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  • Writer's pictureSteen Elgaard

The Magic Question Technique: Boost Your Team's Potential

A revolutionary approach to business mistakes could be the key to unlocking your team's true potential. Amy Gallo, an expert on labor disputes, shares a defining moment when her manager traded blame for a powerful question: "What did you learn?" This simple phrase is at the heart of establishing psychological safety, which is critical to a team's success and innovation.

Psychological safety, a concept explored by Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School, is the belief that one can speak openly without risk of punishment or humiliation. It creates a culture where mistakes become valuable learning experiences. Google's Project Aristotle also confirms this, pointing to psychological safety as the top criterion for a successful team.

Edmondson has developed a seven-item survey to measure a team's psychological safety. Here are the seven crucial questions that can guide leaders towards a more open and learning team environment:

  1. Can you make a mistake on this team without it having negative consequences for the individual?

    1. Assesses whether mistakes are seen as opportunities for development rather than taboo.

  2. Do team members feel comfortable raising issues and difficult questions?

    1. Tests on openness and honesty are welcome.

  3. Are mistakes openly discussed?

    1. Uncovers whether there is an atmosphere of transparency around mistakes.

  4. Are people able to speak freely when important and critical issues are on the table?

    1. Checks for the ability to engage in difficult conversations without fear.

  5. Would anyone punish or ban someone for admitting a fault or weakness?

    1. Looking for guarantees that honesty will not lead to reprisals.

  6. Is the team keen to learn from mistakes?

    1. Assesses a collective desire to evolve from stumbling blocks.

  7. Are there direct consequences for expressing one's opinions?

    1. Measures how safe it is to share personal views.

Amy Gallo uses her personal experience to highlight the importance of nurturing a team environment where psychological safety is a priority. Such an environment encourages dialogue, risk-taking and innovation, all of which are key elements for germinating success. By following this approach, leaders can foster an atmosphere where team members not only thrive, but also excel.

It is worth reflecting on how each of us contributes to the psychological safety of the team.

Are we part of the foundation that keeps this space safe, or are we perhaps unwittingly part of the barrier to be broken down?

This insight is not just food for thought, but a call to action for anyone who aspires to leadership and collaboration at the highest level.

Let's move from avoiding mistakes to actively learning from them, thereby achieving the collective growth that defines tomorrow's leading teams.

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