EQUIFAX BREACH, HARVEY REBUILD SHOW OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE LEADERSHIP COIN

Danger is a constant in life, but leaders set the tone in providing a circle of safety in the workplace

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At their best, companies provide their employees a safe haven from the dangers that would rob us of our success. This all starts with great leaders, who would sooner sacrifice the numbers to save their people than sacrifice their people to save the numbers.

We believe at FPG that everyone is “enough,” and in order to truly live into that reality, leaders need to fashion their companies into places where people feel safe. That allows employees to truly believe they’re protected and looked after, which drives them to successful heights they didn’t know possible.

This was the essence of an excellent TED Talk recently delivered by Simon Sinek, a motivational speaker and marketing consultant. In his talk, “Why good leaders make you feel safe,” Sinek smartly points out that we developed as social animals from the start of civilization as protection against the dangers of the outside world. This means we’re smarter, more capable and above all safer together than we are apart. And it’s always been this way.

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But we so often don’t see companies like this, as extensions of us as a society. We should. While the dangers back then might’ve been hungry predators, we should look at things like slumping sales, troublesome employees and down markets in the same way. The safer and more protected an atmosphere, the better we’ll make both our own employees and our clients feel. And that’s the first step to driving profitability.

This is one of the core drivers of what we do at FPG. We believe a leader is a person you follow to a place you wouldn’t go on your own, and feeling safe is an important part of that equation.

“When we feel safe inside the organization,” Sinek says, “we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.”

In the devastating wake of Hurricane Harvey, as communities look to rebuild, no one’s been more involved in making his community a safe place again than Port Arthur, Texas mayor Derrick Ford Freeman. The part-time mayor sent his family to Austin and stayed behind during the worst of the flooding, and today he’s tirelessly running around the city providing help and hope to its rebuilding citizens.

He’s comforted residents who lost it all, set up programs to help find housing for the displaced, and worked hard to get things like utilities back online. All while working another job. In one exchange told by the New York Times, Freeman was handing out meals in a Port Arthur church parking lot when he met a man down on his luck. Nonetheless, Freeman was overflowing with optimism.

“We’re not doing those somber hugs,” Freeman told him. “We’re coming back, baby!”

This is what great leadership during trying times looks like. If you can provide your employees a firm foundation and a feeling of being protected even when dangers are at your door, you can never lose.

The other side of the coin is when environments don’t provide their employees and clients a safe place. Take the recent data breach at consumer credit reporting agency Equifax, which reported a scary hacking event this summer. Equifax’s servers hold the personal data – social security numbers, birthdays, addresses – of nearly 150 million Americans, and all of it was potentially exposed to hackers when their security was compromised.

The backlash was immediate, of course, but why? Not because Equifax made a mistake, per se – everyone does that from time to time, even the biggest companies. It was because the mistake involved personal security and compromised our feeling of safety. If we don’t feel safe, the path we can see to fulfillment and success narrows like crazy.

The real test for Equifax’s leadership will come in the months and years ahead. Their success rests on how well their leaders make their employees, clients and the public at large feel safe. Professional speaker and author Tony Schwartz notes that there are literal physical benefits to feeling safe at work, and that “the experience of safety literally frees up our energy and attention.”

As leaders, providing a haven for our employees to do their best work is our mission. Our training programs at FPG always center themselves around this idea, that the more valued and safe we feel, the more we can unleash our true potential and drive both workplace culture and profit to new levels.

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