Marriage: the ultimate commitment of two individuals to support and be true to each other until death do them part. In your quest to build and nurture a great company culture, you will inevitably come across the importance of developing a similar level of trust, intimacy and unwavering commitment amongst your teams. All three find their roots in psychological safety.

At work, we are committed to multiple people, processes and objectives at any given time – trying our best to get our job done well and, most of the days, simply figuring out how to keep our heads above water. Getting a team “married” to the company mission, team objectives and commitments (you get picture!) can turn into quite a challenge since there is no written “prenuptial agreement” that would state the obvious: how to perform in a team and as a coherent, effective system. What does exist are personal contracts, job descriptions and responsibilities, and good faith (for most).

Psychological safety in the workplace

After Google’s Project Aristotle, an initiative to uncover the secrets of team effectiveness that the US search giant embarked on in 2012, the business world has quickly adopted psychological safety as one of the key drivers of highly effective teams.

In its essence, psychological safety refers to an individual’s capability and willingness to take interpersonal risk in a safe and trusting environment.

When feeling psychologically safe, team members can put down their guard and be their authentic selves without facing any negative or even harmful consequences. Psychological safety is thus the incubator for a healthy, trusting, committed and innovative work environment. It is the foundation for your team to “get married”.

How highly effective teams develop

Before your team is ready to get married, it will go through four different stages of development as defined by psychologist Bruce Tuckman.

Forming

This stage is the “dating” phase of any new team. While still working as independent entities, team members start agreeing and working on common goals.

Storming

In the second stage, the group starts to face their first conflicts and, by overcoming them in a constructive manner, slowly increases psychological safety and trust.
Remember that awkward fight with one of your team members? You were in the storming phase.

Norming

Once you and your team member resolve the disputes you are confronted with, you will likely feel a deepened sense of trust and intimacy. That’s when you enter the norming stage. In an organisation, teams reach this state once they start taking responsibility over their tasks and consistently work towards a shared goal.

Performing

Once every member has found their place and works according to collective norms, the team moves forward with great speed and agility. Success is inevitable and turns the formerly struggling group of individuals into a highly effective team. Your team is ready to “get married”.

During these four stages, trust forms on two levels: the cognitive and the affective level. In most romantic relationships, you rely on your partner’s competence and ability to make decision that are beneficial for both of you (cognitive trust) while also feeling strongly connected on an emotional level (affective trust). The same thing happens inside your teams: team members rely on each other’s professional competences while also bonding on a more personal level.

A study conducted by Gloria Barczak, Felicia Lassk and Jay Mulki in 2010 shows that team trust that is developed on both a cognitive as well as affective level fosters the most collaborative and commited work environment.

Becoming fully committed

When your team members enter the performing stage and begin to fully trust one another, they are able to work on bigger and riskier assignments. The level of psychological safety is strong enough to carry a real commitment.

Your organisation might win a huge deal that nobody thought would be possible or become the role model for having developed a great company culture.

But how do you know if your team has reached the performing stage?

If you are reading this article with a smile on your face and a warm feeling inside of you, thinking “I am part of a really great team”, you are ready to “get married”. As a next step, you might want to give your team members an opportunity to spend time together in an intimate setting such as a multi-day team offsite to celebrate your team’s achievements, further increase team effectiveness and “tie the knot” (that is, to have team members make a lasting commitment to each other and the work they do).

If you feel hopeful but still have doubts whether your team could persist in the face of adversity, you will need to test it out. Create an offsite experience where storming meets norming: an opportunity for team members to go into playful conflict, show up, raise their opinions and get a chance to constructively resolve any dissonance that may appear.

Collective IQ offers immersive team retreats and turnkey offsite solutions to get your team ready for marriage or to assist them going through the storming phase. We design weddings” offsites that not only look good on the onsite but also deliver on the exact objectives your team or organisation needs.
Get in touch with us for more information.