SAFETY IN NUMBERS
The unique aspect of Brave Starts’ approach to career coaching is our assembly of groups of people to work together on their goals of job seeking, career, or lifestyle change.
Brave Starts’ members cite working alongside ‘people in the same position’ as one of the most rewarding parts of the career programmes they take part in. Much psychology research supports the idea that group working in this way is beneficial and the idea of ‘psychological safety’ is crucial to making it work well.
The idea of psychological safety was introduced to research on team learning by Harvard University’s Amy Edmondson in her revered 1999 paper, ‘Psychological Safety and Learning Behaviour in Work Teams’.
Edmondson defined psychological safety: ‘a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking’. Put simply - feeling able to ask a question or express a view without fear of ridicule or being compromised. The relevance of this to group coaching is recognised in a Forbes Coaches Council article published in 2019.
That Forbes article also talks about the importance of finding common ground among coaching group members as a precursor to group members helping each other and building personal motivation. This is not dissimilar to Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith’s assertion that effective teams have a common purpose and commitment.
If Brave Starts members value working alongside others in a group, they could be experiencing a positive team building effect of having a common goal, albeit at an individual rather than group level. The similarity of outcome objectives of each group member, without being in competition with each other, may be reinforcing the willingness to share and reciprocate supportive actions.
People coming together to learn together and from each other in Brave Starts career coaching programmes also shares characteristics of ‘communities of practice’ – an idea that has been around for about 25 years. The University of Bristol’s Igor Pyrko et al have studied communities of practice and conceptualize the process of ‘thinking together’ as a key part of them working well.
Pyrko et al neatly frame meaningful communities of practice as places ‘where people mutually guide each other through their understandings of the same problems in their area of mutual interest’ and in doing so, share knowledge. Sounds like a Brave Starts career programme cohort to me!
Communities of practice, teams, and Brave Starts career programme cohorts – they’re all composed of people coming together to learn and achieve something. To learn, and to learn from each other, a process of learning behaviour is needed - this involves testing assumptions and discussing opinions openly.
Amey Edmondson’s research shows a strong correlation between psychological safety and learning behaviour. At Brave Starts we aim to create the most helpful environment for our members to learn and support each other. We want our members to have safety in numbers!
Edmondson, A. (1999). Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams. Administrative Science Quarterly. 44(2) p.p. 350-383
Katzenbach, J. R., and Smith, D. K. (2004). The discipline of teams, in Harvard Business Review on Teams that Succeed. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Pyrko, I., Dörfler, V. and Eden, C. (2017). Thinking Together: What Makes Communities of Practice Work? Human Relations. 70. p.p. 389-409