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Keys to Creating Emotional Safety and Security

June 22, 2011 1 comment

Maximizing the capabilities of your employees requires the creation of an emotionally safe and secure environment. Here are some tips to building that kind of environment.

1) Be personally warm and accepting of your staff. You need to accept them even if you don’t always like them. You care because they are there and they will make your organization successful (or not!).

2) Assure physical safety and a relative degree of comfort. They don’t need a posh environment to feel secure, but they do need bathrooms, heat, and water to work comfortably.

3) Drive out fear of rejection (my take on Deming). Personal judgments are poison to security. No one is a jerk, asshole, or idiot, and no one is stupid, insecure, or ridiculous. People may have problems and quirks, but you are not their judge. Besides, you have them too.

4) Be honest and straightforward. Your staff doesn’t need to waste brain energy figuring out if you mean something different than you say.

5) Have a commitment to your employees and their success. After all, their success is yours. So you are in it together with them.

6) Have a positive attitude. It helps people feel like there is something good ahead. Negative attitudes cause people to worry about the impending doom. It also creates a positive atmosphere which invites creativity and commitment.

7) Be oriented to outcomes. You want your employees and the company to succeed. Consequently the most important goal is to get the business work done right and done well. An outcome orientation also allows corrections to be focused on what is needed for the business, not what is wrong with the employee. And, when things do go wrong, or errors are made, you can review with a mind to the proper outcome.

8 ) Measure success and celebrate it. People need to know that they are mastering their work and that it matters. Be clear about the benefits of worker efforts and reward it. The reward may be monetary, but it must always be personal. This means you tell your employee that they did a great job, and that you/the company appreciates it.
You can do this. It’s actually a pleasure. And it matters a lot.

Tom DeMaio, PhD

www.demaiopsychology.com

Safety and Security in the Workplace

When I wrote about safety and security in the workplace last September 10, I didn’t realize it would be the subject most searched to find our blog. Clearly leaders and managers want to know how to create safety and security for themselves and their employees in the workplace.

Creating a safe workplace is definitely not about having police officers roaming the shop floor. Safety and security happens fundamentally because someone running the show actually cares enough to make it that way. The most important aspect of leadership in this regard is that they care.

When leadership cares they make sure that dangerous or threatening people are not working in the organization. Threats to safety and security are simply not to be tolerated; not from coworkers and not from management. This is established through workplace rules and policies.

Workers generally don’t feel threatened by rules, especially those established for their safety. The policies and procedures, what we call structure, are there to provide a framework for achieving. With a framework in place, leadership and management can focus on care and support.

This care and support has people feel like they are important and integral to the success of the organization. Nurturance creates a feeling of security which allows people to work at their best. Without the fear of rejection (of losing their job) people can settle in and bring their best problem-solving to their job.

The essential fuel to power employees is the nurturance provided by the organization. The nurturance is provided through interactions that indicate that the company values its people; that they are listened to, encouraged, and offered guidance. No one talks down to them or criticizes them personally.

There are two people that workers look to for the sense of caring and security. They look to their immediate supervisor and to the overall leader of the organization. The immediate supervisor is the translator, or messenger, of the company. The CEO is the company.

When workers see that these people care, they feel safe and secure. More about this in my coming posts.

Tom DeMaio, PhD

www.DeMaioPsychology.com

Being an Accepting Leader

Easier said than done. That’s the reaction I sometimes get when talking with leaders and managers. Working with people can be difficult and frustrating. People make mistakes, get irrational, and need things that seem unrelated to the mission of the business.

So where do you find the acceptance, the caring, the ‘love’? For me, it’s all in the heart. We need to remember that one person is not better than another. We are all born human and all have similar struggles with the human condition. Be careful not to judge, you have not walked in the other’s shoes.

“Fine,” I’ll hear, “but do I have to accept the times when people screw up?” My response is absolutely not. You accept the person, not necessarily their behavior. You would like to see each employee succeed and you are committed to helping them achieve high performance for their own personal success and for the good of the organization. This is why your messages about mistakes will be about the performance and not about the nature of the person.

