Psychological Safety: what it is and why it matters

Date : 26 September 2019

Stuart Powell from Compass Partnership will introduce the concept of Psychological Safety as a tool to help you get the most out of your team.

You will read about:

  • A definition for Psychological Safety
  • An introduction to the five principles that underpin it
  • The impact it has on businesses and your team’s success

At the end, there are suggested activities that you can complete to help you start thinking about the role it plays.

Why Psychological Safety matters right now

Through working with a wide range of organisations with a diverse set of needs and environments, hopes and aspirations, we realised that new thinking is required to addresses the challenges that they face. It isn’t necessarily that the problems have become more complex, but the conditions and climate in which organisations operate have become more turbulent, competitive and harder to successfully navigate. When Google published the results of its Project Aristotle, which focused on the secrets of effective teams, Psychological Safety was highlighted as the most important driver of team performance.

What is Psychological Safety?

Truly high-performing teams have one thing in common: Psychological Safety. Psychological Safety cultivates a working culture free from fear and ego. It means people can speak up, make mistakes, question things, and raise concerns without humiliation or retribution. This creates a learning organisation – a place where teams are more than the sum of their parts and people go beyond their comfort zones to achieve success together.

Without this culture of safety, people worry they will seem ignorant, so they will not ask questions; they don’t want to look incompetent, so they won’t admit vulnerability or mistakes; they don’t want to seem intrusive, so they won’t offer ideas; and they don’t want to appear negative, so they won’t question the status quo. Yet, what kind of organisation does this create? One where creative ideas and high performance are stifled. When people feel they can be their true selves at work, they bring a different level of commitment and contribution.

Therefore, Psychological Safety is a clear set of ideas about how to create the right circumstances to succeed through various aspects of culture and structure within an organisation. Our research and analysis pulls together these aspects under five principles:

The impact of Psychological Safety

Psychological Safety is directly connected with the ability to develop real breakthrough results. The absence of Psychological Safety is costly for organisations and individuals.

For team leaders, developing intentional, proactive ways to improve PS will have significant benefits for all team members to tackle challenges and opportunities. With a less stable environment, many sets of expectations to manage and uncertainty about the future, you may be less clear about how to navigate your team and connect them to what matters to them, and the organisation.

Here are some examples of how the five principles can positively impact your team’s performance and productivity:


Download the activities to help you start to think about how the principles of Psychological Safety influence the performance of your team.


You will reflect on three of the principles here:

  1. Systems and structures
  2. Climate for organisational learning
  3. Team working climate

Taking Psychological Safety further in your organisation

At a senior leadership or organisational level, you really need to understand how employees feel now, otherwise there really is no way of knowing how many breakthrough moments will have been lost or simply slipped without so much as raised organisational eyebrow. That’s where this tool will pinpoint the issues and a plan can be created to understand how to address these issues at a systemic level.

At Compass Partnership we provide guidance and support to leaders and organisations about implementing the survey, as the conditions and communication elements prior to completing are just as important as the results. Also, we equip leaders with the tools, skills, and mindset to create the breakthroughs they need in their business.