We start this week with one of Aesop’s fables:
A lion prowled about a field in which four oxen grazed. Many times he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near, they turned their tails to one another so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell aquarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. The lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.
Either Aesop was profetic or he witnessed in 600 B.C. what we witness on a daily basis in the work place.
The Marine Corps puts a massive focus on team work. When a recruit steps off that bus in San Diego, he/she is concerned only for self and surviving a notoriously rigorous 84 days of training. When the recruit, now a Marine, is presented with the sword on the day of graduation from basic training of the Marine Corps, it means that there is an understanding, among other things, of the ability to do challenging things with the team, because there is no risk of failure within the team due to trust. That trust is established on what is called a safe environment. Creating a circle of safety is vital to your team. This circle is devoid of all humiliation, intimidation, isolation, feeling dumb, feeling useless, or being talked about behind your back. The only time people in this circle of safety are burned is when they break any of the basic rules of the circle. If they intimidate, humiliate, isolate or demean, they need to be led out of those habits. As a leader you create this circle of safety. This circle is an environnment of empathy — of trust in others to make decisions for themselves. When true leadership is present in this circle, negativity is called out and teamwork, innovation, constructive thinking, and suggestions are encouraged. True leadership will be fundamental in helping your teammates feel safe in that circle.
Do not interpret this concept of safety to mean low accountability or too much on the ‘warm, fuzzy’ scale. Much to the contrary. It actually promotes just the opposite.
Is there too much negativity in your group? Have a team meeting to change that. It will be the start of a process, so do not make it the only meeting. Reward positivity, encourage contructive thinking. A team member saying, “I hate our schedules” or “we shouldn’t have to deal with so many patients on our shift” is commonly heard and it, while true, leads to an attitude of negativity,
“Our schedule has been pretty slammed and each of us have a lot of patients on our plate. Is there anything we can do as a team to make that easier”? That’s what you want as a team. Everyone can say it as it is. But your team can become the team that comes in with the issues and leaves with solutions. It’s up to you to turn around trends of negativity, isolation and humiliation.
And doing the above is a matter of practice, not a one-time attitude change. It will require exhausting repetition.
Your challenge this week: Make your circle safe or safer. Recognize the weaknesses and establish practices that will improve the safety of your team.
Good luck, and please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions if you need help with this.
The fantastic read, that we have referenced before, “Leaders Eat Last”, was the base source for this post on trust and circles of safety.
Written by Emma and Karl Pister