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Make Them Feel Safe and They’ll Take Risks


INFLUENCER: Employees will take smart risks when they know someone is in their corner, writes Merkley+Partners' Scott Gelber

Make Them Feel Safe and They’ll Take Risks

It’s a funny way to think about it, but I really believe it’s true.

Agency folks are really reluctant to stick their necks out, go above and beyond, and take smart, calculated risks if they don’t feel protected by their team leaders. If they’re not sure someone’s 'got their back' then why would they step outside their comfort zone? The risk is too great. 

But, if someone knows that their team leader’s got their back, is ready to help and willing to work with them through tough moments, etc., then they are much more likely to push themselves beyond their basic job description. In short, they’ll take smart risks when they know someone is in their corner – so as the title says: “Make them feel safe, and they’ll take risks.” 

It’s not rocket science, but all too often it’s forgotten.

But it’s important to remember that usually the best work and the most innovative thinking, as well as breakthrough ideas, are only possible when risks are taken. Risk is necessary, which in turn means that, for team members, feeling safe is also necessary.

Now, this doesn’t mean that employees have no accountability and that there isn’t recourse for bad decisions, but what it does mean is that a true leader needs to always be looking out for their team’s best interests – that can be a moment of motivation, constructive criticism or new thinking that helps them overcome a challenge, etc. 

So, while you think about this, realise there is an important nuance to 'safety' – it means you’re always looking out for your employees and will support them as they push themselves, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be critical or tough during certain moments. But during those moments, your team should always understand you have the best intentions – improvement and progress are at the heart of your actions – and that is a game-changing realisation, which will completely shift the way your team interacts with you.

So, long story short, give your employees a sense of 'safety' knowing that you are in their corner and will work on problems with them as they arise. They, in turn, will take the risks that are necessary to push your organisation forward. When inevitable missteps occur, shift the focus from criticism to improvement and progress.

You’ll see the benefits of this approach manifest in a motivated team that becomes increasingly comfortable outside of their comfort zones, searching for new ways to solve problems and create better opportunities.

Scott Gelber is president at Merkley+Partners
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Merkley+Partners, Fri, 17 May 2019 12:56:32 GMT