Healthy teams through open communication

Resilient teams are just as important to businesses as resilient individuals. Especially today, we need teams that can overcome the challenges of these unusual times. A critical foundational component of resilient teams is a climate in which team members feel comfortable expressing and being themselves. Also called “psychological safety,” it is one of the characteristics that most high-performing teams have in common. So how do you build and maintain psychological safety? You may be surprised at how a few small changes can positively impact your team in significant ways.

Three colleagues work happily at a table covered with paperwork

In the webinar we examined:

  • what psychological safety is and why it is important.
  • ways to make it safe for team members to be themselves.
  • useful tips to express emotions without “getting emotional.”

Nan Gesche, MA, is an educator, speaker, and coach who aims to “help people play well together.” She has guided organizations through change management, resiliency building, and conflict management for over 20 years.

Presented on April 22, 2021

Webinar Takeaways


Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is being able to make it safe to talk about anything without fear of repercussion.  It isn’t a license to whine and complain, freedom from conflict, or assuming all your ideas will be liked.  

Strategies to Improve Teamwork

  1. Conversational turn-taking
    • Set an expectations of participation
    • Ask open-ended question to ensure everyone is participating, even non-experts
    • Gradually open the conversation: think, pair, share
    • Use a facilitator, technology, and/or structured decisionmaking processes
    • Listen and show interest/appreciation for other’s perspective
  2. Encourage social interaction
    • Design social space 
    • Create time to discuss non-work issues
    • Celebrate milestones, holidays,
    • Start and end conversations with relationship building
  3. Demonstrate high social sensitivity and empathy
    • Notice other people’s feelings and reactions
    • Do something to acknowledge those feelings and reactions
    • Demonstrate self-compassion for your own needs and feelings
    • Provide random acts of kindness
    • Praise others when they demonstrate high social sensitivity or empathy 
  4. Use feedback effectively
    • Ask for feedback, respond respectfully, and use it effectively (or do something different)
    • Give 5 forms of positive/reinforcing feedback to every criticism/redirecting feedback
    • Learn how to deliver effective feedback
    • Replace blame with curiosity, remember there are two sides to every story
  5. Reframe challenges
    • Stumbles can be a surprising outlet to practice gratitude.  “What did we learn from the situation that can help us be a better team?”
    • Approach conflict as a collaborator, not an adversary. “I am not angry at you over what we have to negotiate or solve.  Rather I am sad we have been put in this difficult situation.”
    • Share personal stories as they increase a sense of belonging.

“My inclination is to ask questions, to get the right people in the conversation and let everyone have a voice.  The collective and collaborative process produces a lot of energy—it’s the source of creativity and innovation.”   —Eileen Fisher

Express Emotions Without Getting Emotional

  1. Calm yourself
    • Acknowledge and value your emotions
    • Breath thru the emotion
    • Change your environment
    • Develop a mantra
  2. Focus yourself
    • Admit life is unpredictable
    • Be fully present, eliminate other distractions
    • Check your interpretation of the event
    • Decide how you want to respond based on your desired outcome
  3. Express yourself
    • Acknowledge your feelings
    • Be prepared to give specifics about what contributed to those feelings
    • Clarify your need
    • Don’t forget to ask questions
  4. Stretch yourself
    • Analyze your emotions, when and when do certain emotions emerge
    • Be observant of those who manage their emotions effectively
    • Conduct check-ins with others around their emotions, make them safe to discuss
    • Develop your language of emotions, expand your vocabulary of emotions