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“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for”
. ~Grace Hopper

I was watching a TED talk by Simon Sinek. His topic; “Why good leaders make you feel safe”. If your people feel safe, they will do their very best for you and extraordinary things will happen in organisations.  Now I think Simon’s stuff is awesome, really powerful, but this really got me thinking.

In the modern day, our world is filled with danger. It is volatile, unpredictable and frantic. We can’t control the happenings in our world but we can control how we react as leaders. Simon explains that the leader sets the tone in any organization so if we can make our people feel safe, remarkable things happen. This sounds fantastic. And yes there is a however coming…..

The concept of safe has me interested.

The meaning of safe is to be protected from or not exposed to danger or risk.  Given our current market conditions and the complexity of business and people, can we really make our people feel safe when the threat of change, technology and information does pose a threat to business or careers? Can we protect them from the danger and risk that is imminent to us? What do we have to do to make them feel safe?

I am sure if you asked 50 people what they needed to feel safe you would get 50 different responses. And I think thrown in there would be a couple of respondents that don’t want to feel safe, they would thrive on uncertainty.

Often when people feel safe in their jobs it can ignite other behaviours contrary to those that are extraordinary. Throughout my years, when people have been protected by leadership and felt safe in their roles they have become complacent and lazy. Smug in fact! Do we want that behaviour in our organizations?

I do agree that when people are provided opportunity to excel, achieve, progress and learn the very best can come out. Amazing things can happen. And as a leader you certainly do want to provide that for your people. I also believe that people excel when challenged outside of their comfort zone, when they understand they need to continue to better themselves and be the best version of themselves that they can be, for business and for them personally.

But often, balance sheet numbers don’t support the FTE. Evolution doesn’t support the current people and change creates new demands. I don’t need to go into what that means. This is when the challenge to keep people feeling safe is pretty impossible. And to be honest, I think it’s an unreasonable expectation for leaders to have on their shoulders.

So as leaders, I do agree with Simon, that we set the tone in the organization. How we respond to challenges and how we behave as leaders everyday will create a certain feeling amongst your team. Some will feel safe, others will feel engaged, others will feel uncertain.

I think our challenge as leaders is to create an environment where people are engaged, collaborating and communicating while remaining very relevant to the current times and your future. If you can encourage and lead change, you will create an amazing dynamic in your business where extraordinary things will happen. People will choose how they feel about this. Most will follow – IF – you are a true leader.

 


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