Episode 10: Make It Safe

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One of the best steps you can take to create a high-performing team and to create a company that is engaged is to make an environment where your team or employees feel safe. 

In this episode you’ll hear:

  • Build a culture of safety
  • What happens when people in your company don’t feel safe?
  • Practices or actions that make people not feel safe
  • As a leader, there are certain questions you should ask yourself
  • Things you can do to help make people feel safe

Resources Mentioned

Full Episode Transcript


Build a Culture of Safety

Hello Friends. In a previous episode, we talked about how it was the leader, not the team that made the most difference. You could have the same team with different leaders and get totally different results. So today we’re going to talk about one of the steps, one of the things you can do to build as a leader, more high-performing teams to build a culture that’s more productive and more engaged, and so on.

So what is that? What is one of the steps you can take? Well, one of the most important things you can do is to build a culture of safety, an environment of safety.


Simon Sinek talks about this in his books, at least some of his books, especially Leaders Eat Last. And in the book, what always stuck with me was when we talked about how people were looking inward or outward from the company.


So for example, if people feel safe in your company if they feel protected, and supported by you, they’re going to face outward toward the world, toward their customers, toward whatever they need to face outward toward to help the company reach its goals, reach its mission.

However, when people don’t feel safe, when they feel like they have to protect themselves from inside, from the people inside, they don’t face outward, they face inward. And because of that they can’t face outward and deal with the problems from the outside. They’re not directly focusing on the customers and all the things in the world they need to focus on.


What happens when people in your company don’t feel safe?

They have to focus on protecting themselves. And that’s dangerous for our company. That’s ineffective, that’s unproductive. It’s not good for the customers, it’s not good for the employees. It’s not good for you as a leader or for the company as a whole.

You want your people to feel safe, supported, and protected, so they can face outward and face whatever problems come their way in regard to your business.


Practices or actions that make people not feel safe

So here are some ways that people don’t feel safe. Here are some practices or actions or things that happen that make people not feel safe and feel like they have to face inward.

So, one is a “gotcha environment” where people are about finding the wrong that their employees do.

  • Oh, you did wrong! I’m gonna get you.
  • Oh, you’re gonna get a ride up!
  • Oh, you’re gonna get this!

You’re treating them in such a way that you’re just out to get them instead of supporting them.


People fear making mistakes because of that because they don’t want to get gotten. People will also be less likely to take risks or innovate or do anything new because then if they make a mistake, they’re gonna get gotten.


So people generally play it safe in those kinds of environments and just try to get by doing what they know is safe, doing the work they know they can do. Things don’t progress as they should. People aren’t productive. The morale is lowered, and people are not engaged because of the fear of making mistakes.

The gotcha environment.

Some companies, some people, and some leaders see people as cogs and machines or just tools. And if you treat people that way, people know they’re gonna be treated that way. And that creates a disengagement when they just feel like tools, they don’t feel safe, they don’t feel like you’re out for them to help them support them.

They feel like you’re again, treating them as cogs and they can just easily be replaced. It doesn’t matter, they don’t matter to you.


As a leader, there are certain questions you should ask yourself

So let me switch it up a second and I’m going to be asking the rest of these kinds of questions toward you as a leader.

So I guess going back a little bit, do people fear making mistakes with you? Do they fear they’re gonna be out to get them? Do people feel like they’re cogs just in the machine for you? Do people fear disagreeing with you?

Have you created an environment where disagreement is okay and it’s encouraged? Or do people fear disagreeing with you because you’re gonna get angry at them or respond negatively or you don’t like it when anybody disagrees with your ideas? As a leader, do people feel safe speaking up? Do people feel like talking to you about issues?

Are they gonna be afraid that they bring bad news to you, and you’ll respond negatively to them? Or do you encourage that? If people fear bringing up problems coming for the same thing, are they afraid to say, Hey, this is going on because of how you might respond or how you might lay blame on them or somebody else?


All those are negative actions that often happen in companies and businesses with managers in all sorts of situations. So the question is, does it happen with you as a leader?

Do you create that kind of environment where people don’t feel safe speaking up, they don’t feel safe, disagreeing, they don’t feel safe making mistakes? Or do you do the opposite? Do you encourage innovation? Do you encourage risk-taking? Which sometimes brings mistakes.

When we try new things, when we take experiments, when we take risks and try to improve and pursue innovations, and ideas, mistakes are going to happen. That’s just part of learning. Do you encourage and support people and help them learn through it? Or are you out to get them?


Things you can do to help make people feel safe

So here are some things you can do. Thinking of all that we’ve kind of talked about to help make it safe. Well, one to really kind of open the door for people who disagree to give feedback to yourself and to others and to even accept your feedback more is to ask for feedback and criticism yourself.

Ask them, how can you be better? What can you do differently? How can you support them? And sometimes people won’t want to say anything, but sometimes you kind of have to press. And when they do, don’t react negatively. Don’t argue with them or disagree. Just say thank you, think about it but accept that feedback.

In meetings, encourage dissent and disagreement. Encourage it, welcome it. People may at first not want to do that. They don’t feel safe. Help them feel safe. If you present an idea, ask someone to argue against it. Say what could go wrong with this? Get it to be a norm where people disagree and it’s okay.


Encourage risk. Taking new ideas, innovations, and mistakes that come with it. When people do make mistakes, don’t be out to get them. Be out to support them and help them learn from it. When people make mistakes, show that support.


Ask for problems. Make sure when people bring you stuff, watch your reaction to it. Make sure that you actually really do care about your people and that you’re there to support them and you’re about helping them. Remember, as a leader, your job is to serve them, to help them and the team reach the goals of your team, your company, and so on. Be about helping them support them.

This kind of reminds me of the first episode of the show on Netflix, New Amsterdam, and I think it’s on some other network probably. But it was really cool for me to see this on the New Amsterdam show.

In the first episode, the new hospital manager comes in and his whole mentality is, how can I help you? And people didn’t want to speak up when he asked for solutions, how can I help you? Until one person did and he’s like, sure, let’s do it. Another person did.

It may take some work on your part to get people to speak up, share their ideas, show disagreement, and argue different viewpoints, to make them where they feel safe. But the efforts are worth it.

Be about helping your team. How can I help be about supporting them? Make them feel safe in the environment so they can face outward to face the problems. Cuz they know you have their back and that you support them and you’re there for them in your company, on your team.


No one should fear saying, I made a mistake. No one should fear saying, I have a problem. No one should fear saying, I don’t know how to do this.

I hope this helps. I’ll see you next time.

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of No More Bad Leaders. If this episode meant something to you, I would be honored if you share it with someone who would benefit from it. You can find more episodes here.

If you have any comments, questions, or inquiries, feel free to contact me.

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