Norming Practices of Safety in Relationships, in Organisations

Kathryn Maloney M.A. ABS

A consulting advisor to leaders, founders and teams, Kathryn weaves systems change vision and initiatives into strategy, priorities, and operating from outcomes. From her wheelhouse, she taps into how you communicate, relate, operate, work, lead, and group think; infuses presence, power, and self-awareness onto broad, prioritised organisation strategy; and designs tangible change for your more coherent, modern, and future-forward system.

more about Kathryn
, Brooklyn

Past organisational builds focused more exclusively on delivery of results over the shared experience on that pathway to delivering those results. Going forward, the path matters as much as the results matter.

What we are doing and how we are being cannot be considered independent of one another.

And your good leadership (from whichever title, role, as a team member, sitting in a seat at whatever table) relies on your ability to practice relating and interrelating for more evolved, shared experiences — ones that will inevitably deliver better collective health, higher vibes, and strategic results.

Neither results nor the shared experience is exclusively favored on the go forward. They are equally critical. You cannot build healthy, future-facing, meaningful, and market innovative systems without objectively and practically adopting common language, active practices, and observable and applied behavior in the direction of key and strategic team and org results.

The architectures and mechanics of legacy organisational builds lacked in awareness and integrity the understanding that interconnection, relating, understanding and interactivity are primary instigators and motivators of living systems e.g. human systems. Obviously, these qualities have not been altogether absent as humans are by default wired for connection. Yet in the ethos of the era we’re leaving behind, those qualities were often technically overwritten, derided as weakness, the soft stuff, irrelevant for winning and delivering — a distraction.

The reason being the era we are leaving favored and preyed upon — consciously or unconsciously — designing environments where the energetics of domination, control, fear and deficit-based competition were first principles. Imbalance and vacancy were signature.

The future we are now in demands first principles of integration, knowingness, receptivity, courage, strength, personal truth, individuality, and collectivism as fundamentals. We are building, innovating and strategically changing in the direction of breakthrough technologies, verticals, sectors, governing, and operating businesses reaching for them with intention.

Balance and wholeness are signatures.

The former era has left today’s organisations in uncharted terrain for what safety truly means. The expectation is that systems are built to hold safety within them as a normative baseline which is a smart operating rule. It is critical to understand however that safety is an outcome of so many elements of your build, relationships, organising structures and day-to-day leadership.

Nobody delivers to you a safe system. Systems must consciously choose and expect it. They must build for it daily through the individuals showing up to play with conscious awareness of the truth of safe being and doing within the system. They have to have operating ways and mechanisms that steer with safety as a design principle. They must correct quickly when pulled off course.

When you show up to be present using smart and strategic ways of running your organisations, mindful about delivering outcomes in the direction of your vision and objectives, the topic of safety naturally becomes an emergent byproduct. 

  • Does it fluctuate? Yes. Humans are imperfect creatures and systems are dynamic.
  • Can the fluctuations become less dramatic and better shared learning moments? Hopefully.
  • Is it a leap to get to safety? Yes. The legacy builds of intentionally controlling and fear-based ways of being, doing and relating are hard wired. They need undoing and awareness in order to re-wire. However, no alternative or escape hatch exists.

The future demands a more awakened and better way and you are hugely influential in building that better way by virtue of the work you do, the way you use words, and how you choose to show up within yourself and then by extension in the collective — to strategically build and deliver results.

