What does being safe mean to you? In a school Lucy saw recently, pupils are reminded that they’re safe – it’s written on the wall.
On holiday recently, I saw a school with the following written in large letters across its wall: ‘I am safe, I am kind, I am responsible’. It struck me that it must have been quite a challenge to decide what three messages the school felt were the most important for its students to see every day as they played outside. I also wondered how the decision was made to put ‘safe’ up there as the first one. Sadly, being safe is something that many children in the world don’t feel and for them survival comes above anything else.
This school wanted its children to know that first and foremost they are safe. Without safety, how difficult would it be for those children to try to be kind and responsible? Once assured they are safe, they can focus on their friendships, enjoy their time at school and try out new things. These three messages are not unlike the values that businesses choose to define the culture of their organisations; the most important things to the business about the way people behave and do things.
We don’t often come across ‘safe’ as a value, but why not? Guarantees of safety in terms of job security or a consequence of misconduct is unrealistic, so what might safety mean if it was an organisation’s value? Maybe it would be saying it’s okay to make mistakes if it means you’ve had a go at stuff. Perhaps it means you’ll support each other when the going gets tough; someone will have your back. Or it could be about not being scared of what’s around the corner that you’re not being told about. Without that sort of safety, how can people feel confident to be the best they can; to think innovatively and not be distracted by unnecessary concerns?
Even without making it a value, I wonder how organisations could reflect on how they could instill a feeling of safety, like this school has done for its fortunate pupils, and the difference it would make to employees if they felt safer.