1 Question to Ask All Your Players

Dec 03, 2022

Psychological safety has become a mainstream phrase and concept, and rightfully so, because it's essential to creating an environment that maximizes the development of the individual and the team.

But how can a coach actually build a psychological safety?

There are some really practical behaviors that Daniel Coyle discusses in his book, The Culture Code, that build and characterize a psychologically safe team environment.  

These behaviors from team members send steady signals to each other that each person is safe and belongs.

Here are some examples...

  1. Positive and appropriate physical touch
  2. Physical proximity
  3. Eye contact
  4. Turn taking and listening
  5. Using names
  6. Giving and receiving feedback
  7. Emotional control
  8. Encouraging and honoring risk taking and failure

But here's the truth: If the coach doesn't model the behaviors that build psychological safety, it won't be built.

Nothing will create a psychologically un-safe environment faster than a coach that fails to model the behaviors needed to build psychological safety on a team.

Psychological safety rises and falls with the leader!

If the person at the top does not model the behaviors that build psychological safety, it won't exist on that team.

As part of the 2022 Summer Coaching Series, my friend Trevor Ragan from The Learner Lab presented on this topic of psychological safety.

Specifically, Trevor discussed the importance of modeling from the leader in building psychological safety.

He shared a simple and powerful question every coach can ask their players to help build psychological safety on their team.

Trevor picked up this question from Karch Kiraly, the USA Women's Volleyball Head Coach and one of the greatest male volleyball players of all time.

Coach Kiraly makes a habit of meeting 1-on-1 with his players (and you should too), and he finishes each meeting by asking his players this question:


"How can I be better for you?"


Can you imagine what those players feel like when their coach asks them that question?

And how many of his players have ever been asked that by their coach?

My guess: 0

The power of the question is in the signal and message it sends to his players:

  • "Our relationship matters."
  • "I care about being a great coach for you specially."
  • "I'm trying to learn and get better too."
  • "I'm open to receiving and implementing feedback."
  • "I value your opinion and insights."

He's modeling a behavior that builds psychological safety!

And here's the final key to asking this powerful question:

We have to be willing to take the feedback and implement it.

That doesn't mean all of it, because sometimes an athlete may give you feedback about how they want to be coached that conflicts with your philosophies and values as a coach.

For example, a player might say they want you to be harder on them and yell at them or make them run more. If they do, just explain to them why this isn't something you do in your coaching, then give them other examples of how you will hold them accountable.

But when players give us feedback about how we can be better for them that we can implement, we should!

Start asking your players that questions and see what it does to your relationships and team environment.

Additional resources to check out:

  1. The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle
  2. A 2 minute Clip from Trevor Ragan's Summer Coaching Series presentation talking about Karch Kiraly
  3. Trevor Ragan's YouTube Video with Amy Edmondson on Psychological Safety