A outline of the number three  with the text stage to the left, stage 3

Contributor Safety

Am I Making a Difference?

What is Contributor Safety?

Contributor safety satisfies the basic human need to contribute and make a difference. The more we contribute, the more confidence and competence we develop. When we create contributor safety for others, we empower them with autonomy, guidance, and encouragement in exchange for effort and results.

When you have it

When contributor safety is present, we feel safe to contribute as a full member of the team, using our skills and abilities to participate in the value-creation process. We lean into what we’re doing with energy and enthusiasm. We have a natural desire to apply what we’ve learned to make a meaningful contribution.


Without contributor safety your desire to add value and contribute in a meaningful way diminishes. You become a glorified order taker, doing the tasks that need to be done without passion or energy. Why do we dislike micromanagers? Because they don’t give us the freedom and discretion to reach our potential.

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Humans Need to Make a Difference.

Contributor Safety is about being given a chance to make a difference. Most humans have a deep desire to make a difference. They want to find meaning and purpose because in their work and they want to carry their weight, they want to help. They want to perform. They want to do their part and they don't feel good about themselves if they can't. If you want to contribute, but you're not given the opportunity, it's like being a member of an athletic team, but never being able to play in the game. It's no fun at all.

Giving Autonomy with Guidance in Exchange for Results.

Contributor Safety is the realm of performance and it’s different from Inclusion Safety. It's not a human right. It's not something people owe you. It's not an entitlement. You have to prove your ability to deliver results. You have to earn it. When you are competent and willing to hold yourself accountable, you’re ready to receive Contributor Safety.

The autonomy-for-results exchange that defines Contributor Safety is an exchange that increases in scale and scope as the individual learns to contribute more.

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Contributor Safety Invites Discretionary Effort.

We all have discretionary effort which is the portion of effort we choose to give beyond simple compliance. It’s a matter of personal discretion to contribute or to slack off. When an organization gives employees the autonomy and guidance to produce results they unlock the discretionary effort of their employees. Instead of focusing on the completion of tasks, the team can focus on producing results.

One of the most powerful things you can do to foster Contributor Safety is to help others think beyond their roles. The invitation to think beyond one’s role expresses greater respect for the individual and grants greater permission to contribute. Before people can get out of their tactical and functional silos to think strategically, they must be liberated by the Contributor Safety given to them.

A Toxic Environment Shuts Down Performance.

A toxic environment shuts down performance because people worry about psychological safety before they worry about performance. Fear-stricken teams give you their hands, some of their head, and none of their heart. It’s the leader's job to foster, promote, and model Contributor Safety.

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Do You Practice Contributor Safety?

It’s time to take a step back and look at your own life. Ask yourself these questions and evaluate how you are doing in putting Inclusion Safety into practice.

  • Do you collaborate effectively with other members of your team?
  • Do you respect only the high achievers and highly educated or do you recognize that answers and insights can come from some of the most unlikely people?
  • Can you be genuinely happy for the success of others?
  • Do you empower others without micromanaging them?
  • Have you ever withheld Contributor Safety from someone when they have earned it?
  • Do you freely share your experience, knowledge and skills?
  • Are you emotionally advanced beyond needing to hear yourself talk?
  • Do you see the potential of others on your team?
A outline of the number three  with the text stage to the left, stage 3

Concrete Behaviors That Create Contributor Safety at Work.

It’s not enough to understand Contributor Safety; you must put concrete behaviors into practice. These behaviors are examples of how you can increase Contributor Safety.

1. Rotate the conducting of meetings.
One of the most powerful ways to empower others to contribute is by allowing them to conduct team meetings. Traditionally, the leader conducts the meeting, but if you rotate that assignment, your team members will gain greater confidence to contribute. Simply giving them the assignment acknowledges their ability to do the job. Of course you will need to help them prepare the agenda and coach them through the process.

2. Clarify roles.
More complexity requires greater teamwork, and yet more role ambiguity causes people to make assumptions about how to contribute. Clarify roles at the beginning to reduce both anxiety and ambiguity. You will need to do this periodically to ensure role clarity.

3. Recognize accomplishment.
Certainly accomplishment is its own reward, but receiving genuine recognition from your peers makes it all the sweeter. As a leader, recognize the successes of your team quickly. Never delay and never resent the opportunity. the successes of others and show genuine excitement for their accomplishments.

4. Don’t correct with anger, blame, or shame.
Things won’t always go right. People make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes are due to complacency and carelessness. Even in that situation, don’t correct with anger, blame, or shame. Any kind of public ridicule is off limits. Instead, coach the person to see their mistakes and help them take responsibility for them. Even candid, corrective feedback can be given respectfully.

5. Identify stall points.  
There are times when your team members don’t know what to do or how to proceed, and they may be embarrassed to ask what to do. Try to anticipate and identify when this happens. Rather than making them feel poorly about it, engage with them, ask them what they think the next steps should be. Make it safe for them to be in this stalled situation.

6. Celebrate small wins.
Small wins increase confidence and build momentum. When your team members see a series of small wins, it creates a sense of forward motion. Ultimate success may be a way off, but small wins represent success at intervals and progress toward your goal. It’s the small wins that fuel the team members’ efforts to continue contributing at a high level.

7. Shift from tell to ask.
A leader’s coaching continuum ranges from telling at one end to asking at the other. A good leader uses the entire continuum. Too much telling breeds dependency and learned helplessness. Shift as much as you can to the ask end. Lead through questions more than answers.

8. Share your values.
Your values define you and what’s important to you. They always define the way you want to work. Share your values with your team and have them share theirs with you. This is the first important step in defining the ground rules and terms of engagement for a team.

9. Share your workstyle and communication preferences.
Beyond your values, share your workstyle and communication preferences with your team. Have your team members share theirs as well. We each have a different workstyle and communication preferences based on our individual personalities. Most of these styles and preferences aren’t wrong; they are just different. The better you understand the styles and preferences of your team members, the more effectively you’ll be able to work together.

10. Create conditions for peak engagement.
We’ve all had peak engagement experiences in professional life, times when we’re in the groove and doing our best work. When did this happen to you? Share this with your team. Have them share their peak engagement experiences with each other. As you try to create peak engagement conditions for each other, it will foster greater contribution by team members.

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