A couple of weeks ago I wrote Three Transformational Leadership Skills; and, creating safety was on of the three. This week, let’s take a deeper look at creating safety among those you work with, and lead. What does it take to create safety? And, how important is creating safety? I believe it is always important, and is even more so now amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and will continue to be in the next few years, as we all learn about our new realities.
What does it mean to work in a safe environment, where you feel like you can act and be who you really are, without fear of reprisal? Well, it means exactly that. That those on the team, in the work office, or that are a part of the organization, can be who they are. Meaning, they can act and say what is needed about the direction of the team, without fear of someone lashing out at them, and defending or justifying why their opinion is more important than theirs. The latter, doesn’t work well.
What works well? Creating an environment where people can actively question each other, even be critical of each other, yet know that they are safe. It is a big deal. If you are on a team that can act in this way, you will gain more traction on your goals and objectives.
Because you are actively talking about the issues that matter most. And, when you are talking about, and creating action plans to resolve those issues, you are creating movement. And, movement is needed and necessary to create traction.
Step 1: Understand the keys to creating safety
I’m sure there are many ways to create safety on a team, or within an organization, yet I can only speak to the ones that have worked in the contexts in which I’ve worked. And, these keys, I think, can be utilized across multiple contexts, across different teams, and across many organizations.
Three keys to creating safety
- Building relationships – developing high-quality relationships is important to creating safety on any team. Making the time to get to know each person on the team, their hopes and dreams, as well as their strengths and opportunities. Knowing each of them well is necessary to understand their perspective, and to build trust. Trust is akin to safety.
- Fostering individual perspectives – when people have a say in how things work, and how the team moves forward, more comfort and more safety is created. People want to participate, to collaborate, to draw upon their talent, and to provide their individual perspectives on issues the team faces. Foster these perspectives.
- Creating support systems – think safety net. People need to understand how they will get the support they need. Support can be delivered many different ways. What is important is that there is a support system in place, and that the team knows how it works.
Step 2: Understand the keys to your role
As I’ve discussed in other posts, everything you do within your team and organization starts with you. The way that you develop yourself, and lead from within, will determine how you lead without. Same. Taking the time to develop skills that will move yourself forward, hence, the team, is important.
Three keys to your role
- Being open – one thing that helps foster a safe environment is being open and available. When the team knows you are open, meaning open to new suggestions and ways of doing things, they will feel more appreciated, and more safe.
- Being available – will also signal the team, that spending time with them is of utmost importance. I’ve always found that open environments foster the most innovation and safety.
- Being authentic – leading with authenticity creates the possibility that the people on the team will also demonstrate authenticity. And, authentic environments foster contexts where people can give candid and honest feedback about how the team is doing, and what they see as necessary improvements.
Step 3: Understand the keys to the team’s role
Once you are clear on your role, you will have developed the ability to understand the team’s role. And, understanding the team’s role, including each person’s role on the team is important to foster momentum, movement, and traction.
Three keys to the team’s role
- Individual engagement – creating ways to engage each individual team member at their developmental stage is important to their growth both personally and professionally. And, opportunities for developmental growth is critical to moving teams forward.
- Team engagement – developing ways to engage the team, and for the team to engage with each other is important to creating safety. People that don’t know each other well, don’t general trust each other, nor will they feel safe with each other.
- Connecting the individual to the team – fostering individual development while also building the team’s development is a very important component to creating a team that knows how to move, develop, and gain traction in their work every day.
Movement and Traction
Implementing the aforementioned strategies within your team will increase the possibility of creating movement, and gaining traction. And, as the team moves forward, finding new ways to ensure that the safe environment you’ve fostered, and the team has created, is continuously redeveloped is important. Contexts change, organizations grow, they shrink, and they move forward. The ability to develop new strategies to create safety as things change is critical.
The COVID-19 pandemic is, unfortunately, a great example of a change that no one saw coming that has increased anxiety and decreased safety throughout the workforce. Now is the time to create, and recreate safety. Creating safety is an essential leadership skill, and it is also essential to growing, moving, and gaining traction on teams.