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Where Is the Safest Place in Your Company?


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It was a long time ago now that I first started to ride, and eventually own, a horse. Somewhere along the way I found Tom Widdicombe’s book, Be With Your Horse. I recall him writing that every horse has two questions: “Am I safe with you?” and “Are you fit to be my leader?”[1] Not only was this good advice for being with my horse, but I realized its value in the workplace. Perhaps it is not in your lexicon, but the expression, ‘being called on the carpet’ is certainly in mine. Getting summoned to the boss’s office seemed to seldom be equated with something good happening, but imagine the empowerment that flows from a workforce where literally everyone feels they can walk into your office, offer an idea, or make a point about something and feel not only truly embraced, but that they will likely see the outcome of their contribution as it becomes a reality.

You can prove that your office is the safest place in the organization by showing your vulnerability. I used to think that I was weak because I worried that I would make the wrong decision. I finally discovered that what I thought was a character flaw was actually a wonderful gift, because along with self-reflection came the realization that sharing issues with colleagues—welcoming them into my space—gave them the very strength they needed to be able to help me! Vulnerability is at the root of authenticity, and authenticity is the foundation for leadership.

Are you safe to be with? Are you fit to be a leader? Will you serve those that seek to serve the business, and to grow in the process? As managers we are the custodians of the company’s ethics and values. Right and wrong are truly powerful concepts and are borne aloft in the culture that we permit and uphold.

And who knows, maybe you’ll enjoy the ride!

Published with acknowledgement to Thomson Carswell, publishers of the 2nd edition of Sales Force Management in the Financial Services by Paul K. Bates, from which parts of this article were drawn.

[1] Widdicombe, Tom. Be With Your Horse, London: David and Charles, 2005

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