Emotional Safety: A Guide to Emotional Decision Making

Emotional Safety, Step Up

Embracing Emotional Safety® for Better Decision Making

There’s an old saying that what you don’t know can’t hurt you. From my own experience, I’ve found that to be far from the truth. In delivering keynotes to leaders on why Emotional Safety® is crucial for making smart decisions, I emphasize the danger of being insulated from bad or challenging news. If people around me don’t feel safe to share the full picture, I realize I’m making decisions with a fraction of the necessary information.


The Pitfall of Only Hearing What You Want

Initially, it might seem pleasant to only hear about the successes and positive developments. However, I challenge myself and others to consider it from a different angle: Decisions are only as good as the information they’re based on. Without the complete truth of what’s happening within the organization, I recognize my perspective is almost always incomplete. Achieving just an “okay” level for people to bring “bad” news puts me at a below-average level. I strive for more than that; I need people to have the Emotional Safety® to bring any and all information that could affect my decision-making process.


Implementing the First Steps to Achieve Emotional Safety®

In “Step Up, Lead in Six Moments That Matter,” we outline the steps to achieving Emotional Safety®. One of the first steps I’ve put into practice is giving the people around me the gift of my invitation. I might say something like this:


“In the past, I may have acted in a way that made you feel I was resistant to bad news — and you know what? Maybe I was. That may have led you to think you should just tell me what I want to hear. Moving forward, please tell me what you think I don’t want to hear. It could be about a customer or vendor problem, an internal issue, or maybe you need to openly challenge a decision or offer feedback on my leadership style. I rely on you to be a second set of eyes and ears for me as I make decisions. So, going forward, please make it a habit of telling me what you think I don’t want to hear.”


The more consistently and frequently I ask people to tell me what they think I don’t want to hear, the more willing they become to try. Making them feel rewarded for doing it ensures a constant flow of what I need to make smart decisions: the truth.


I’ve learned that it’s the unknowns that usually circle back to impact you negatively. If you’re looking to foster an environment where Emotional Safety® is paramount, and where emotional decision making is enhanced, consider how you’re inviting truth into your conversations.


Deeper Understanding of Emotional Safety®

For those interested in deepening their understanding of Emotional Safety® and its impact on decision-making, I invite you to check out our post “Cultivating Emotional Safety in the Workplace: Strategies from Top Business Leaders“.


As always, I’m eager to hear your thoughts and experiences. Connect with us on LinkedIn or connect with us directly to contribute to the conversation.

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