As a leader, you have the power to build up or to break down the people around you. People need and desire a few key ingredients to survive and thrive. The way you give or take away these ingredients determines whether you bring out the best or the worst in the people around you.
So what are the ingredients?
In Mindful Leadership, we call these ingredients waypoints because you will need to be able to navigate the social and emotional landscape to find them.
If you are able to increase someone’s ability to attain one of the waypoints for themselves, you’ve gone a long way to making a more happy, healthy, and productive person.
In this article, we will discuss the first three. These are considered basic needs. They are non-negotiable, standards for basic interactions. As a leader, they should not be leveraged for more productivity but rather given freely, unconditionally, and in abundance.
Safety is the most fundamental need. In the modern world, most of us are not in physiological danger. We have enough food, stability, and certainty to be safe. However, this doesn’t mean that we necessarily feel safe. Our brains are trained to find and identify potential threats in our environment, so that is what we do. In new, stressful, or combative situations we might feel and act as if our safety is under threat. For individuals, coaching with Move Mountains might entail bringing attention to times we act poorly because we feel under threat.
The only real threat to physiological safety, for most people, is getting fired. While turn-over and job switching are sometimes necessary, people are brought down to basic competitive instincts if they constantly feel like they have to fight for survival. As a leader, it’s important to make sure people know they can take some risks, focus on their work, and make decisions without being summarily dismissed for a lapse of judgment. The best way to make people feel safe from the threat of job loss is to be clear with your expectations and avoid punishment for well-intentioned, if still wrong, actions.
Connection is a bit higher up on the hierarchy of needs, but it is still closely connected to safety. We are social creatures, and in the past, being ostracized from the group was as much of a threat to safety as anything else could be. This is why the most valuable connections are unconditional - not dependent on exterior factors. These connections need to be dependable enough to weather uncertainty.
The advantages of strong interpersonal connections are extraordinary. On a personal level, research has found that connection is THE most important factor in both physical and psychological well-being. Yes, physical as well as mental. As a leader, connection is the key ingredient to Psychological Safety, which might be the single most important factor in high-performing teams and organizations.
Connections can be made simply by taking the time to get to know people on a personal level, encouraging teamwork, and acting with compassion towards problems. Connection can also be integrated into the culture by including everyone in important decisions, rewarding positive interpersonal behavior, and participating in facilitated team events.
Dignity is a bit more difficult to give as a leader, but it is essential nonetheless. Some people will inherently feel like they have a place in the company and are worthy of their position, while others might be more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome or be uncertain in their value.
Dignity is assessed and taught by looking at body language. Often the way we view our worth is manifested in posture, tightness, and gaze. Modifying these physical manifestations can often do more than any idea can. Try standing up straight, putting your hands on your hips, and looking out towards the distance. It's hard to feel unworthy in that pose.
As a leader, dignity can be given through earned praise and validation of competence. You will have to assess each individual to understand what they need to feel dignity.
To learn more about how to provide these basic needs to employees and yourself, take a look at our Blindspots Program - available now for a limited time offer.