As a former educator I’ve been brought up on the importance of developing safe environments. Be it a classroom, staff meeting, training program, sporting field or countless other examples, building a safe environment for your people leads to great results. Connectivity, confidence, teamwork, innovation and critical thinking are but a handful of the positive results that a leader will reap the benefits of after developing a safe environment.
Recently I had the great privilege to present to a group of executives studying their MBA at the Australian Institute of Management (AIM). As the co-founder of Leaders of Evolution, a leadership and development start up, this provided two opportunities:
- Articulate the company’s journey in business thus far and gain critical feedback on our approach
- Step outside my comfort zone and present to a group of professionals well versed in leadership practice and business development
As is always the case the need to plan and prepare in a meticulous fashion was imperative. This aspect was ours to control based on a loose brief of ‘our journey in business’. The perhaps more significant factor which was out of our control was the environment in which we would be delivering. This crucial aspect can pre-determine success or failure for individuals (me in this instance!) whilst at the same time tells a compelling story about the organisation.
Here’s a few reminders I received from the environment developed by AIM
You get one chance at a first impression: I was greeted warmly (twice actually!) upon arrival. Tony the concierge immediately developed a sense of welcoming and safety almost as it to say ‘you’re our guest and we’re pleased to have you here.’ Immediately any sense of anxiety or nerves about stepping into unfamiliar territory were eased.
Your environment speaks of your organisation: Unfortunately not everyone can have sweeping views of Melbourne’s north like AIM does but there is still much that you can do. The AIM Manifesto on the wall caught my eye immediately, subtle though it was. A heavily resourced library, well lit working spaces and pertinent sources of inspiration around the shared spaces gave the feel of a professional learning environment.
Your people tell a story: Immediately I could feel a buzz of energy with the groups using the shared spaces. This told me the participants were engaged, connected and felt comfortable within the environment. Reading the emotions of the people in the environment will give you an instant gauge as to how safe and connected they feel within it.
Control what you can: Stepping foot into the classroom allowed me the opportunity to build a safe environment for my audience. Spending a few minutes introducing myself to those in the room begins a connection, delivering a fun and engaging ice breaker continues this and finally I asked the group to discuss with a partner one professional triumph in 2015. This approach allowed everyone to begin a dialogue around a positive topic and helped me engage with every participant on a personal level. Developing genuine rapport and a sense of trust is imperative in building a safe environment.
Always have great food!: Hey, maybe it’s not the most important factor but catering to a high standard for your audience sure doesn’t hurt!
So, how about your environment? Is it safe? Could it be safer? What would your people say about your environment? What about visitors to your organisation? Crucially, what are you doing to develop a safe environment for anyone who steps foot through your door?
A safe environment builds trust and confidence, drives productivity, inspires innovation and ensures that your people feel valued and motivated to contribute. However this type of environment just doesn’t happen by chance.
To further understand the critical importance of developing safe environments watch this superb Ted Talk from renowned leadership expert Simon Sinek.
At Leaders of Evolution we are passionate about providing safe environments in our learning programs and in supporting our clients to do the same for their people. Contact us to find out more.
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Leaders of Evolution are passionate about education. We are the experts in the development of purposeful and empowering e-learning courses that deliver measurable results for students, athletes, teachers and the wider community.