Making Your People Feel Safe: 6 Strategies That Impact

Have you ever sent an email of communication that was not properly thought through and you truly regretted it?

I have.

And I remember it well.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles |
Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles |

Not Making Others Feel Safe

There was a situation where I worked where someone was not performing up to adequate standards. I was not directly over this person but was part of a larger advisory group.

I recall reading yet another email of complaint, and before I took the time to analyze my communication or get with the person in charge, I quickly crafted my thoughts and hit “send.” It was not that the email was particularly harsh, but I was indirectly harsh with the leader over this other worker.

I damaged a relationship that day, and as I reread that email, I went to that person and apologized for my behavior. I had breached trust and put this supervisor on the defensive. I kept that email for a long time to remind me of what I wanted to never do again.

Though there were several talk-points from that situation, the most glaring was that I did not make my people feel safe. I learned a big lesson that day.

The motivation for this post came from a video by Simon Sinek titled Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe. I would encourage you to watch it.

So What Does It Mean to Make Your People Feel Safe?

What do I mean by making your people feel safe? It means that those you have influence over do not feel vulnerable when around you, like you are going to take advantage of them. You create an environment of trust and honest communication. Sinek articulates it clearly in the outcome of feeling safe:

You see, if the conditions are wrong, we are forced to expend our own time and energy to protect ourselves from each other, and that inherently weakens the organization. When we feel safe inside the organization, we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.

You know this as well as I do, but getting things done is not our only objective as leaders – it is more in making those around us feel safe. It is creating that synergy and strength that creates something as a whole that is much bigger and grander than each of the constituent parts. People caring about each other.

Six Strategies to Make Your People Feel Safe

That day some years ago taught me some valuable lessons and I endeavored from that day forward to create safe environments for my people. So how did I do that? Here are six insights that have been strategic for me:

  • Serve those around you that you lead. Do a simple errand. Complement them. Praise them in public. Service to their success.
  • Show empathy for others. Attempt to live in their world, in their concerns.
  • Ask insightful questions beyond “how are you?” Ask questions that matter, that draw out passion and big-picture thinking.
  • Listen to the needs, values, interests and concerns of those you lead. Pick up on not only what is said but also what is not said.
  • Involve others in the process of decision-making. Ask what they would do, how they would do it, and why they would do it that way.
  • Make their needs your needs.

I learned through making these an active part of my leadership that for most people, you put a quarter in and get back a dollar of output.

Relational messes typically occur when I am not doing regular maintenance. People are a stewardship, not just a means of getting your “stuff” done.

These ideas are really nothing new – the scriptures articulate these principles very plainly:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3)

So how do you make your people feel safe? What ideas have worked for you?




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