Creating Cultures that say: “Change it? Of course!”

This article is the ninth part of a 12-part series featuring snippets from my book, The Agile Secret.

Very simply, we create teams that can respond to customer change positively when we ourselves are responsive to our team. The best leaders enable and actively encourage colleagues to explore and take risks. How? By building trust. Adults and children need security in their relationships. It’s a basic human need.

The Circle of Security

Without security we feel somehow lost in the world and unsafe. From a young age we orientate ourselves around our primary-care givers – normally parents – and form an incredibly close bond or attachment that affects everything in childhood, including stress levels, confidence, physical and mental health. As children, this bond is strengthened by our daily lives. With a “full cup” of confidence children are able to go off and explore, especially if encouraged by their parents. During these explorations they use up their security energy, and at some point become somewhat overwhelmed. They then look around (when babies) or move/call etc. as they get older, to seek the support of the primary-care givers, or of those to whom they are attached. If they can’t find a primary-attachment figure, they may move to a secondary-attachment figure, such as grandparents, teachers, etc.

We can represent this cycle of exploration and return with a circle. In our adult life we still need attachment bonds. This tends to be with our friends (in early adulthood) or partner/spouse. The best leaders create this security for team members. They enable and actively encourage colleagues to go off and explore/take risks (empowerment) but, when needed, are there for the team members to seek support.

Safety Strategy

If leaders are unable to implement the appropriate strategy at the right time, the colleague starts to have feelings of insecurity in the relationship and doesn’t feel safe. The more safe they feel, the more likely they are to take risks, step up to greater responsibility and confidently fulfil their role.

  1. Proximity

    Definition: Proximity is about availability. One of a leader’s priorities is to somehow be available for team members at the point of need. This could be on the end of a phone or via email. Attachment figures need to “be around” and to notice where their team members are on the circle and proactively encourage/support.
    Example: The manager who makes a point of walking through the office every morning to say “good morning” and stops to have a focused conversation with at least one team member to find out how they are – even if it’s only for a couple of minutes. This helps the manager to remain visible and approachable.
    Question: What are you already doing that demonstrates you are available to others?

  2. Openness

    Definition: Encouraging another to express their thoughts and feelings. Leaders’ skills in listening, empathy and handling emotion will allow team members to speak up about genuine thoughts, feelings or needs. Here we are aiming to listen to what support or encouragement might be required.
    Example: The manager who listens when a team member confides in them about something small but personal is more likely to be approached about bigger or more troubling issues that may cause division in the relationship.
    Question: Think of a time you shared something quite small but significant with someone and they really listened. How did that make you feel?

  3. Responsiveness

    Definition: Demonstrating empathy and action as a result of an expressed need. When the leader is asked for help/ support/encouragement/a change of behaviour (e.g. you are too controlling), they have a responsibility to action this. If we hear, but don’t respond, our relationship is weakened. When we repeatedly listen and then respond, our relationship is strengthened. As a result, individuals can take on more responsibility, take more risks and stretch themselves.
    Example: The manager who is asked for advice on time management offers to meet the team member once a week to coach them.
    Question: What one thing could you do tomorrow to be more responsive with your colleagues in your team? When we do this with our teams, it is incredibly simple to ask them to secure-base their clients. To take steps to be proximate. Be open. Be responsive. These three behaviours are the foundation of success in any human relationship. Period.

Download The Agile Secret on Amazon Kindle here.

Next Week: ‘Let’s Meet, Briefly’