Posts Tagged ‘safe’

Safe & Sound At Work

February 5, 2012

This photo displays the  teamwork that’s essential  to complete a tough job.

Would you risk your life with people at work?

Perhaps more relevant: Is trust or fear most prevalent in your workplace? Are there non-stop “plays” about whose influence will prevail and who you will support?

Safety is a vital issue and key to culture in our organizations. The “safety” I reference has little to do with Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. It has everything to do with integrity and accountability. About a year ago I read a great interview with Dominic Orr, CEO of Aruba Networks. He talked about one management principle he relies on and its benefits. The principle is intellectual honesty.

Less Politics

Orr has intentionally built a culture which yields a competitive advantage for his organization. This CEO stomps on politics at work. Politics are practically about who gets what. A classic definition is “the acquisition of power.”

Orr considers politics  a distraction that requires great energy to perpetuate and manage. He is very aware of human nature and says politics precludes focus. Without accountability, the challenges of any enterprise can easily be translated to ego that involves defending roles, “territory,” statements or actions.

He insists on (and models) behavior which supports  far more vital concerns. Simply put and publicly stated: “less politics.” Politics, according to Orr, are about ego and defending positions – when humility and exploration that ensures learning serves both relationships and results far better. He “breaks up potential blocks of ice that may become icebergs” in his organization.  Instead, pressure is on clear, crisp expectations and measureable milestones.

Banished Inhibitions

So, what’s his action recipe?  Orr encourages plenty of feedback to preclude any inhibitions about sharing perspective and authentic contributions . He seeks unfiltered and active comment about how he (and others) manage. It is safe for employees to speak up, to contribute and to challenge.

He also freely provides candid, private guidance to employees.  So that staff know energy and attention is on the issue – not the person – emails may include sections that indicate: “start of intellectual honesty moment” and close with “end moment.” Orr tells people to avoid “digging in” on their perspective.

Although individuals are held accountable, far better decisions get made when multiple views get aired and rational criterion applied. An environment that prizes intellectual honesty allows this to happen. It feels safe. It also enables reflection as a routine habit so that both learning and progress occurs. Without the discipline of candor, parallel drama about who’s up and who’s down is fostered and the real work can’t get much attention.

People Trip Sometimes

Recently, the news carried a big story about a cruise ship running aground. “I tripped and fell in the lifeboat,” said the Italian captain who departed a sinking ship prematurely. Obviously, fear and chaos can influence judgment. In this case, the captain probably thought an honest response was too risky. But, his manufactured retort simply garnered more scorn.

All of us are momentarily “stupid” – sometimes. Judgment lapses and in time we feel foolish about a bad choice. The critical issue is how we act next. Disclosure that acknowledges the error, whether caused by emotion, pressure or some other factor, shows humanity. It can endear you to others and build strong bonds.

Seek Mind-Share

Creating a safe culture means there is authentic trust, interdependence and accountability. It is an indicator of a sound organization. The world and our work is so complex we must engage mind-share and commitment at work – not simply time. Leaders who manage well set the example of intellectual honesty. This provides the conditions for people, organizations and communities to soar.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com


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