Your goal is not to be a saint either. You can get annoyed, frustrated, or upset with people. Your emotional reaction can show that they matter and that what they do matters to the business. Your upset is because the business goals are being thwarted, not because they are idiots. And this is what you need to have clear in your heart and in your actions. So if you have been short or cross with someone you have to go back and let them know that you didn’t mean it personally.

If you are a manager and leader, you are probably oriented to outcomes: you want to achieve the mission of your organization. Remember, it is your attachment to those goals that gets you frustrated with people. Part of your growth as a leader is to be committed to the mission and to finding the best ways for people to achieve it. You don’t want to turn into HAL, the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, who had to eliminate the spaceship crew because he believed they threatened the mission.

People are much easier to accept when you have a full toolkit for working with them. Learn the six principles; it will work for you and for those you lead.

Tom DeMaio, PhD

www.DeMaioPsychology.com

Acceptance – The Key to Managing and Leading People

Too often business managers and leaders look to workplace programs to create healthy and productive employees. The great ones know something that is foundational and more natural. You can’t build a dynamic employee culture unless you ACCEPT people. So easy to say, but what does it mean?

Great leaders and managers appreciate people and accept that they are human: that they can be irrational and emotional. People aren’t machines and don’t work like them. They don’t just do the assignment as it is asked and sometimes they like to do things their own way. It is almost impossible to lead people if you don’t like them and the way they operate.

Employees read acceptance from their leaders. They look to the smile on your face when you interact with them. The smile conveys that they are appreciated and that they matter to you. The absence of some form of positive affirmation can easily be read as rejection, disinterest, or bad intent. This is what makes the ‘meet and greet’ aspect of leadership so important.

Expressing an interest in employees, both professionally and personally, conveys that you care. People always light up when someone higher up asks them about their job. The simplest question, like, “how is it going?” can really make someone’s day. The sense is that they matter if the boss asks. And if they matter, then they are more likely to give a damn about the work and the company.

A critical piece to the process is that people believe they are wanted, and that they are not being rejected. Fears of rejection haunt even the most stable and solid personalities. Peoples’ brains are wired to look for rejection since avoiding it (developmentally) was a survival skill.

Personal affirmations are incredibly powerful. People remember if their boss noticed and mentioned something they did well. It builds connection and loyalty to the mission.

Remember, as a leader, you want to leave nothing about acceptance/rejection to the imagination of the employee. Some are too prone to expecting rejection or disapproval. You must counter this actively through your interaction (and workplace programs) to build a solid foundation of trust and good will.

People ultimately work for you, not just the mission of the organization. Your personal acceptance makes all the difference.

Tom DeMaio, PhD

www.demaiopsychology.com

Taking Care of Employees Works in a Law Firm

You know the stereotype of lawyers and law firms. They can be matter of fact and production oriented. How about a law firm that understands the people side of business and wins a Psychologically Healthy Workplace award? Well, at Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus (CGWG), they are matter of fact about taking care of their people, are winning work-life balance awards, and are very productive.

CGWG attorneys practice across three offices in Arkansas serving clients in industries in banking, manufacturing, retail, and hospitality. These attorneys pay attention to the bottom line, and they do it by making flexibility their strong suit.

Supporting a work-life balance is not typical in law firms. But at CGWG there are no billable hour requirements; in fact, hours are monitored for signs of excessive work. Employees are allowed to work modified schedules and telecommute when needed to accommodate their family life.

At CGWG there is a premium on employee involvement. With an open-door policy, self-managed groups, continuous improvement teams and multi-rater performance evaluations CGWG employees stay involved and engaged with the firm. Major decisions regarding benefits packages and other employee policies usually involve an open-floor discussion.

In the area of growth and development, CGWG sponsors learning opportunities by paying for seminars and professional conferences. The firm also understands the importance of custom tailored learning and development opportunities. For example, the firm helped an administrator earn a human resources certification and another manager became a Certified Legal Manager.

CGWG not only won a Healthy Workplace Award, it also won an Arkansas Business of the Year award. With a set of healthy workplace practices in place, the cost of health benefits at CGWG has remained stable since 2004.

The people side of business works in any business or organization. It is a matter of fact and production orientation. People are happier, healthier, and more productive. You can apply this to your organization.

Tom DeMaio, PhD

www.demaiopsychology.com