growth and learnings. We never place blame on any one person and believe that sharing our errors allows us to take accountability, learn, and grow together. We trust that we’re always doing our best, which enables us to be empathetic with each other when things go wrong. This process is baked into our sprint retrospectives, where we go over what went wrong as a team and use that data to improve on the next sprint. Whenever we have a less than perfect release, we identify the root cause of the bugs or breaking changes, and we usually don't repeat the same mistakes because we've taken the time to be reflective.
Another way we make our environment a safe place to fail is by being intentional with the language we use. For instance, instead of “failures,” we talk about what could be improved as our "growths" or "growth areas."
Last but not least, leadership (including our CEO, President, and Directors) is very open around how business decisions are made. This transparency allows contributors to act with a sense of purpose and ensures they fully understand each project’s mission and why we're using a specific approach to fulfill those goals.
We’re in a very unique space since no one else does what we do. In order to transform the technical interviewing and hiring process, we have to build a team that is willing to take risks, ask questions, and challenge the norm. Leadership sets a good example during weekly We Connect meetings by being open and vulnerable – not just about company goals – but also about real world issues that affect Karateers.
Creating a place where people feel safe to share ideas and ask for help when needed is crucial for our success. As Kyle says, “I always feel like I have someone I can reach out to for support on a project or a piece of information. We’re encouraged to experiment and it’s ok if something doesn’t 100% work out, because it’s a safe space to share an idea or try something new.”
Postmortems are always blameless and we view failures as learning opportunities. For instance, we recently invested a lot of resources into integrating our video calling product with our coding environment. We thought it was really cool, but when we actually released it to the people using the product, most of them didn’t like the change at all. Instead of dwelling on the outcome, we viewed it as a good learning experience where we were able to gain more information and in the future we might release something that has both options. Taking risks is part of the process and engineers should never feel afraid to try something new and fail.
16 Open Positions
When you’re innovating quickly and building something entirely new, mistakes are inevitable, but we always view them as learning opportunities and never place blame on any one person. As JJ puts it, “ Our number one job right now is to experiment, to have hypotheses, and prove or disprove them.” We’re okay with things not being perfect and are just as open in Slack about missteps as we are about wins. Each week we take the time to reflect on how the week went and what we’ve learned. If a bug happens, we don’t focus on whose fault it was. Instead, we’ll say “nice find,” fix it, and move forward.
We love brainstorming with one another and encourage people to speak up and share their ideas. It’s common for us to riff off of one another – think sharing an interesting article or tweet in our #ideas Slack channel that sparks a discussion and might influence what (and how) we decide to build. We’re also cognizant that some people prefer more time to think through ideas, so we make space for asynchronous brainstorming as well. At the end of the day, we’re excited to expand our team in an environment where everyone feels safe to be their full selves and do their best work.
Here are a few examples of techniques we use to ensure the team feels safe together:
After issues or outages, and as a regular check-in twice per quarter, we conduct blame-free retrospectives. The person facilitating the retro is responsible for making sure we focus on facts, actions, and effects, and critically evaluate the process that led to an event, not the individuals involved. We then put action steps in place to change our behavior for the future.
Product team members in lead positions model vulnerability by asking questions and discussing their failures in group settings. We also have a weekly informal dev Q&A discussion where we pose questions and geek out about various parts of our codebase. This reduces siloing and spreads knowledge, but it also sets an expectation that we’re all still learning and demonstrates that asking questions is warmly encouraged and met with enthusiastic and helpful discussion.
One of the most unusual aspects of our culture is that we run periodic peer feedback sessions. These sessions are unrelated to formal reviews or promotion. We provide coaching on tools like the Situation-Behavior-Impact model for these. These sessions both allow individual engineers to better understand what other members of the team are doing. But more than that, they are training ground for both how to give and receive feedback – skills that are often unpracticed and untaught until someone is suddenly promoted to management.
Minerva staff and students at Graduation 2019.
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