Helping develop psychological safety on teams is central to Range’s mission. At its core, Range is a virtual standup tools that allows team members to share updates with one another. Each person talks about 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 at over the last year?”
At Range, the company, 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 product to run the meeting – 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 week, we reflect on each team member’s highlights and noble failures from the week, with zero judgement on the self-identified failures. We believe that building high-performance culture begins with every member of the team feeling safe, so we aim to be models of this ourselves.
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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.
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Operating system for building and growing developer communities
San Francisco, Paris, or Remote (US/Europe)
The best communities in the dev space (or otherwise) protect the psychological safety of their members, and we believe it should be the same at Orbit. 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.
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.
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. We believe emotions belong in the workplace, which is why every new employee completes our workshop, “Aptible 102: Communicating through Disclosure, Feedback, and Conflict” within their first two weeks on the job. Instead of asking everyone to conform to one particular work style, we also encourage each other to share our personal and work style preferences.
We check in with each other both qualitatively and quantitatively, too. Each team member has a weekly 1:1 during where they can discuss anything with their manager. As a team, we also conduct a bi-yearly 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 at Aptible.
We’re very proud of what the results say about psychological safety at Aptible today! Our most recent results show that our team feels overwhelmingly positive when asked about various aspects of psychological safety, something we actively work hard to protect:
Psychological Safety at Aptible: Results from our Team Experience Survey (March 2019)
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.
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One of the best frameworks we’ve encountered for fostering psychological safety comes from Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team: vulnerability-based trust as the foundation of a healthy organization.
We build trust every day by being transparent and open with one another. We have frequent 1on1s; a great venue for advice and meaningful conversation. We make it a point to be vulnerable with one another by admitting our mistakes. All this, so that we can engage in productive conflict.
Productive conflict can be in the shape of a brainstorm meeting, a (passionate) debate, providing peer-to-peer feedback, challenging assumptions, holding each other accountable. These activities require a great deal of trust, and it really helps to agree upon a number of conflict norms. Conflict norms are ground rules that the team should come up with together. Here are Routific’s conflict norms:
The last one deserves expounding: how often have you been in a meeting where you actually didn’t fully agree with the final decision, but you didn’t speak up? Meanwhile the person running the meeting concludes with: “Alright, so the conclusion is that we do X. Any questions? No? Great! Let’s ship it!” And we leave the room unaligned. The common misconception is that silence equals consent. At Routific we will assume that silence equals dissent. So we will go around the room and get explicit, verbal buy in. i.e. one-by-one, everyone in the room says ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This gives individuals a chance to speak up, and allows the team to “mine for conflict” — if there seems to be a slight hesitation, we will dig it out. All cards need to be on the table to make the optimal decision, and create the strongest buy-in.
In order to empower teams to make decisions, engineers have to feel safe enough inside their team to be industrious, make and learn from mistakes along the way, and be able to seek help when needed. We’re adamant that diverse teams with different viewpoints and experiences will 100% create the best software and product for us.
Creating an environment that prioritizes psychological safety starts at the team level, but really ladders up and permeates the entire organization. Being part of the healthcare industry, we have the unique benefit of access to behavioral specialists. We recognize that healthcare can be a stressful experience for everyone, and we’ve had behavioral specialists lead stretching and yoga breaks, Zoom meditation sessions, as well as give talks on how to build resiliency and cope with the pandemic.
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When you first join Lever, you’ll be assigned an eng buddy who is your go-to person as you ramp up. Having a dedicated buddy to answer questions (none of which are stupid) and support your early months will help you to feel safe, right off the bat. When questions are asked in Slack, team members immediately jump in with “that’s a great question” or “thank you for asking that, I have a similar question.”
We also use root cause analysis which is blameless and fact-focused. When things don’t go right, we talk about issues as opportunities for learning. Our retros every other week are the same: we discuss what went well, what didn’t, what we can do to fix issues going forward, and always keep it blameless.
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Responsive web design tool, CMS, Ecommerce, and hosting platform
San Francisco (HQ) and Remote
Here at Webflow, all of our leaders are deeply committed to the servant leadership philosophy. Put simply, our leaders strive to serve the needs of their reports, rather than the traditional top-down leadership model. We take this so seriously across that board that “Lead by Serving Others” is one of our Core Behaviors at the company.
Many of our practices contribute to psychological safety, starting with our company-wide commitment to communicating with extraordinary kindness and radical candor. Managers have been known to share the feedback they’ve received with their teams, transparently acknowledging their own areas for growth. By expressing vulnerability and sharing mistakes visibly, we learn and improve together.
We also celebrate asking for help. We devote many internal communication channels to asking questions when you have them, and sharing answers when you can. As a company, we provide both public and anonymous channels for asking tough questions and airing concerns, and proactively include people in decision making and rationale.
Our combined commitment to psychological safety, servant leadership, and extraordinary kindness fosters an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work and feel safe asking for what they need.
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Distributed Revision Control and Source Code Management
San Francisco, CA (HQ), Remote Global (65%)
We have an amazing team of Human Resources Business Partners to support Hubbers’ individual needs and concerns as they arise. Outside of that, we also have a department called Employee Experience and Engagement which is dedicated to proactively augmenting the employee experience. Within this team, we have folks devoted to developing programs and policies related to diversity, inclusion, and belonging (like Employee Resource Groups!), learning and development, and overall workplace experience.
Hubbers have many channels to provide feedback and speak their minds. Our monthly all-hands meetings allow employees to stay updated on company happenings, and these meetings include the opportunity to submit anonymous questions to the speakers in real time. Our annual 360 reviews allow individuals to share feedback directly with their managers and peers, and our Hubber Pulse survey (conducted twice every year) offers Hubbers a safe, confidential, and consistent feedback channel. Through Hubber Pulse, we gather valuable data and actionable insights to make GitHub an even better place to work.
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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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