Leadership Memo 2023-9
21st-century leadership is not about telling employees what to do and monitoring their progress like a hawk. It is about creating and maintaining an environment where employees feel safe and motivated to contribute to their fullest. We all want our employees to work at their natural best and not hold anything back, right? That way, we release their full potential. And when we release the potential of our staff, they will release the potential of the business. To do that, our employees need to be working in an environment where they feel safe and motivated.
So, what does it mean for employees to feel safe?
To say that in one sentence, employees feel free to express ideas and opinions, even admit making mistakes, without the fear of humiliation or retribution. When people don’t feel safe, they stop asking questions. They stop admitting weaknesses or mistakes. They hide failures to protect themselves. They stop offering new ideas. They refrain from thinking critically and accept the status quo. When that happens, it hinders your organizational growth, especially in these highly uncertain times when the world is increasingly complex and changing faster each day.
So, what are leaders to do? Make failure discussable! Because there will be no room for development and success if there is no room for failure. Promote fast learning and encourage open discussions. Do everything you can to encourage transparency so that when things go wrong (and they will), we LEARN!
And it all starts with you, leaders! Are you open, authentic, and approachable? Do you admit mistakes and discuss them as well as your KPIs? Do you show support even if something fails?
Lufthansa Airlines CEO, Jens Ritter, has been leading Lufthansa managers on a cultural journey, and one of their intended changes is creating an environment in which employees feel psychologically safe. This is what Jens has to say, “Is that always easy? Honestly: no. Sometimes, I feel the itch to simply say how things should be done. Fast. Sometimes, I want to give answers instead of asking questions and letting the opposite person find their way. It is not always easy to create a forum for input, to accept that mistakes happen. But I think if you really want to guarantee a spirit of continuous learning, it is vital.”
Our society changes, our employees change–management has to change too. But you need to change yourself first.
Are you on a similar journey? If so, I would love to hear it! Comment below and let me know.
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