We recently worked with 20 leaders in an organization to build on the coaching skills and tools they’ve been learning and practicing the last few years.
In our discussions, a theme kept coming up: safety. This time, though, we weren’t talking about slips, trips, and falls, or work hazards and injuries. Instead, we were talking about how to increase the safety between team members and managers within the organization. Why? Because when employees and leaders feel safe in their work and work relationships, it’s easier for someone to bring up the things that need to be talked about, even if they aren’t easy conversations to have.
Safety starts with trust
Having safety at work depends on the trust a person has with their direct supervisor. It also depends on the trust they have with the team around them. If I think I’ll get in trouble for bringing up a problem I see, I probably won’t bring it up. It’s easier (“safer”) for me to not say anything than to take the risk and potentially be “injured” (getting in trouble).
Think about it for a moment. Those instances in your career where you may have hesitated to say or do something, even though you knew it was the right thing to do, what was it that caused you to hesitate? What was the risk to you? How much trust did you have with the other person in that situation? How did that impact your decision not to speak up?
Coaching conversations allow safety hazards to be identified
We spend time, resources, attention, and money to improve the physical conditions and safety for our teams every day at work. We’ve been taught the safety pyramid — that for every serious injury or fatality, there are several lost time accidents. That for those lost time accidents, there are even more recordable injuries. And for those recordable injuries, there are even more near-misses and first aids.
With this visual in mind, we want team members to bring hazards up when they are small, basic, and correctable — so we prevent the bigger issues that cause damage and potentially serious injury or worse to our team.
If we use this same model and concept, we can look at near-misses and reporting hazards as our everyday coaching conversations. In consistently building trust with our team members through clear coaching discussions, we allow them to feel safe in reporting hazards (concerns about team members, performance issues, unclear goals, etc.) that could result in more significant issues. When our team knows they can talk with us, that we want to hear from them, and that we’ll act on their concerns, we build safety. Building safety helps us prevent bigger issues that can otherwise show up through performance issues, damage to morale, unhealthy conflict, turnover, etc.
Every day as a leader, in each discussion we choose to have (or not) with our team members, we are either helping create safety for our team or not.
With that in mind, how are you creating safety for your team members?