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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Agile Product Development Consultancy
San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chattanooga, and New York
It’s amazing how companies are able to move quickly when they allow a certain level of autonomy and agency to their team. Whether it’s through an actual system or by teaching their team by inherent values that are made clear within the working paradigm at the office, 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 of this at Carbon Five as well as in assessing the companies we take on as clients. We take a lot of metrics for all of the companies that we work with, and a strong presence of psychological safety is one of the strongest signals for success that we’ve seen over the years.
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.
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)
We understand that we are faulty humans and we have to deal with personal matters from time to time. Here at Hash, we look out for each other much like friends would and we believe this is part of what enables us to work so well together. For example, we’ve worked at companies in the past where if you miss a day, you need to give HR a doctor’s note to excuse your absence. We’d never ask you to do that and will always trust you to take time off when you need it.
Our whole team gets together whenever we there’s an occasion to do so. Whether it’s because we achieved a company milestone or we’re celebrating someone’s birthday, and sometimes we also just do it for fun! We believe you need to feel completely comfortable in order to truly enjoy your work, and as a result, this enables you to collaborate more fluidly and naturally. As a company, this is how we reach our peak performance.
We reimburse 30 GBP / month for self-care activities like yoga or a headspace/calm account, and also have an internal space within Aula to promote self-care. While it’s important that each person have the tools and resources they need to practice self-care, it’s not something you’ll be doing on your own. We use Peakon to send our bi-weekly surveys and make sure that everyone is aware of how the rest of the team is feeling and doing. In fact, Rune wrote a blog post about this, airing out our dirty laundry. We continually score high (9/10) in trust, feedback, and belonging, and even display our engagement dashboard publicly. We know how important psychological wellness is in the classroom, and it’s no different on our team. Everyone at Aula has a voice, feels heard, and trusts their team members.
Our Self-Care Space below:
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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.
This means expressing emotion, recognizing that life outside of work affect our work lives, and buying into the fact that being your full self means better performance for yourself and your team. We put psychological safety into practice by encouraging all employees to attend Conscious Leadership Group training and participating in frequent peer and manager feedback cycles. By giving everyone a shared vocabulary to talk about their emotions at work and making feedback a regular part of our team’s process, people can find the space to feel safe at work.
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Distributed Revision Control and Source Code Management
San Francisco, CA (HQ); Boulder, CO; Amsterdam; Tokyo; Remote (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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