I’ve got a question for you to consider; Are you dangerous to your organization?
We’ve already established that whatever your formal title, we want you to think of yourself as the ‘Director of Emotional Safety’. This means that you make people feel safe when they are bringing you bad news, even if that news is about you.
Our theory is that the higher you go on the organizational chart, the more potential there is for you to become dangerous to the organization.
When we get startled or scared, we breathe in. When we feel relieved, we breathe out. If I were to do something right now to scare you, like tell you I have to give you bad news, you would be likely to breathe in. Alternatively, if I were to tell you I just resolved a problem you’ve been worried about for 6 months, you would breathe out a sigh of relief. The question we have for you is: ‘are you creating more breathing in or breathing out moments for the people you work with?’ When I come into your office am I thinking, “hmph, the last two people who brought him bad news got fired, and I’m probably next” or am I thinking, (inhale) “this is really bad news, but, (exhale) she’s a great person to bring bad news to. She’s solution oriented, and does not blame the messenger.”
When people are afraid to bring you bad news they stop doing it. This means that the higher you are on the organizational chart and the more authority you have, the more dangerous you might be if people are not giving you real-time information about the organizational realities. They may be withholding critical information from you, information that you need to make fully informed decisions.
In short, if you don’t create emotional safety for others, you will still retain your authority and responsibility and you will be making decisions in an information vacuum. This makes you dangerous, and the higher you are on the org-chart, the more danger you present to the organization.
What advice do we give our clients? We advise them to ‘reform or remove’ the players who may have great technical competence and at the same time, deliver a cultural cancer to the organization. This means giving people the coaching and resources to reform their behavior, and if they can’t, inviting them to bring their talents to your competitor. The most dangerous people in your organization are the ones who use their job-related talent to justify their destructive behavior with others. We say that pain of a vacancy is less acute than the pain of having a person who is dismantling your culture.
Try this: ask people you work with how they feel when they see your name on incoming e-mail and/or when they see you on their calendar. Are they breathing in or breathing out? The better you understand how people feel about you, the better you will be able to open the door to real-time, valuable information, the fuel for good decision-making.
Making others feel safe helps you do better work, while at the same time, makes your organization a great place to get work done. You are likely then to attract, develop, and retain top talent.
As always, we appreciate your attention, and for additional ideas, follow me on twitter: @HenryJEvans