Chances are, you’ve found yourself in a situation in which some members of your team don’t feel comfortable sharing what they truly feel, either with each other or with leadership. This type of discomfort can be caused by any number of factors: fear that the supervisor or leader will penalize people who speak up; concern over getting humiliated in front of others; and other unfortunate causes.
Fortunately though, the notion of psychological safety is becoming more of a priority in companies and organizations, and leaders are looking for more ways to make their team members feel more comfortable in a team setting. Let’s take a look at some tips for how to cultivate a stronger sense of psychological safety in your agile team today.
Incorporate Question & Reflection Time
Your Scrum meetings are supposed to be fast-paced gatherings that help get everyone coordinated for the day. However, there is also room for some time to get members to ask questions, reflect on projects or performance, and otherwise communicate with each other (and with you), all while feeling completely comfortable. You might even consider letting a curse word or two slip out, or venting about something that everyone’s stressed about –– let everyone know that this is a safe place to let their feelings and ideas be known. Another option for offering employees space to give feedback is to have surveys they can complete outside of meeting time. One important thing to note though is that these surveys should be completely anonymous, so as to not make anyone feel uncomfortable with any resulting findings or discussions.
Burnout is on the rise, and is common in agile teams due to the rapid nature of jobs and projects, and deadlines that always seem to hover perilously close on the horizon. If you notice any of your team members suffering from things like exhaustion, frustration, or eroding resilience in general, it’s time to step in and get the burnout solved before it becomes a serious problem. A few ways to address signs of eroding resilience include getting feedback from the team members (even those who don’t currently show signs of burnout) and looking for things like absenteeism, frequent use of sick leaves, or excessive turnover. If employees aren’t happy, or they’re experiencing burnout, it’s vital to get to the bottom of why.
Be Approachable and Accessible
Always keep in mind that your team members shouldn’t need to jump through hoops in order to communicate with leadership. Make sure that you and whoever else plays a part in leading the team and its projects are easy to reach (within reason). This has to do with both making it physically easy to communicate (responding to emails or calls in a timely manner, for example) and emotionally easy (avoiding judgment during talks and letting your team members express themselves freely). If your team finds you easy to talk to, you’ll enjoy more open and honest communication, and team members won’t feel like they have to keep negative information to themselves –– which helps with everything from avoiding burnout, to completing projects, to boosting morale in general.
Implement Work-From-Home Options
While we often envision agile processes specifically as having to do with in-person collaboration, there are projects that don’t require a physical presence. For those cases, having a WFH option in place is great. If communication lines are open via Slack, email, or a collaborative project platform, there should be the option for employees to work from the comfort of their own homes and recharge their batteries. And in fact, studies show that productivity increases in a work-from-home structure, so there should be no fear of missing deadlines or falling behind on projects. Upholding psychological safety is part of mindful agile leadership, and it can do wonders for your agile team.