President & CEO
Psychological safety refers to the idea that employees feel safe and able to speak up with questions, ideas, concerns, or mistakes that happen in the workplace. This enables better communication and the ability to solve mistakes or problems quicker. Psychological safety defends the work force’s status, career, and self-image by encouraging a positive, communicative, and empathic environment that promotes transparency.
Don Taylor, President & CEO of Welty Building Company realizes that not all individuals have a clear idea of what constitutes psychological safety and the relevance that these practices can have for the construction industry. In the Q&A below, Taylor shares why the commitment to psychological safety is crucial in the work place.
1. How did you learn about psychological safety?
Surprisingly it came from reading a book by Jaco, about extreme ownership and how Navy SEALs function successfully. This was reinforced by a book called culture code that goes into great depth about how important it is for someone to feel safe and be able to admit they don’t know something or that they need help… allowing teams to perform at a much higher level.
2. What does psychological safety mean to you?
Psychological safety is the practice of allowing somebody to ask for help or get clarification on exactly what is expected. It is a way for somebody to be human without trying to hide or prevent somebody else from knowing they are lacking the confidence to execute the plan. When people feel supported and get help from the team, they perform at a much higher level.
3. Why is it important?
If somebody doesn’t know what is expected or has questions relative to the direction they have been given but don’t feel comfortable to go back and get clarification, you can assume that the majority of the time expectations will not be met. Leading to clients or customers being disappointed and the teams performance will suffer. If you know exactly what is expected, the exact opposite will occur and success with your client will be a much higher probability.
4. How do you see psychological safety in the work place?
Our traditional business is construction, and construction for the last 90 years has been dominated by military type leaders who tend to command and control from the top. This has led people to keep their head down and not ask questions that will draw attention to them. Which has created a negative dynamic compared to the common workforce in todays society that encourages businesses to function in a team setting and have more collaboration. We are working hard to break the trend in our industry of command and control and pushing ownership in a voice to those on the front line doing the work.
5. What are some ways that you see psychological safety at Welty?
One of the biggest issues we deal with on psychological safety has less to do with capability and more with capacity. Sometimes people are overloaded and have more things going on than they can possibly handle. Asking for clarification on which of the 10 things they’ve been asked to do is the most important, so that their supervisor is engaged in prioritizing and understands in a capacity limiting issues.
6. What are some initiatives that promote psychological safety at Welty?
We brought in a speaker to our annual meeting by the name of Jay Hennessey, a former Navy seal. He talked about how creating the right environment for people to ask for help and get clarification can significantly improve team performance. We are reinforcing this with our managers and have added it to our Paul survey to get feedback from our team on whether it is reaching them on the front lines in a positive way.