What is a Safe Environment for the team and how to create it? How does it impact the team performance and the overall project outcome?
To begin with, let’s clarify what we mean by the Safe Environment and how it is applicable to the project team. If we look in Wiki, here is what we can get:
Environment (E), health (H) and safety (S) (together EHS) is a discipline and specialty that studies and implements practical aspects of environmental protection and safety at work. In simple terms it is what organizations must do to make sure that their activities do not cause harm to anyone.
All this is about physical aspects of the environment, but what about the emotional atmosphere? I would say, this also is extremely important in the workplace. It provides the conditions for the professional realization, motivation and productivity. And from this perspective, having a Safe and Healthy work Environment is extremely important if we want people to perform efficiently.
Safe Environment Components
So what do we need to consider when estimating the safety of the work environment from the emotional perspective? And what does the Safe Environment consist of?
I would also re-phrase it in this way – how much your team is happy at work? Basically, the safety of the work environment could be estimated according to Maslow. The areas we can impact and influence from the project management position are the top ones: Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actualization. And I would consider these elements as key ones while building the emotionally Safe Environment at work.
Why Safe Environment is important?
What is the impact of presence or absence of the Safe Environment at work? How could this influence the team on a project and a project itself?
To begin with, let’s consider how we could benefit from building a Safe Environment for our team.
The first stage is Belonging. From our perspective this means a feeling of belonging to the team, to the project, to the company. This means every team mate should not feel him / herself as a black sheep or an outsider. It gives a feeling of acceptance by others, being a part of something more, something big and significant. Participating in the relevant activities and providing a personal input in developing something new and valuable.
As for Esteem, we need to value our team mates’ opinion, expertise and contribution. This grants a sense of important to what we so. We feel that people trust our professional judgement. This gives confidence we will be heard; our point of view will be acknowledged and taken into consideration. We feel our opinion is valued and people are reckoning with it both within a team and throughout the organization. Also, this means respect to our personal needs, private life and interests.
Professional Self-Actualization or Realization is one of the crucial assets at the workplace. This satisfies our ambitions and provides a sense of importance. We feel that we deserve trust to be responsible for something vital and to take over the accountability. This motivates to perform on the top of our efficiency and to hit new goals.
What if Safe Environment is Absent
What if we do not build the necessary elements of the need’s hierarchy? How would this impact the peers’ condition and overall situation at work?
The downside here would be a feeling of an odd one out. When people feel their contribution is not valued; the importance of their expertise is deprecated; their interests and needs are not considered; they do not have perspectives for the professional growth. This gives us unsatisfied and unmotivated folks. Lacking the environment’s health and safety we are diving at a risk of a burn-out for ourselves and for our peers.
Creating Safe Environment for the Team
Now what to do for creating a Safe Environment for your team, to fulfill the needs and to build a motivational soil for productivity? Time to enable our soft and leadership skills. I have already touched base on the Key Project Management Skills in the Article and in the Episode, make sure to check them out.
As for the action plan,
Mix leadership styles to maintain the environment. When the team needs support, give it. When they need a coach, be a coach. If they want to make decisions, share the responsibility. And take over the accountability if it is time to direct the work.
This means, if there is a problem, we need to hop on it together, discuss and agree on the solution. No blaming, only ‘How-to-fix-it’ solution is important. It helps to avoid fears when it comes to reporting the problem.
Make people feel safe and promote the initiative. In this case they will know you are going to support them and help to improve the situation. And always give rewards to the team. If everybody is responsible for the outcome, everybody deserves to be praised when succeeded.
(taken from my Lessons Learned Article on pmonthecloud.com).
And what is not less important, a happy team is an effective team. The more secure people feel within the environment, the more emotional support and contribution they get, the more motivated they will be to perform efficiently. And this is directly connected with projects progress and final outcomes.
What techniques do you apply to create Safe Environment for your team?