Does your team feel safe?

March 3, 2020 4:19 pm

The uncertainty and ambiguity associated with constant change can create discomfort and even anxiety for many people. The leader’s skill in handing this disquiet can mean the difference between a productive team with resilient team members and a group of individuals whose focus is on ‘not getting it wrong’.

Work cultures that punish mis-steps, discourage diverse voices or fail to work effectively with conflict, further exacerbate the normal concerns that people experience when facing new challenges.

On the flip side, leaders who are not only skilled in including diverse perspectives but actively encourage the integration of different views, improve the wellbeing of employees and are more likely to have a team that is able to predict and deal with challenges before they create risk for the business. Likewise, when employees understand the type and level of risk the business is willing to absorb and are provided with the resources to manage inevitable risks, they can ‘test and learn’ while keeping themselves and the business safe.

At the most basic level, leaders need to be able to regulate their own emotion and thinking when facing unexpected challenges, mistakes or even conflicting options. However, few leaders have learned and practised techniques for managing their own, much less others anxiety and frustration when things don’t go to plan.

Some leaders mistakenly think simply ‘focusing on the positive’ will build resilience. But team members need guidance, clear expectations as well as useful feedback and coaching to improve performance. These same leadership practices also contribute to increased perception of safety, especially when the broader environment is ‘in motion’.

Leaders who are perfectionists have trouble accepting that ‘mistakes happen’ and don’t recognise that no matter how good the plan – at some point, all leaders must face ‘the unexpected and unwanted.

Keeping a risk from turning into a disaster is as much about managing the people component as the technical/business piece.

Neuroscience and psychology research highlights the importance of the leader’s role in creating the right mindset to balance risks and innovation. Similarly, recent research demonstrates the need to cultivate day-to-day work practices that are inclusive and that manage conflict in a way that keeps all members safe and willing to ‘put themselves out’ to help the team confront challenges and seize opportunities.

How are you managing?

Whether you are managing a team, business or yourself now is a good time to take stock of how you lead when unexpected challenges arise.

  1. Start by reflecting on your reactions – internally and externally – how do you come across to others in a crisis?
    • What is the impact of your reaction on your internal stress level?
    • Do you know how to quickly re-boot your brain so you can think critically and creatively even when things are not going your way?
  2. Next, take a moment to think about the practices you encourage and discourage in others.
    • What do you give attention to?
    • What do you ‘walk by’?
    • Are you fully conscious of how your mindset and habits impact others?

Do you want to understand more about the neuroscience of change and build your capacity to lead yourself and others through unexpected challenges?

Learn more and register for our one-day workshop “Leading Changehere.

Date: Wednesday 25th March: 8.30am – 4pm.
Location: Australian Institute of Company Directors: Business Lounge in Sydney.
Cost: $500 + GST.

Whether you manage projects, a team or yourself this session will help you:
• Gain insight into your habitual reactions to change and your impact on others.
• Know how to quickly and effectively bring your best thinking and problem solving to manage unexpected and unwanted challenges.
• Build resilience in yourself and the people you lead.


Photo credit: Aaron Blanco-tejedor on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.