If you’ve ever wondered what makes one employee shine in the face of change while others wilt, it may surprise you to know that it’s not a simple matter of a winning personality.

Sure, personality, skill, experience and confidence all play a part, but the key component – the one that separates the rock stars from the duds – is how safe they feel in their work environment.

That’s because the brain needs to feel safe before it will think, behave and engage in the ways necessary during transformation (or day-to-day, for that matter). Without safety, you can forget about amazing results and at best hope for mediocrity. At worst? Disengagement, even rebellion.

Feeling Sheepish

We’re all familiar with herd mentality. No one wants to stand out if there’s a wolf lurking in the bushes. It’s much safer to blend in. But top leaders know that a bunch of sheep blindly following the flock aren’t the kind of employees who will give them their best.

Even the brightest employees will want to run for the hills if they see change on the horizon. That’s because the brain is a survival-based organ that relies heavily on its survival instincts in challenging situations. But given the right information, brains have the ability to alter how they react, moving from a place of fear to one of safety. It’s only then the brain can fully engage and perform optimally.

Safety = Performance

Creating rock stars isn’t rocket science, it’s about understanding that the brain has its own safety requirements. Linking change to something familiar will help direct the brain to look to what’s safe, not what’s dangerous, while clearly communicating what’s going on and addressing people’s fears and emotions head-on also help build a brain-safe – or NeuroSafe™ – environment.

It’s simple: Doing great work requires your brain to feel safe. Before employees are willing to step away from the herd, they first want to know it’s safe.

Noesis delivers neuroleadership consulting and training to organizations handling everyday change and major transformation initiatives. We help our clients permanently and scientifically improve leadership.