When you’re traveling on the road, there are laws, signs, and proper etiquette that promote driving safely and effectively. We all understand the guidelines, and, for the most part, we honor them, forming a social contract for safety.
We need to do the same at work. We need to create a sense of security and provide a safe way for team members to openly express themselves.
To achieve this, we need a set of guidelines that everyone can embrace and honor. These guidelines lay out specifically how we are going to connect with one another to honor confidential conversations, encourage open and honest dialogue, and committo speaking individual truths.
Through our work with hundreds of organizations, we’ve developed some key guidelines for establishing this zone of safety. Here are eight of them:
- I will respect confidentiality
Whatever happens in a conversation or meeting stays with the participants, unless the owner(s) of what was shared explicitly consent to sharing. Every team needs to be able to invoke confidentiality when necessary. Sensitive issues can arise, whether they are personal, family or business related, tactical or strategic, financial, or involve human resources, and the team needs to be able to have an open and frank discussion without worrying about whether information will be leaked to other coworkers.
- I will be present in the moment
Right here, right now, participants commit to showing up with their full presence. Only you know how distracted you are—or can easily become. You have to make it a point to stay present and engaged.
- I will speak my truth
Participants must take ownership for sharing stories from their essence— truths unique to them. This is actually all you have to offer your team. It is a commitment to bring your voice and show up.
- I will express and own my feelings
Share your emotions in context and take responsibility for your feelings as belonging to you, without expecting that others will feel the same. This is an intentional commitment to learn how to be more emotionally intelligent. Identifying what you are feeling in the moment and expressing that emotion is your commitment to your team in an ongoing effort to create more connective authentic relationships.
- I will actively listen
Bring all your senses to interactions and use them to receive data and emotion using your head and heart. Hear the silence between words. Observe gestures. Process and embrace all the energy. Active listening speaks to being engaged in the act of listening. For most of us, we absorb information by thinking in terms of problem solving. You should suspend this “listen to fix” mode initially, because that will take you into the process of developing ideas to help this person. When this happens, you are no longer listening or engaged with the person.
- I will speak respectfully, without blaming, shaming, or fixing
Team members show respect for each other when they claim responsibility for their parts, rather than blaming others. When an entire team lifts blame from the group, they create an environment where each member seeks to improve themselves rather than fix others. You want to have an open debate about issues and opportunities before the team, but you always need to be respectful of one another.
- I will ask permission before offering feedback or advice
Those of you that are professional fixers, remember that any unsolicited advice will be received as criticism! So if you find yourself saying, “What you need to do is . . . ”or “Have you thought about trying . . . ?”you’ve fallen into the advice-giving trap.
By asking someone before you give them feedback, you increase the feeling of safety and the person to whom you’re speaking is more likely to receive your offer. Just simply say, “I have an idea for you, are you open to discussing it?” Or, “I have some experience with that type of situation that I’d be happy to share. Is now a good time?”
- I am willing to laugh at myself
We can’t take ourselves too seriously. Our work is serious. Business is serious. But, don’t be wound so tight that you can’t have a good laugh along the way. e best team we know laughs a lot! Safety has allowed them to drop their defenses, which not only allows team members to speak more openly about sensitive issues, it allows them to embrace spontaneity and playfulness, joy and lightheartedness. So, enjoy the journey with your colleagues.
Thia is a guest post by Barry Kaplan and Jeff Manchester. They are the authors of The Power of Vulnerability: How To Create A Team Of Leaders By Shifting INward (Greenleaf Book Group Press). As partners at Shift 180, they coach business leaders and their teams to unlock their full potential. To learn more, visit: www.shift180.com