Teams in Healthy Organizations are successful because they welcome, trust, and understand all members. Healthy teams build trust and understanding by allowing every member to belong, to learn, to contribute, and to innovate.
Foundational to building trust and understanding is a commitment to psychological safety, as discussed by Timothy R. Clark in The Four Stages of Psychological Safety. Clark discusses four different levels of psychological safety; inclusion safety, learner safety, contributor safety, and challenger safety. These layers of psychological safety build on the previous, similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy.
Inclusion safety is, simply, allowing someone to belong. This is a fundamental level of safety that every organization must guarantee to every employee or member. Inclusion merely recognizes the humanity of the individual and allows them to participate in the collective work of the organization. Healthy organizations must guarantee inclusion safety, at a minimum.
Learner safety is the permission and security that allows individuals to ask questions, give and receive feedback, and make mistakes. Teams and organizations that lack learner safety find that members self-censor, fail to develop, refuse risks, and are unable to meet adversity and challenge.
Contributor safety allows individuals to contribute by offering their experiences, education, and expertise. Micromanaging destroys contributor safety. Contributor safety produces autonomy and increases resilience.
Finally, Challenger safety is the freedom to respectfully challenge systems and people. It encourages dissent and disagreement and allows individuals and teams to innovate, be creative, and to reach a level of honesty that is necessary for true organizational health.
A team is the smallest collective unit of an organization. While the desire and direction for organizational health starts at the top, organizational health must originate at the smallest units of the organization. Owners and leaders can have the best slogans and plans, but if team leaders and managers are not aligned with the desire for a healthy organization, the effort will fail.