Create a Circle of Safety for Trust and Cooperation

Simon Sinek is one of the TED Talk speakers I want to hear every time he pops up again on the scene. He has great insights and backs it up with his research and stories.

In his latest talk he discusses how and why good leaders make you feel safe. Don’t you want to feel safe? As he points out, there is quite a bit of danger in our worlds. There are many things that can happen to impact us in a negative way.

So when it comes to leaders what we want are leaders who create an environment that make us feel safe. Sinek talks about the “Circle of Safety” a good leader creates. There may be danger all around but inside the environment that the leader has created for the organization there is safety.

And when there is safety the byproduct is trust and cooperation. This is why some companies are able to do exceedingly well while others—faced with the same dangers around them—falter and fail.

One example he cites is that of Bob Chapman of Barry-Wehmiller Companies. In the economic strain of 2008 their company lost 30% of their orders overnight. When the Board got together to decide what to do Bob refused layoffs. As Sinek says, “He doesn’t believe in head counts but in heart counts.”

Their solution? Everyone would take at least four weeks of unpaid vacation. Bob told their employees that “all should suffer a little rather than any suffer a lot.” The company saved $20 million and kept their people safe.

People will do extraordinary things when they are in a safe environment and they know their leaders care for them.

Jesus modeled the same principle. He created a place of inclusion. A place where people could be open and authentic without feeling guilt or shame. And yet he inspired followers then and followers now to be better people. Dangers? Yes, they still exist. But he led the way and demonstrated the ultimate creation of safety: the way to eternal life.

You can lead from whatever position you are in. If you are a parent, how are you creating a safe environment for your family? If you lead at your workplace, do people under your supervision feel they can make mistakes but have room to learn and grow from them?

The Circle of Safety. You will know you have created that environment when people start trusting and cooperating and saying the reason they are going the extra mile for you is that you would have done it for them.

Question: Where have you experienced a “Circle of Safety”?


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