Leadership Barometer 81 Build a SAFE Environment

There are hundreds of assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly. You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership.

There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership. These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

Build a SAFE Environment

In most organizations, there is a continual environment of fear. What we need to realize is that there are different kinds of fear. There is the fear due to market conditions or competition that may make a company go bankrupt.

We have learned over the past decade that just because a company is great now is no guarantee it will even exist in a year or two. There is really no such thing as job security anymore. As an example, look at Circuit City. Back in 2002, it was on top of the heap, and even qualified as one of the “Great” companies in Jim Collins’ book Good to Great. By 2008, the company was history. So, it is not surprising that few people feel the kind of job security that most individuals felt in the 80’s and 90’s. It is just a fact of life, and that kind of fear needs to be used to create the impetus to do better on a daily basis.

Create Psychological Safety

The more crippling kind of fear is a nagging feeling that if I tell the truth about something to my boss, I am going to suffer some kind of punishment. It may not be an immediate demotion or dismissal, but eventually I will be negatively impacted in ways I may not even recognize. So, I clam up and do not share thoughts that could be helpful to my organization.

Great leaders create an environment of psychological safety, where this kind of fear is nonexistent. Reason: The lack of fear will allow trust to grow, and in a trusting environment the organization has a much better chance to flourish.

What is the mechanism by which great leaders create psychological safety? They do it by reinforcing candor. They let people know they will not be punished for speaking their truth.

On the contrary, these leaders show by deeds that people who speak up are actually rewarded for sharing something scary or just not right. That gives these leaders the opportunity to correct small problems before they have huge negative consequences for the organization. That is brilliant leadership!

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585-392-7763.


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