Do you have any of these in your team right now?
- Lack of Trust
- Poor Communication
- Disengaged Employees
- Averagely Performing Teams
- Lack-lustre conversations
I feel the need, the need for..safety
If you do have any of the above it can be a sign that the desire for safety is an important element right now.
And by safety, I mean that cloak of invisibility we put on that allows us to experience some sort of predictability. However unproductive and frustrating it might be. Safety, stability, comfort. That sense of knowing that you can do the same thing and get the same result; even if the result is poor, but you’re not rocking the boat.
Now no one’s going to check, so let’s have a moment of candid honesty with ourselves. Have you ever made the choice to sort for safety rather than anything else? And might you be tempted in the future, depending on the stakes?
What can I say, there have been times in my life when I’d have mugged Harry Potter for his invisibility cloak. Empathy is a critical quality in a leader, as is vulnerability and confessing to the fact that we weren’t born perfect and have made some lousy decisions and choices in our journey as a leader. Part of my growth was in realising what was behind my choice for safety. Or putting it another way what were the fears that were dictating my choices.
Bring on the excuses
You’ll also notice that if this desire for safety is a regular situation for someone, then they’ll have gone to the trouble of having got some really good, plausible excuses in the bag to support the current situation. And what’s more, they’ve worked out where to point the finger. Usually, at a 3rd party, a them or department rather than a specific person.
Think back over the last few conversations you’ve had with staff – are they showing the signs of sorting for safety? As a leader this can be really frustrating and unrewarding when you’re doing your best to find ways of engaging staff, getting real commitment, investing in team development, working on building trust.
So, if safety is paramount for that person right now, then what’s going on underneath?
Welcome to the F Factor – Fear
Here are a 4 common fears:-
1) Fear of being rejected by the team/group
If we’re being our self, offering our ideas, putting our self on the line then we’re scared we’ll be judged as not being good enough or acceptable to the team. If there is a change being introduced and we’re not fully on board we stay silent and don’t voice our concerns, especially if it’s the boss’s pet project. Fitting in is more important than anything else right now.
2) Fear of causing offence
What if we say something and it offends another person. We don’t want to rock the boat, be rejected (see above) or reported to HR for making a politically incorrect comment, so we say as little as possible, or talk vaguely or compromise or pacify.
Here’s one example, I work in manufacturing sites. I’ve had conversations with teams about the current challenges on the site and what they see are the risks, solutions etc. I get the party line, and then I ask them what they really think is going on. Eyes search the ground, feet shuffle and then after a gulp of air, the group fix me with an intense stare and say well it wouldn’t be politically correct. Then I get the truth as to how they see it. Now I have something to work with. I’m not suggesting people should talk like that all the time, but if they’d been more honest with their leaders earlier I don’t think we’d have reached this position and things could have been improved far earlier.
3) Fear of being wrong
We all like to have the answers, to be perfect, to not propose a solution or idea and look stupid. So we sit tight and keep quiet, working it all out in our head until we have it sorted. By then of course the whole conversation can have moved on and we’ve missed the moment.
4) Fear of retribution
If we do speak up, or share how we see reality right now, or we point to the dead moose on the table, are we going to be shot down, shut out or taken outside and “had a word with”? What happened to the last person who did this, where are they now, what impact did that have on their career progress? These are all things we take in to consideration at some point, and then make a decision to speak up or not. Rarely do we subsequently review the decision we made, unless of course some pain comes along to prompt a review. Meaning your staff could be operating from a work environment that was years ago, their experience of another leader, or even from another company.
How do we move forward?
Well like just about anything in leadership, we model it. We review how often we let any of these fears creep in to our choices and are demonstrated in our behaviours. Not sure if you’re seeing yourself as others do, then you can ask someone to help you – ask your coach or mentor, they are an external party to what’s happening and often are the most objective.
Then when you’ve had a look at yourself you can go out there and help your staff reduce their fears.
The benefits of taking the time to do this – well increased trust, at least between you and them, but probably with others too. You’ll have more engagement and commitment, problems will be tackled with more agility, hey they might even be nipped in the bud before they become problems. There are others, but these are guaranteed, especially if you’re modelling what you want to see.