Creating an environment of emotional safety for your team is one of your most important roles as a leader.
I have laboured under the harsh leadership of a hard-to-please boss. He questioned much of what I did and I never felt he trusted me or my abilities.
The result for me was a continual decline in my confidence, decision-making ability and enthusiasm. I felt unsafe, and this hampered my efforts to deliver a good performance.
To appreciate the mindset when feeling ‘unsafe’, imagine yourself in a loving relationship. It used to be happy and loving, however, this relationship has slowly turned destructive. You are often paying a price for the way you behave. Your partner consistently questions your agenda and places you under a cloud of suspicion. You have learned how quickly your partner gets upset, so you start over-thinking every action. Your happiness shrinks as your confidence is drained, like the swimming area for a goldfish shrinks when its pond is drained.
Given this emotionally unsafe situation, the reaction is more negative than positive. Becoming reserved and overly cautious is normal. There is a constant air of tension when you are together. You are less likely to suggest activities to participate in, or show excitement about life events because you are unsure what your partner’s reaction will be. You tend to withdraw and disengage.
The same is true for team members in a work situation. An emotionally unsafe environment is similar to any relationship. It can involve passive aggressive behaviour, being criticised unfairly and never feeling like anything you do is good enough. Team members feel they need to protect themselves. The dis-empowerment impacts upon their self-worth and shrinks their confidence and they can no longer think creatively, struggling to perform to their previous higher standards.
Leaders can create a working environment that enables team members to feel happy, positive, confident and enthusiastic by following these hints:
Praise team members when they are doing an excellent job.
Ask how you can better support them in their role.
Provide training to improve performance rather than criticise current effort.
Ask team members if they are happy and satisfied at work.
Say ‘Thank you’ often.
Be interested in their lives.
Allow team members to take a break when they can and get coffee and go for a 10 minute walk to re-energise.
Ask for team input when designing projects such as practice promotions, delivering a ‘wow’ experience to patients and how to more effectively engage patients in their treatment.
Change the way your team deals with mistakes, to avoid the blame-game and instead become excited about the lessons learnt from the mistakes and how to design solutions.
Have fun and enjoy one another’s company.
Avoid being judgmental about team members, with thoughts such as ‘what an idiot’, ‘what a loser’, ‘how could she think that?’, and ‘I can’t stand that’.
Be a confidante when people open up.
Be available when someone needs to discuss an issue.
Be helpful, supportive and enthusiastic.
Be trusting and trustworthy.
Lead by example.
The success of your practice is driven by your team.
Developing and emotionally safe workplace culture encourages everyone to bring their A-game to work.
I am going to say that again; The success of your practice is driven by your team.
Lead your team to safe places, and they will drive your practice to the place of your dreams: your dream practice!