A key responsibility for every leader is to create an environment of psychological safety and trust. To feel safe at work is to have the knowledge that you can speak your mind without undue fear of the consequences.
When employees feel safe, they also feel empowered to be themselves. Without psychological safety, they begin to lose perspective and the ability to reason analytically.
The need for this safety is particularly important at this time. As Kyocera’s Management Philosophy reminds us, our company is committed to fair management and operation, while upholding ‘doing what is right as a human being’ as principal criterion for business decisions.
This article by entrepreneur Robert Glazer, offers insights into how President and CEO of Ford Motor Company Alan Mulally, appointed in 2006, discovered that executives felt unsafe sharing bad news with leadership. This summary of how he saved Ford, a company then in crisis, by encouraging them to tell the truth is a great example of why truth telling is a business imperative:
The company was on its way to losing $17 billion dollars and it was clear there was no alignment between plans and reality.Ford’s leadership team had created a culture that made executives feel insecure about sharing problems. That meant leadership remained unaware of issues affecting performance.
To address this, Mulally encouraged managers to highlight problems immediately, so that solutions could be found. He and his team were soon able to gain a more accurate picture of the company’s challenges. This clarity was crucial to Mulally’s revitalisation of Ford, based on a strategy driven by transparency and attainable goals.He knew the importance of empowering teams to raise problems and ensuing that all ideas were heard.
Today, even the most successful businesses are facing significant challenges. That is why we encourage new ideas and perspectives and welcome the discussion of problems that need to be overcome.
A culture where people feel safe and supported is essential to high performance and engagement. It elicits trust, belonging, confidence and creativity — enabling employees to be more motivated and to bring their whole selves to work.