Signs You are Building to Design Safety with One Another
  1. Get to know one another intentionally
    • Make yourself available to get to know one another
    • Make yourself available to be known
    • Give a darn about knowing others
    • Lose the fear of being seen
    • Operate within the reality that you are people long before you are a corporation
  2. Share your struggles
    • Interrupt your perfectionism
    • Don’t disclose but do be transparent about your emotional temperature 
    • Give voice to your vibe versus making others have to do the work of sensing into and navigating around your vibe
    • Normalise unsettledness
    • Use your irritation as a catalyst to open channels of inquiry
  3. Be curious about people
    • Asking people how they are is kind
    • Understanding how people are is compassionate
    • Learning about the other is humane
    • Breaching boundaries is rude
    • Being authentic versus running hidden agendas initiates default positive change
  4. Appreciate people
    • Celebrating what is working fuels human hearts
    • Noticing is good leadership
    • Naming what you appreciate makes you vulnerable in good ways
    • Even when sh*%t is hitting the fans, you can still appreciate within it
  5. Understand before judging
    • Curiosity is always better prior to offering your reaction
    • Ask good questions for clarity
    • Form an informed reaction
    • Discernment and critical thinking are not the same as judgment
    • Judging situations and people without informed understanding is outdated leadership
  6. Anger and projection is about you not them
    • You can be angry, but you need to own it
    • Never expect anyone to take it on when you get angry
    • Your anger is signal to understand something about yourself first and then how it applies to an external situation
    • See #5
    • Get better at slowing your anger response by becoming a stellar question framer
  7. Trust you can resolve ruptures
    • Living without conflict is like living without love. You can’t.
    • Learn to work in ways that fortify safety in and around healthy conflict
    • Understand your personal relationship to conflict so you can hang in the intensity without vacating your agency and power
    • Trust yourself to stand in the heat
    • Healthy conflict is a form of communication, not definition  
  8. Be accepting of versus critical 
    • We’re all flawed so get more used to that
    • We’re all different from one another so learn to make space for it
    • Open yourself to difference, flaws, and the unexpected so you can grow better
    • See the beauty in others rather than seeing their uniqueness as an affront to your own limiting beliefs 
  9. Use discretion and hold things confidential
    • Demonstrate you can hold sacred other’s information
    • Don’t talk about people behind their backs
    • Set intentions for privacy and “what happens in the room stays in the room” to knit respect and higher vibe operating
    • Learn to be an exemplary discerner of information as data — as data is neutral
  10. Make mutuality and reciprocity in evidence
    • Systems and people are naturally dependent and build as interconnected
    • Work with that natural interconnectivity from a relationship building mindset 
    • Note that high vibe reciprocity is a vulnerable move versus a controlling move
    • Feel that difference in your gut and consciously learn to operate from healthy vulnerability
    • Grasp that you actually need one another (versus control one another) so default to working from that presence
  11. Be consistent
    • Nobody needs to deal with your inconsistency of (1) reaction (2) response (3) behavior (4) emotion and (5) leadership
    • You are fully responsible to set the tone on how people can expect to be received by you with regularity when they have a need, question, idea or input
    • Your ability to be consistent is a reflection of your interior mechanics 
    • Your consistency will run on a continuum and it is your work to know where you are on your own continuum   
  12. Be respectful
    • Treat people with respect and dignity
    • Respect isn’t the same as agreeing
    • Dignity is your ability to extend humanity
    • Anyone can feel your operational integrity and situational honesty so work with awareness to get them aligned and organised
  13. Have people’s backs
    • Don’t participate in devolving situations
    • Don’t rescue but do steer, redirect and protect to keep the energy high
    • Model authenticity
    • Play to your bigger (not your smaller) self 
  14. Do your work
    • Your responsibility is to take care of you
    • Stop excusing your bad behavior
    • Stop posturing and performing
    • Get in your body daily to connect with and become safe in your true self
    • Radiate your true (versus your false) self out 

You do not need to like everyone. You also do not need to be liked by everyone. The degree and depth of relationships can and will vary even while you build safety as a way of being, leading, and operating.

Safety emerges from groups, systems and collectives who experientially show up doing the work of safety each and every day as a baseline. Safety is baked in to how you run your work, teams and strategies. Nobody is delivering to you safety. You design safety principally. You then create experiences and environments that feel safe by virtue of the people knitting safe interactivity together.

Your job and everything it is tasked to deliver begins with you being, feeling and doing safety as your own way of operating first. When you aren’t rooted, grounded and anchored in your agency and personal sovereignty you contribute to the lack of safety you want to feel in the system.

Work on feeling safe in your self so you lead from that resonance. And, so your resonance then magnifies out into the collective and shared spaces. 

You’ve got this. x
Editing Credits

Thank you to my friend and colleague Tim Casasola for his soft hand and thoughtful suggestions on this piece.

by Kathryn Maloney M.A. ABS
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