Often safety and HR policies have a paternalistic and punitive tone, outlining what employees shouldn’t do. Instead, write policies in a way that lets employees know you have confidence in their decisions, respect their good intentions, and trust in their ability to act safely and in the best interest of the company.

Emphasize what you want your employees to aspire to, not what will happen if they fail, conveying positive expectations of your employees. This is essential for fostering a positive work environment that enhances engagement and well-being. In fact, in his recent book, Bob Johansen (2017) identified “creating and sustaining positive energy” as one of the five key leadership skills for the future.”

He predicts a new era of organizations that “have no center, grow from the edges, and cannot be controlled” with the kind of command-and-control hierarchies that typified many 20th century companies. Instead organizations in this new era are more aligned with the conscious capitalism movement, ‘teal’ organizations, and holocracies. We argue that this new era is already happening – including in organizations that still try to maintain a traditional hierarchical structure.

Make no mistake; despite the hierarchical structure displayed on paper, there is a strong, viable social network where the actual work gets done. Peeling back the organization chart reveals this network system, resembling chaos theory as is found in any biological organism. It can’t be controlled, or eliminated. Actually, trying to stifle this network leads to ineffectiveness, disengagement, and ultimately failure. Instead, embracing it, and nurturing it will ensure success, engagement, and productivity – as well as high levels of well-being and safety!

All share leader opportunities when warranted – Think a swarm of starlings or geese in formation (a skein). Embracing power distribution leads to a flourishing and thriving organization and flourishing and thriving employees. Partnerships, collaboration, and reciprocity are the keys to accomplishing the work and mission; and lead to creativity and innovation. This requires that leaders and all employees develop the skills and attributes necessary for success. The skills and attributes include cultivating

  • Active listening,
  • More giving than taking,
  • Positive communications,
  • Humility,
  • Vulnerability
  • Courage,
  • Respect,
  • Curiosity,
  • And a willingness to share leading.

These skills can be learned and with practice become habit. Such habits are built on a foundation of mindful self-awareness and psychological safety.