Why “Safe and Seen” Cultures Are Essential Now

Take a moment to remember a time when you felt comfortable, supported and accepted for who you truly are. You didn’t feel like you had to edit your thoughts or feelings, appear a certain way, or carefully toe an invisible line of acceptability. Having difficulty remembering such a time? That is an unfortunate problem, not just for you, but for all of us.

If you can’t find a real memory, do me a favor and imagine resting easy in a place where you feel encouraged to express your unique perspective and everyone present actually listens to what you share. Then, visualize a thoughtful and thought-provoking conversation that enables people to creatively connect differing perspectives to imagine something that is fresh and new for everyone. What would it feel like to live and work in a culture where that was the norm?  It’s likely that when you envisioned this space, you exhaled, your body relaxed, you felt a bit more peaceful and you began to let your mind and heart open—even if just a little bit. That’s what people do when they feel safe and seen. That’s what Safe and Seen cultures are made of. And that’s exactly what we need to have happen in order to thrive in the new age that is unfolding around us.

The Dawning of a New Age

In my January dialogue, “Welcome to the Age of Collective Creativity,” I shared my beliefs that we are entering a new age of Collective Creativity. The age of Technological Innovation that we are moving out of is best known for individuals bringing brilliant technologically-driven ideas to life that have upended entire industries, dramatically shifted power structures, altered the cadence and rhythm of our lives and hyper-connected the world. It’s hard to imagine life without our smartphones, GPS, Amazon or Alexa.

While technological innovations have delivered innumerable benefits, they have also left us with highly complex questions, imbalances, imperatives and opportunities that technology alone is not going to adequately address. Our current need to collectively explore and respond to highly complex challenges—such as stabilizing the Earth’s climate, creating just and equitable cultures, communities and society, and learning how to live peacefully with each other—is ushering in this new age of collective creativity.

We Don’t Need Another Hero

The year 2020 taught us a few things: we are inextricably connected, our world is woefully unjust and out of balance in many ways, and when we act together, we can bend curves and alter the trajectory of our lives. 2021 is the time to start turning these insights into action. Our shared goal right now needs to be to bring ourselves, our companies, our communities and our world into a more sustaining and sustainable balance.

The path to get there lies in untangling the layers upon layers of limiting beliefs that keep old thinking and out-of-date habits in place. More simply put, we need to update our thinking and ways of being to align with—and address—the realities that the age of technological innovation created. That’s not something we’re going to Google and download. Nor is any one brilliant person going to step forward with “the answer.” Unraveling our old thinking and wiring up new sustaining and sustainable assumptions and beliefs is something that we will need to do together. This will likely be a long, and at times, arduous process. That’s why the first thing that we need to do is establish cultures where people feel safe and seen.

Creating Safe and Seen Cultures

Why Safe and Seen Cultures are Essential Now

Remember that feeling I had you imagine where you felt supported and encouraged to be yourself? That is how we need people to feel for them to be willing to share their best and brightest thinking. To quote Einstein: “The thinking that got us to where we are is not the thinking that will get us to where we want to be.”

Whether you are trying to understand and address systemic racism and inequality in your company culture, sort out how to realign the business to thrive in a hard-to-predict business environment, or reinvent what work looks like post-pandemic, you will need people to be able step out of their old stories and reimagine new ones. That’s not easy, but it is essential if we are truly going to break old habits and cycles and instill new ones. This will only happen if we establish spaces and corporate cultures where people feel safe and seen, and supported to share what is on their minds and in their hearts.

Let’s Collectively Create Our Future

To create a Safe and Seen culture, the first story that we need to carefully examine and reimagine is our shared belief that we can’t talk with each other about difficult things. We can. We just haven’t invested in building the skills to do that well or establishing cultures that support this ability at scale. By addressing our limiting beliefs about how we communicate with each other, we can wire up the skills and build the corporate cultures needed for people to feel safe, seen and supported to address the much more complex issues that lie before us. We are awake and aware that we need to do things differently. Let’s not slip back into our old stories. The time to collectively create our future is now.

If you are ready to establish a Safe and Seen culture, Cylient can help you. Our Untying the Knot approach to “in the moment” conversations enables people to talk about what matters most, at scale. Watch this 90-second explainer video of how our Untying the Knot approach works or contact us to schedule a conversation.

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