The 12 Best Books About Psychological Safety
There are so many leadership books that propose to hold the key to unlocking team and organisational performance that it can be really difficult to decide which ones to actually read.
To help you build psychological safety in your organisation, here is a carefully curated selection of books that highlight the importance of psychological safety to high performance leadership.
Some describe what psychological safety is, some how to measure and build it, and some are about the process of forming psychologically safe teams and organisations. Take your pick and let me know what you think.
The Fearless Organisation by Amy Edmondson
The essential book on Psychological Safety. Dr Edmondson covers the research and theory, examples of failure where a lack of psychological safety was (at least in significant part) a component cause, as well as demonstrating the successes that result from environments of high psychological safety. This book contains excellent insights and actions that you will take away and be able to implement with your teams, whether you’re in a leadership role or not. If you’re going to read anything on psychological safety, it should be this book.
Turn The Ship Around by David Marquet
Whilst David doesn’t specifically discuss psychological safety in this book, what he did with his crew and his approach to leadership are very much psychologically safe approaches to high performance leadership. An excellent book, very readable, and provides a wealth of actionable takeaways.
Sooner Safer Happier by Jonathan Smart
Jonathan Smart, business agility practitioner, thought leader, and coach, reveals the patterns and antipatterns that will help organisations from every industry deliver better value sooner, safer, and happier through high levels of engagement, inclusion, and empowerment. This is an excellent aggregation of a great deal of insight and best practice into organisational transformation.
The Field Guide to Understanding Human Error by Sidney Dekker
This is an excellent book about the fallacy of “human error”. Defintiely worth a read if you work in safety critical environments, and very useful even if you don’t. It does lean towards the academic, so take your time, and make notes!
The Field Guide to Understanding ‘Human Error’ will help you understand how to move beyond ‘human error’; how to understand accidents; how to do better investigations; how to understand and improve your safety work. You will be invited to think creatively and differently about the safety issues you and your organisation face. In each, you will find possibilities for a new language, for different concepts, and for new leverage points to influence your own thinking and practice, as well as that of your colleagues and organisation. If you are faced with a ‘human error’ problem, abandon the fallacy of a quick fix.
The Four Stages of Psychological Safety by Timothy R. Clarke
A useful framework to aid the journey of a team through Tim Clarke’s “4 Stages” model of psychological safety, with echoes of Tuckman’s Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing model. Very readable, and provides some useful takeaways for team members and leaders. There is some controversy in the field about this model, but that makes it all the more interesting!
Agile Conversations by Douglas Squirrel and Jeffrey Fredrick
Whilst not primarily about psychological safety, this a practical, step-by-step guide to using the human power of conversation to unleash the unique human power of conversation and build effective, high-performing teams. Short, easy to read, and very actionable.
The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle
A useful step-by-step guidebook to building teams that are not just more effective, but happier – and we know that happiness precedes success. This book paints a very broad brush over team culture, but is readable and every page will spark ideas.
The Unicorn Project by Gene Kim
Specifically about software development teams, Gene Kim refers to “The Five Ideals” of which the fourth (and I believe the most important) is psychological safety. An excellent book for those involved in technology, particularly if you’ve read the precursor – The Phoenix Project.
Creating Psychological Safety by Tony Humphries
Key pathways to psychological safety are outlined throughout this book with special attention given to parents, teachers, managers and leaders, who are the architects of the relationships they create with significant others.
Psychological Safety: The key to happy, high-performing people and teams by Dan Radecki and Leonie Hull
A comprehensive description of some of the evidence supporting psychological safety in teams, and in particular how poor decisions or adverse circumstances impact psychological safety – and why it’s easy to destroy safety, but much harder to build.
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
One of the classic books about servant leadership and how to create great team cultures and his “circle of safety”. A leadership classic and definitely worth a read.
People Before Tech, by Duena Blomstrom
Duena emphasises the problem of focussing on tooling and technology over people and relationships when approaching digital transformation. She highlights the importance of psychological safety when dealing with organisational change.
Do you have any suggestions to include in this list of psychological safety books? Get in touch and I’ll add them here.