Skip to content

Psychological Safety Creates Effective Teams

Maren Norby
10. April 2024
How do you go about solving a complex task, and where is your focus? It's easy to jump straight into the task that needs to be solved, focusing on the desired goal. But is this the most effective approach, and what does it take to create an effective team?


Most of us work on solving complex tasks. At Puzzlepart, we work on tasks like making relevant information easily accessible to all employees in a company, or facilitating culture building and good digital collaboration opportunities. Such complex tasks can be solved in many different ways and depend on us working together in interdisciplinary teams. It requires us to try and fail, and it's crucial that we view "mistakes" as learning opportunities. To achieve this, psychological safety within the team is important.


Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is not an abstract "culture thing," but can be said to be the most important factor for a well-functioning team. It's about how we meet each other and that it's safe to come up with questions, ideas, or concerns - and to make mistakes without fearing reactions from others in the team.

It's only when we feel safe that we are best able to act, learn, and innovate.

With psychological safety, we don't lower the performance requirement, and it doesn't mean that everyone is nice and kind all the time. It's about turning conflicts into something constructive and being able to speak up knowing the team supports you and that you support them. We aim to create a culture characterized by respect, openness, and honesty that allows room to learn and collaborate, with the goal of performing together as a team.

If you want to read more about psychological safety, we recommend the Aristotle study, a multi-year study conducted by Google on why some teams perform better than others, published on re:Work with Google, and the research of Amy Edmondson, who is considered the originator of the concept and on which the study is based.

How do we succeed with psychological safety, and what measures can we take?

Psychological safety is about establishing appropriate group norms. A common perception and behavior that align with the team's expectations of itself and each other. We all have different stories and experiences, resulting in various needs, desires, and expectations. We must speak openly about what we think! By establishing explicit common values, goals, and rules, it's easier to follow up and adjust along the way.

Start now. Psychological safety is not established through large team-building activities but through the small things we do and say in the team's everyday context. Make a small difference today and repeat the action. Psychological safety is a continuous process that requires focus and effort over time to assure members that we are safe in the team.

Establish arenas where it's allowed to talk about how we are really doing, what works, and what we should improve. This can be done as a retrospective with the whole team to uncover what works well and which improvements the team itself can take responsibility for moving forward.

Or it could be done as short individual conversations with the members. Is there something they are worried about? Is there something you can do for them? What do they need from you? This exercise can be uncomfortable if you haven't done it before. Because you put yourself in a position for criticism. But view the feedback as constructive, and make it clear that you see and listen to your team.

Start with yourself. It's difficult to expect change in others, so start with something you can influence. Be open about your own insecurities, and acknowledge when you need to learn. Be a good listener, ask open questions, and listen to understand, not to reply. Emphasize that everyone's ideas and feedback are important. Believe that everyone is doing as well as they can, and speak up about what they believe is important. And do the same yourself; dare to speak up if you experience unacceptable behavior.

So we must conclude by saying that the team exists because of the organization's need and desire to solve a task and create value. Building a psychologically safe work environment is necessary for the team to function effectively, and must be understood as a means to achieve the overarching goal, not as an end in itself.

Watch Maren present 5 ways to establish psychological safety (in Norwegian) at Puzzlepart's 15 year anniversary in November 2023:




Maren Norby
Project Manager


John Doe

Job Title

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Integer eget hendrerit metus. Curabitur a diam ultricies, vulputate quam non, aliquet sem. Nulla nisi enim, mollis ut tempus et, pulvinar eu urna. Mauris commodo turpis elit, sed dictum orci pharetra ac.