Google found in an internal company study that safety was key to effective great teamwork. And teamwork is one of the leading predictors of great performance and employee satisfaction with their work and employer.
Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry Wehmiller, is on a mission to make capitalism and business more human and people centered. He insists work is killing us mostly due to a lack of safety, culture and environments. He points to studies that show that heart attacks go up on Monday mornings. He continues by saying that our boss has more influence over our health than our primary care physician.
How can this be?
When we don't feel safe, we are in a constant state of stress. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. And more than 75 percent of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
Safety is most influenced by the leaders. Leaders set the tone. In the army we called it command climate. In other words, the senior leader of the organization set the tone with their actions, words, tone, priorities and values.
How to Build Safety
Very carefully. As manager we have to be of aware of everything we do and say. Even what we don't do and say communicates something. We have to be vigilant in and consistent in our words and actions.
One of the most important things we can do is clarify our "Why, How and What". These are an organization's purpose, cause, mission, values, strategies, goals and priorities. Once these are thoroughly clarified every leader in the organization must live up to and lead with the "Why, How and What" in mind at all times.
Not only must the leader be the epitome of the "Why, How and What", but they need to expect everyone else in the organization to do the same.
The Manager is Not Above the Law
To take it a step further the manager should encourage everyone else in the organization to hold each other and the leader accountable to the "Why, How and What".
It's only a matter of time when someone approaches you as the manager and points out that they think you didn't live up to a value of the company.
This is a defining moment.
If you brush them off or worse yet shut them down forcefully then you've basically said you're not serious about the "Why, How and What" and that they mean nothing and that it's not a safe environment where the purpose and law rules and not just an all-knowing leader.
Safety Requires Healing
When people are wounded, it becomes difficult for them to trust and feel safe. There's a lot of woundedness in the world. And it's most driven by our upbringings, communities and workplaces.
In my most recent team as the leader I worked hard to establish and live up to the "Why, How and What" that we created together. Everyone was bought in but we still weren't creating the environment and performance that we said we wanted.
What I found was the root cause reason was the prior pain and toxic environments that many of the team members experienced for much of their lives.
I felt terrible and guilty that I kept trying to push them. What I realized was that I needed to be patient and consistent. The more I was, the closer we got to the team we wanted to be creating.
No matter what level of manager you are in the organization, you can and must influence people's sense of safety for the better. If you do you'll not only be laying the foundation for great performance for your team, you'll also be positively influencing in a real way.
References & Resources
Chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death
Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman
Start With Why by Simon Sinek