Relationships, Risk-Taking, and Innovation

I was pleased to read this quote from a recent article, “Google spent years studying effective teams — and one trait stood out,” which stated what was most important to the success of teams:

What mattered most: Trust.

So what was the most important factor contributing to a team’s effectiveness?

It was psychological safety.

Simply put, psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of taking a risk, and the response his or her teammates will have to taking that risk.

Google describes it this way:

“In a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.”

In other words, great teams thrive on trust.

This may appear to be a simple concept, but building trust between team members is no easy task. For example, a team of just five persons brings along varying viewpoints, working styles and ideas about how to get a job done.

In my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset,” I wrote a chapter on the importance of relationships. To be honest, I got a lot of pushback from a few educators on the chapter, saying “You don’t have to like your leader to be innovative.” It is not about “liking” your leader, but being in a place that you know someone will push you to take risks in your learning, while having your back if things go wrong, because at some point, things will go wrong.

I posed the following questions:

As you think about your role as an educational leader and the level of trust in your school or district, consider the following questions:

• Do people often ask me for permission or guidance?

• Have I created an environment where risks are not only encouraged but expected?

• How have I highlighted the great work being done by our school to others in and out of the organization?

These questions are about innovation, but they’re also the importance of relationships in creating a “culture of innovation.” In fact, relationships are crucial for innovation, which is why you’ll always hear me say that the three most important words in education are: relationships, relationships, relationships. Without them, we have nothing.

Relationships are the foundation of excellent schools, but they are not enough.  With them though, your organization or school can do anything. Without them, good luck.

Learning is risky business.  If you do something that you are already good at, that is great, but there is no growth.  I see risk as the following:

Have you ever stuck with something for far too long, that you know wasn’t working? This could be either personally or professionally, but we have all been there in different facets of our life.  But when you have people around you that support you, have your back, and will catch you if you fall, it is much easier to take those leaps of faith that are so crucial for all learners in your community.

Again, relationships and trust are the foundation of moving forward, not only for our work with our colleagues, but for the growth of the individuals in our classrooms.

Scroll to Top

Changing the Trajectories of Those We Serve​

Join over 40,000 Educators who already get the Newsletter