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Helping teams excel – Influence of attachment and psychological safety on team performance

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  1. Insight into significance

A third factor that determines psychological safety in a team is that the team members have insight into the meaning of what they do. Does what someone contributes in the team have value for himself and others? What value is that and what is its impact? These questions touch on the calling of the individual contributors, of the team and the calling of the organization as a whole. “The calling of an organization is formed by the identity and the purpose that the organization pursues” (Van Wierlink, Fiddelaers-Jaspers, Wilhelm 2020).

  1. Ownership

A fourth aspect of psychological safety is ownership and responsibility (Willink, Babin 2017). Safety in a group increases when everyone is willing to take responsibility for what succeeds and also fails in the collaboration. When the leader demonstrates a willingness to take responsibility for any situation that arises, positive or negative, his team members will also develop that mindset. Holding each other accountable becomes easier because you are each other’s example and experience that real change becomes possible when you feel you are on the same page.

  1. The team as a place of healing

In a team where trust, outspokenness, the will to make a difference and ownership are at the core of the collaboration, psychological safety emerges (Van Wielink, Wilhelm 2019). Thereby, inclusion, the ability to make mistakes, discuss them and learn from them, people are committed to each other and the goals set, and creativity and positivity grow and flourish like never before (Van der Loo, Beks 2020). The team then becomes a place where old beliefs, existing patterns and assumptions about how people respond to emotions and to conflict, for example, are challenged and can change. Healing can take place of old pain that people carry with them. Healing of pain and disappointment, frustrations or wounds that have developed over time (in the group). This is not the goal of the team in itself, but when it happens, it takes the performance of the team to the next level. Teams that share together can also heal together.

Dialogue as a gateway to team development

Dialogue is the most important tool we have at our disposal. Dialogue is the search of two or more people for a greater truth than they previously knew. Dialogue is characterized by mutual curiosity, acceptance and empathy (Van Wielink, Fiddelaers-Jaspers, Wilhelm 2020).

Acceptance does not mean blindly agreeing with each other, but a willingness at all times to listen to the other’s perspective and to ask questions about it. It also means that you must be willing to engage in conflict with each other when necessary. Conflict, at its core, is about differences between people. Conflict takes place in connection with each other and distinguishes itself from a struggle or a fight, in which everything is aimed at ‘winning’ from the other at any cost. In a team where everyone listens, checks whether what has been heard is correct and then continues to ask questions, there will be more understanding for each other. More understanding leads to more connection. More connection leads to safety. More safety leads to growth.

Engaging in dialogue with the team opens a field in which collectively a new truth can emerge in the minds and hearts of the team members and the group. To help team members open to each other mentally and emotionally, we need smaller and larger moments of questioning, being quiet, listening to each other. By checking in at the beginning of each meeting and giving space for each person to say what there is to say, we welcome ourselves and others into the moment. This increases connection and safety. Another way can be by reflecting upon successes together, learning from them and celebrating them. But also reflecting upon moments of failure or disappointment can in a similar way increase connection and safety. Learning together from mistakes made is a flywheel for development. Creating smaller and bigger moments that form a transition from one moment to the next, from one reality to another reality. That is the power of rituals.

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