Nope, it’s not caffeine. Well, it might be, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. It’s safety.
Think about it. You can have a lovely home, nutritious and delicious food, a warm bed and tick every box on the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy, but if you don’t feel safe, you’re scuppered. I do believe that’s almost as Mr Maslow described it himself.
Safety is the next level of the hierarchy, a basic need in order to ensure we feel able to perform at our best, innovate, communicate effectively and learn.
This isn’t simply a theory; it’s hardwired into our brain. We seek safety. The flight/fight/freeze response is based on our need to be safe. ‘No matter what happens, we just have to stay alive.’ That’s what the brain is working to achieve when the amygdala senses a threat and it shuts off the cortex so that you’re unable to think clearly at that moment. Just. Stay. Alive.
That might sound dramatic but this is what we’re experiencing on a daily basis at the moment. The brain hasn’t evolved to know the difference between a real threat to life and a perceived threat to life. The response to another human standing in front of you and shouting in your face is the same, neurologically, as someone online saying horrible things to you even though one has the potential to cause imminent harm and the other could disappear at the flick of a switch.
In a work context, feeling safe takes on a whole new meaning;
• Is everyone able to share their thoughts and opinions?
• Is there a blame culture?
• Is everyone’s role understood by the whole team, so their differing responsibilities are valued and respected?
• Are managers approachable and understanding?
The need for safety is biological. We can’t bypass it, we have to embrace it.
Imagine that you take a rescue dog home. They’re in a lovely house, they have their dinner and fresh water to drink and they have a new warm bed to sleep in. Job done, yes?
No! The bottom tier of the hierarchy provides a foundation, but without safety, we have completely missed the point. A delicious meal means nothing if it’s thrown down in front of us. A warm bed is not a place to rest on if the noise around us is terrifying.
Would we expect a frightened dog to choose to engage with us, to choose to be around us, to learn with us or to enjoy interacting with us?
When we feel safe, we can take risks. We can risk speaking our mind, risk sharing ideas, risk connecting with people, risk-taking action. When we feel safe, we can be productive, enjoy a sense of belonging and contribute.
Is it safe for you to take risks?
I have no doubt that you have created the safest of safe places for your dog to thrive in. You know that it’s not just about the designer bed that they ignore in favour of the sofa, the best food you can find and wearing the most fashionable harness to match their new lead. You know that for your dog to thrive, they have to feel safe.
How are you bringing that philosophy into your own day to day life? How do you lead by example through your own communication skills, whether at work or with family and friends?
If you’re ready to satisfy the craving and instil a new way of building resilience for your team at work or for your own personal development, we are at your service. The information about our workplace workshops can be found here and due to the success of our recent Canine Progress for Life workshop, we will be running another one later in the year.