Creative Workshop Exercises: Easy and Engaging Workshop Activities # 10: Boost Communication, Trust and Performance with Improved Psychological Safety

 Psychological Safety Cards


Impact:  Psychological safety is a key factor underpinning team performance. Greater psychological safety leads to a greater willingness to be authentic, take psychological risks, speak up, live with and manage conflict or discomfort, address problems, learn from failure, and constructively challenge. Member resources and resourcefulness become more available to the group. Better decisions are made, with greater commitment to seeing them through. Performance improves.

Materials Needed: 

A pack of psychological safety cards for every four people in the group or team.

Felt tip pens

Remember, should you decide to buy one or more packs of cards, you can get 10% off your first shop order with a newsletter subscription

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Professional Use: 

Who is Boost Communication, Trust and Performance with Psychological Safety for?

This exercise is designed for team leaders, workshop leaders, team coaches and others who want to help people work more effectively together by improving levels of trust and openness. The card pack presents 10 key factors that underpin psychological safety with full definitions and key identifiers.

How does it help with Improving Team Communication, Trust and Performance?

This initial exercise, that enables team members to express their current experience of the team on 10 dimensions of psychological safety, is designed to be a gateway to a conversation about what is needed to help everyone feel psychologically safer.

People often assume that everyone else feels the same degree of comfort in the group as they do. This is rarely the case and by recognising and encouraging the exploration of different experiences of the safety of the group, this exercise facilitates both an experience of psychological safety, and forms the basis for conversations about how to further boost psychological safety.


Take a sheet of flipchart paper and draw it up like this. These are the ten dimensions of psychological safety


Before you move into the exercise talk to the group, emphasising that there no right or wrong answers and that everyone is likely to view or experience the situation differently, which is absolutely the point of the exercise. Suggest as well that the braver people can be about honestly expressing their perception, the more likely the exercise will have value.

How to run the exercise

Divide the team into groups of four or less and give each group a pack of cards.

Ask them to put the title card aside, and to then sort the cards into pairs by the Alphabetical letter in the to-left corner, keeping them picture side up. Then to look at each pair of sorted cards. For instance, if they are looking at the 'F' pair, they will be looking at Learn from Mistakes and Avoid Failure.

 Learn From Mistakes Psychological Safety Card


Avoid Failure Psychological Safety Cards

 Ask them to first discuss what the phrases in each pair mean to them, how important to they consider them to be to team performance, and what the pros and cons of an orientation towards each behaviour might be.

Then ask them to turn that pair of cards over and read what it says on the back. Does this additional information affect their ideas about the desirability of the behaviour in a team at all?


It might be helpful to put the discussion instructions up on a slide or a flip chart. 

These discussions are likely to take up to an hour, depending on the size of the groups and the depth of discussion engendered. By the end of the discussion people should have a better idea of the behaviour associated with each psychological safety phrase.

After a break, invite them all to come up to the flip chart and mark where they personally think the group lies on the dimension. So for example, would they say it veers more towards having Relentless Expectations or towards Appreciating Each Other. Or is it equally balanced? Emphasising that this is a perceptual and experience exercise, there isn’t a right answer for everyone.

Once everyone has made their mark ask them what they see when they look at what they have produced. This encourages reflection, and also creates a space for people to proffer information about why they chose the put their mark in a particular place. In this way discussion can be opened up about difference in the group, which is already an encouragement to ‘Speak Up and Share Ideas’ as against being ‘Consensus Driven’, for example.

Of particular interest are those where there is a big range of marks, suggesting different people see the group differently. Or maybe where there are two clear clusters of marks on one dimension.

An extension of the exercise

If there is more time available, you might like to ask the group to identify a behaviour on the lefthand side of the chart above that they would like to see as a more prominent feature of their team’s behaviour, for example ‘Trust Each Other’

 Trust Each Other Psychological Safety Card

Depending on group size, you might hold an open discussion, or you might split it into smaller groups to brainstorm things the team could do, do differently, or stop doing, that would encourage the people to trust each other more. The identifiers at the bottom of each card suggest ideas for what behaviours the group needs to develop to support an increase in Trust in Each Other.

Trust Each Other Psychological Safety Card

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Sarah Jane Lewis