Practical Leadership Actions #1: How do I ensure people feel supported, valued and safe?

We have recently developed a series of practical leadership actions responsive to major themes that have emerged through our work with over 700 Discovery in Action® (Leading People) program participants.  We have observed six major themes that have consistently emerged as participants have grappled with the question: When do people perform at their best?  These themes are around people feeling supported, valued and safe; creating a ‘team environment’; supporting learning and growth; empowering staff and building autonomy; ensuring clarity of roles and expectations; and creating meaning and purpose.  Our participants have also articulated many practical leadership actions they take to address these issues.

We will feature in each of the next 6 newsletters a set of Practical Leadership Actions relating to each of these themes, generated through our exposure to on-the-ground leaders as well as various examples from blogs, articles and books.  These actions are not provided as definitive or comprehensive lists, but a working set of ideas that we are sharing broadly.  There is a minimum of at least 30 potential actions relating to each of these themes – so plenty of ideas that may spark your thinking and your day-to-day leadership practice!

So this month our featured practical actions are around…

How do I ensure people feel supported, valued and safe?

A direct contributor to individual morale, confidence and levels of stress is the extent to which individuals feel they are supported in their workplace, feel valued and safe, both physically and psychologically. If individuals don’t feel they are treated respectfully as people and are not provided the resources and information necessary to do their jobs then they are unlikely to be happy and productive at work. A key task of leaders is to provide an environment where people feel supported, valued and safe.  When people feel supported, valued and safe they are likely to bring their best selves to work boosting commitment and productivity. We have created a simple one page sheet which contains 36 different ideas for action that leaders can take.  These actions are organised around the following 6 overarching strategies to ensure people feel supported, safe and valued:

  1. Communicate openly and authentically – having a mindset of being genuinely interested in the people you led will flow through all of your interactions and communication and they will experience you as authentic and trustworthy.
  2. Provide direct help and support – tuning in to how people are feeling and some of the challenges they are facing and then providing direct support will signal that you care.
  3. Actively encourage appropriate behaviours – people will be affected by the behaviours of their colleagues (not just you as the leader) so you have a role to drive positive behavioural norms in the group, including quickly addressing poor behaviours.
  4. Provide the necessary resources – it is very difficult for people to perform at their best if they don’t have the necessary resources (tools, systems, authority, physical work environment) so leaders have a role, within organisational constraints, to make such resources available.
  5. Share information regularly – a lack of information can, at best, make it difficult for people to do their jobs and, at worst, breed distrust, so regularly sharing information through a range of mechanisms is important.
  6. Show appreciation and recognition – the simple act of showing gratitude and recognising people’s efforts and value has a significant positive impact on team mood and performance (see ideal praise to criticism ratio)

So while there is a list of possible actions for each of these 6 strategies, there may be many other actions, particularly relevant in your context, that you may also identify.  Of course, we’d be interested in other ideas for action that people have implemented!

This practical ideas list might be used in a variety of ways:

  • Reflect and review on your practice – do I have coverage across all these strategies?
  • Engage with your people – would they like to see more of some of these actions?
  • Select one or two actions from the list that you’d like to experiment more with over the next few months

Good luck and let us know of any other actions we can add to our list!