Emotional Safety – Part 3

The Key to Great Leadership

In part 1 of emotional safety I highlighted the important role Board members play in selecting and promoting the right leaders. Part 2 focused on striking a balance between productivity and safety. In part 3 we close out this piece on emotional safety by focusing on the importance of building trust.

Leaders must be transparent and trustworthy with a desire to bring out the best in their employees.

One way to build trust, which is the foundation of a speak up culture, is by having effective meetings. Why have effective meetings? Because meetings are a microcosm of organizational culture. If meetings are well organized, uplifting and move participants to action then typically safety culture will be positively impacted.

All of the companies I previously had the privilege of working for adopted effective meeting management skills leading to improved safety cultures. What are those skills? Use of agendas that include; specific and measurable desired outcomes, specified roles and responsibilities and a clear decision-making methodology that focuses on managing the decision-making process vs. making every decision. The skill set also involves behaviors that help the team collaboratively reach lasting agreements that then moves the needle on performance. Once these skills were adopted, the capacity of the leadership teams and organizations I was a part of went sky high.

I learned so much from those sessions and the importance of listening to our team. Their feedback always helped to craft a better solution.  Most importantly, those sessions built trust.

Another way to build trust and transparency is by visiting your line of business and interacting with the team. Often I would spend several days a week in the field at the various power plants I was responsible for, listening to and dialoguing with my team. Management by walking around was a great way to build relationships and better understand the working conditions the team was up against. In addition to field activities, one on one discussions and normal staff updates, I would also hold listening and learning (L&L) sessions with my line of business and at times, their families.  I started the L&L, which was often attended by over 100 people, with safety and would emphasize the importance of making the conversation “emotionally safe” regardless of the number of people in the room. We would then dive into brainstorming questions, rumors and feedback. The information would be captured real time on a large screen for all to see. My leadership team would provide answers that were recorded by videotaping the sessions so as to hold us accountable to our words. When we did not have answers, we would take an action to find out and communicate back to the group. I learned so much from those sessions and the importance of listening to our team. Their feedback always helped to craft a better solution.  Most importantly, those sessions built trust.

In conclusion, an emotionally safe, speak up culture is the responsibility of every team member from the Board of Directors to the employee on the front line. Emotional safety flourishes when affordability is properly addressed in a collaborative fashion that truly puts safety first while carefully watching for the flags that can create an improper balance. The wheels of emotional safety are lubricated when trust and transparency is solid. Achieve trust, the foundation of any speak up culture, by having effective meetings and by getting out into the field and listening to your team’s feedback on a regular basis. These behaviors are sure to establish the emotionally safe speak up culture the team deserves.

Please checkout our first and second posts of this three part blog post.