Humans are social creatures. We spend a majority of our time with people, and typically that’s pretty healthy. Businesses are filled with people; therefore, it is of the utmost importance to understand what makes people tick. We as humans tend to gravitate toward one another. Whether it’s because of an attraction, a need, or something otherwise hard to explain, we nonetheless gravitate into social circles. (Side note: this is why cliques are so common. We find a couple close friends with some shared interests and form a strong inner circle with those people. It’s comfortable.)
I once read a book by one of my favorite leadership thinkers, Simon Sinek. The book is called Leaders Eat Last. The book covers several topics about how humans interact with one another and the impact those interactions have on the brain, but I want to talk about one specific part: safety. A leader must do everything in their power to comfort a person, to make them feel safe, as this is a sure way to get the best version of a person.
For example, if one of your people is constantly afraid of losing their job, they are not going to perform as well as, say, the person who feels secure in their job. Now, this isn’t to say that we leave well enough alone and let poor performers continue performing poorly. However, this is to say that we cannot allow external forces to creep into our culture and facilitate a hostile environment. If someone deserves to lose their job, then so be it. But if you believe in developing your people, then let that be known. For the record, I believe that developing your people (while harder than firing someone) is usually the better option. Not only can the employee feel safe and confident that their job is not in jeopardy, they grow as a person (without fear of judgment) in your organization – not someone else’s. You don’t want to invest a bunch of time and money just to have them go to a place where they feel more secure.
People gravitate toward one another because, in numbers, we are safer. As soon as the safety leaves the group, so do the people, and they’ll find the safety elsewhere. It is our job as leaders to foster a healthy, safe environment and watch our “subordinates” grow.