A Top Priority for Leaders

Being a student of leadership for thirty plus years, I have come across list after list of what leaders do. I work in this field and I even have trouble keeping up. I imagine it is hard for you as well. After all the reading, studying, facilitating and thinking about leaders, there are three items that always surface to the top of my list. Let me offer the first one now, and the remaining two will be discussed in the next couple of months. See what you think, and assess yourself on how well you are fulfilling each. Here we go.

One of the most important outcomes for a leader seeking extraordinary results is to ensure a physically and emotionally safe environment. This one seems very obvious, especially the physically safe component. “Safety” is a core value in a number of organizations, especially where employees work in dangerous conditions. I am not sure I have ever come across a manufacturing plant, mill or mining operation where safety is not prominently and frequently promoted. And for very good reason. People working in these kinds of environments can be severely, even fatally injured. And of course, the same is true for truck drivers, mechanics, package handlers, and about everyone else.

It is also not uncommon to see safety messages around white collar offices, reminding people to hold on to stairway handrails or to tape down power cords laying across the floor, to prevent a trip and fall.

Yet seldom is Safety described in terms of emotional safety. Sadly I have worked with people who have literally been abused by words and actions of poor management. People have been publicly belittled, bullied, or constantly threatened about demotion or dismissal without cause. These are all examples which are hazardous to emotional well-being. And they take a major toll, not only on one’s engagement level, but also directly on the person’s overall health.

Safety Glasses Required is an example of a warning sign in many hazardous work locations, for obvious reasons. However, I do not recall ever seeing a sign that reads, ”Compassion and Understanding Required.” I imagine those are assumed. Yet I can tell you that I have come across many plant type workers (and those from about every other industry) who have been kicked around by self-absorbed bullies for bosses. Loss of eyesight would indeed be tragic. I would offer that elevated blood pressure, even heart attack resulting from unnecessary stress and emotional abuse, is also not a real good thing.

Healthy workers are a much better bet for achieving great results than are those injured or unhealthy. Leaders, you are responsible for providing a space where people are safe. Make sure emotional safety is treated as importantly as physical safety.

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