Create a Safe Environment | Fundamental #6

Safety requires accountability, awareness, and diligence. Never take shortcuts that compromise your or others’ safety. Performance thrives in a safe environment.

“The safety of the people shall be the highest law.” 
-Marcus Tullius Cicero
Cicero wrote this circa 60 BC and it is as valid today as it was in the Roman Empire.

As a leader, the safety of YOUR people – your employees – is your highest law. It is, of course, your responsibility to ensure that their work environment is physically safe, compliant with all laws and industry standards, at a minimum.


Physical safety is only half of your total safety responsibility.


While doing a series of 360 interviews for a coaching client last year, I noted quickly that the first two of the client’s subordinates with whom I spoke had nothing but positive comments; they told me what they believed the client’s strengths to be, with clear examples. However, neither one could think of a single area of improvement for their boss.

I’m sure many of you have participated in a 360 process, and you know this is NOT the norm. What turned out to be one of the individual’s major blind spots, first revealed in those two interviews, was a failure to allow the staff to feel safe.

They did not feel safe speaking freely, for fear of retribution. The client had perceived that the employees appeared uninspired, that they all seemed “to be just coming in and doing their jobs – period” but was unsure how to change that.

The perceived lack of safety in an organization will certainly give you a calm, quiet work environment.

What it will not give you is a high performing team.

Successful companies outshine their competitors by going above and beyond, whether it be in product/service quality, innovation, customer service, reliability or additional attributes. To step outside the “just doing their job” boxes, innovating and performing at higher levels, people need to feel safe; safe to voice their ideas and opinions, safe to try something new, safe to fail.

In the words of noted organizational author Simon Sinek, “Leadership is about making people feel safe. When someone feels heard, they feel safe.”

Are you providing the safe environment necessary for excellence? Let’s talk about it.


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