Making it Safe

We are in a recession. Secure jobs are valued. We don’t want to screw up and potentially lose our jobs. Fear can take over. What happens when fear takes over? We don’t stretch or take risks.  Creativity and ‘out of box’ thinking and execution is virtually squelched. We play it safe. Playing it too safe does not serve teams, organizations, or companies who are trying to explore, innovate, and bring new products and services to market.

As leaders, what can we do to help encourage folks to risk skinning their knees for a chance to win the race? A few thoughts:

  1. Remember, just because someone has been promoted does not mean they know everything they need to know to do the job. Think about it, did you when you were first promoted to a new position? Of course not. We are promoted because we have skills, talents, and potential to take the next step; however, this does not mean we have all the answers. We, as leaders, need to help them. Teach them. Be their stewards for growth. Provide a support system for them, which may consist of others who have had a similar role or are actually in a similar role.
  2. We need to admit and talk about our own foibles and mistakes. Be vulnerable about what we have learned through the course of our experiences. We need to let them save face when they do make a mistake. We learn and grow through mistakes, as we all know. We need to make it a safe enviroment for them to stumble and fall.
  3. When the new leader or struggling employee improves even slightly or demonstrates a skill that is needed, we need to praise them generously. Give approbation visibly and often. Nothing gives encouragement to take risks and assume a new position more effectively than genuine praise.

Many leaders want perfection or unrealistic performance from individuals recently promoted to new positions. We need to create a safe environment to get the most from these individuals. It is my belief when individuals are not suffering from a few skinned knees, they are not in a position of growth. Make it safe, and our individuals, teams and organizations will thrive and excel through what we collectively learn.