Last December, as we approached the end of 2019, our team at Care Support Network gathered together for lunch to celebrate and reflect on the year.
As we enjoyed our meal, we went around the table sharing our reflections. It was touching to hear the positivity that poured out of our team on the day. And out of all the comments, one struck me most deeply, “it’s an enjoyable place to work, it feels safe here.”
Safety. This idea continues to sit with me to this day. As I have worked to build our team and business, I hold firm to the belief that the success of the team translates into the company’s success. My role, as CEO, is to create an environment where our team can be and feel successful. And success, to me, is an equal combination of both what we achieve, and how we achieve it.
Care Support Network’s values have acted as a guide for how we do our work; we continuously strive to become better, we are positive, personal and dependable. We promote our values at the time we recruit new people; throughout the induction process and in our regular all-staff meetings. I have found that people who are themselves positive; who contribute to finding solutions rather than raising problems; who are adaptive and willing to embrace change (for the right reasons); and who are supportive of their leaders and their colleagues; resonate with our values and work at bringing them to life in our company.
If the culture we create at Care Support Network encourages these values, then what we achieve will be done in a way that is consistent with how we want to engage with each other and our clients.
So where does safety come into this? Just over 20 years ago, Amy Edmundson, professor at Harvard Business School, coined the term ‘psychological safety’. According to Edmondson, “psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.” She identified the highest performing teams as those who operate in the ‘learning zone’, those teams who have high levels of psychological safety and high levels of accountability and excellence. If you’re interested in learning more, watch her TedTalk here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhoLuui9gX8).
The term gained prominence in 2012 when Google published its “Project Aristotle” findings, which identified psychological safety as the most important factor in making great teams successful.
Psychological safety means creating an environment where we can lead with curiosity and ask plenty of questions; where we can be encouraged to take risks and to admit when we make a mistake without fear of retribution. These are the elements needed to create an innovative culture and that, for Care Support Network, embodies our value of “becoming better”.
Walking alongside our clients to navigate the complexity of the NDIS requires a good dose of curiosity and innovation. It means asking a lot of questions, listening carefully and encouraging each other to think outside the square to identify the best solutions for our clients. It means learning through trial and error and being honest and communicating openly when we make mistakes so together, we can navigate through our challenges. The only way we can truly live Care Support Network’s value of becoming better, is through a culture where psychological safety exists to enable us to learn and grow together.
Prior to this team member’s comment, ‘safety’ wouldn’t have been the first word that came to mind when I described the culture at Care Support Network. But since this honest insight was shared with us, I realise just how important it is for all of us to feel safe here, and for us to also create that sense of safety with our clients. I am grateful for this learning , and as we continue to navigate the complexity of 2020 and all its challenges, we at Care Support Network will continue to embrace being curious, taking risks and admitting to our mistakes so we can learn, grow and continually become better for the people we serve.