At ACHIEVE, we believe that everyone should be able to like where they work. People can only enjoy their work when they feel welcomed, included, and safe in the presence of leadership. We know that leadership impacts every aspect of an employee’s experience. We hear over and over again that people don’t quit organizations, they quit their bosses.
If we want to attract and maintain the best employees, we need to act in ways that allow them to give their best, which in turn requires that they feel they can trust their leadership.
Recently, my daughter asked me to edit an essay on the medieval story, The Knight with The Lion. In her essay, she argues that the lion is the catalyst for the knight’s change of character. In the story, the knight embarks on an adventure in order to win fame. However, while he is busy trying to gain renown, he forgets that he also has a duty to keep his promise to protect and care for others. On one of the knight’s encounters, he saves a lion from a serpent, despite his fear that the lion would attack him afterwards. However, rather than attacking him, the lion becomes his loyal companion who remains by his side and protects him at all costs. Ultimately, the lion’s steadfastness inspires a change of heart in the knight, and he recognizes that he, like the lion, has a choice to make: whether or not he should act for the good of others.
This story helps illustrate three choices leaders have to make in order to create a safe and caring culture:
To be present or absent.
We need to know what is happening in our places of work. What issues need addressing? What is working? What is not? If we are absent, we can be sure our employees will feel abandoned. Like the lion, we want to be at our team’s side. However, this is not always easy – the day-to-day demands of work can easily take up all our time. If we want to know what is important to our employees both professionally and personally, we need to interact, have conversations, and ask questions.
To be mindful when we speak or exert our authority.
As leaders, our influence can be used for harm or for good. Like the lion, we can be intimidating simply because of who we are and the role we hold in our organization. We need to remember that our voice is amplified and how and when we speak plays a significant role in influencing our team toward its goals and how secure they feel at work.
To stay calm or react.
A 2017 study revealed that one of the primary characteristics of an inspiring leader is the ability to stay centered. In fact, being calm and centered doubles one’s chance of being seen as a good leader. Good leaders know how to manage their stress, listen well, and empathize. These qualities help set the stage for a safe and secure workplace culture. Like the lion, leaders should know how to remain calm despite what adventures or perils are encountered.
Creating a culture of safety requires us to be present so we can care meaningfully about the people we work with, consider when we should speak or remain quiet, and remain mindful and present in and out of crises. The end result may not be a “happily ever after,” but these choices will help create a happier and kinder workplace.
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