An oval image showing the ingredients for ES2 which is Emotional Security plus Emotional Safety
Culture and associated words
ES2 which is Emotional Security and Emotional Safety
ROI - Return on Investment

Creating Emotional Security to ensure Emotional Safety (ES2)

(Written June 2020)

One of my most respected work associates, friends and challenger, Annika Parisotto, inspired this article when she asked me, “How can we encourage people in our teams to be more open when they are from cultures where being themselves is not allowed?

Why do I call Annika a challenger? Annika says what she thinks politely, respectfully, naturally, and all from an inquiring mind. She challenges what she doesn’t see as logical or sensible or will challenge to gain clarity and better understanding. Annika will tell you precisely what you need to hear professionally and kindly. "This" is gold dust and sadly far too rare. Add to that an unrivalled passion and drive for the work she undertakes, and you have a superbly professional and competent consultant who delivers brilliant results every time.

If you are wondering why I have extolled the virtues of Annika, it is because, ironically, the answer to Annika's question is for people to become more like her. Be the authentic and real you!


We must empower our people to speak out and say what they think, and actively encourage them to do this, ask them to challenge thinking respectfully and professionally. It unleashes innovation, creates and strengthens relationships, gives the business access to every new idea and embraces challenges from anyone, which every business should continuously seek to do.

“Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be

much arguing, much writing, many opinions;

for opinions in good men is but knowledge in the making.”

John Milton - an English poet, polemicist and man of letters.

The short answer to Annika’s question:

It is all about the working environment the organisation, leaders or managers create. Ideally, the organisation must provide Emotional Security which gives Emotional Safety, which we’ve always abbreviated as ES². Or possibly, the manager creates ES² in their own “localised culture” (see below). (Also, see Amy Edmundson’s Psychological Safety)

While working with this concept in 2015, we went through much internal wrangling about choosing “Emotional Safety” or “Emotional Security”.

The moment of decision came when we looked at the words and believed that "security" protects our safety. Without security, we would not enjoy the safety it provides. For people to feel “safety”, they need to feel security from policy documents (people strategy) which offer that safety from security, which an organisation promises to its people. So we knew we needed both words. So ES² was born.

As an organisation, we need to ensure (and demand) the security of our people so that every single person feels safe to speak and challenge. This way, they can speak out, offer challenges, propose ideas and not worry about reactions or possible repercussions.

This article was written in June 2020 when we (in the UK) were dealing with Covid. A point I want to make here is that if anything positive came from that pandemic, it was the realisation that we need to care for each other far more. Topics such as empathy, vulnerability, honesty, support and mental health have been given the spotlight they desperately deserve. 

When we emerge into a new normal, whatever that may look like, we must understand that ES² will be needed to help anyone in your organisation suffering from mental health stress or issues. They must believe that they can talk about how they are feeling without the worry of being “managed out”, being seen as weak, or fearful of the consequences in any way at all. They must feel the safety the organisation guarantees them when implementing its people policy. 

The bow wave of mental health issues will continue to grow as we fight this pandemic. So we must be ready for the impact and fully prepared to manage it correctly.


I believe two types of culture must be identified in Annika’s question. Luckily the solution is pretty much the same for both:

Culture from Origin:

The country where we were born influenced and determined our values and behaviours unless our parents or guardians taught us otherwise. It may be that the national/religious experience taught people it is impolite, inappropriate or even unacceptable to speak out. It may have been a place where freedom of speech is, or was, not what others enjoy elsewhere.

However, that lived experience taught us that speaking our minds is not the thing to do. Perhaps it was seen as disrespectful to disagree with an older or senior person as the culture frowned on such behaviour.

People's experiences of the castigatory behaviours of those in more powerful positions have formed this mindset. Also, remember that these more powerful positions could combine political, religious or social influences. If the culture people now work in is different, we must do all we can to help them understand this new culture where honest, authentic contributions are welcomed and not crushed.

Workplace Culture Categories:

I split an organisation's culture into three categories.

1. Presented culture – where the organisation proudly portrays the culture they say or believe everyone exhibits. Sadly, experience has taught me that the culture people experience in an organisation is often very different from the values adorning the walls and websites of their organisations.

2. Experienced culture – the real feeling of the organisation’s culture that people experience from working there. Also, how the culture is described to a new starter! (Often far from the one portrayed). Belief can create reality for your new starters, so watch out for negative influencers!

3. Localised culture – this can be completely different between two teams situated right beside one another. Usually, this is created by a team leader or manager (who can also create ES² locally). Other times, this happens because of the pressure a more senior leader or manager exerts. Occasionally it can be created by a team member who holds social dominance through their seniority or purely through their strong personality and approach.

Workplace Culture:

People feel that they can’t or shouldn’t speak out at work because they believe it is dangerous for them to do so. They fear they may be treated differently because of it or, dare I suggest, even mistreated for doing so.

They have experienced the behaviours of superiors or others in the organisation. They have quickly learned that they if wish to keep their job and not lose the prospect of promotion, they need to resist the urge to speak freely.

Sadly I have experienced this as the top reason and head and shoulders above any other.

If this cultural virus is not addressed, many good people will leave such an inhibited working environment. They may move to another part of the business, or worse yet, they will leave the organisation entirely. In reality, they are leaving that environment and those who allowed it to exist. People mostly leave their managers or cultures, not their jobs.

Businesses and organisations NEED these people who are thinkers and challengers to push us to develop and grow! They are the ones who will ruffle our feathers, yes, but ultimately, these are the people who will make us think outside of the box and become far more creative.

My message to senior leaders is this; if this rings a bell, then realise what you are losing and act now! Every day you are losing innovative thinking, creativity, and strength from different perspectives, brought over hints and tips from previous experience in other organisations, and a much happier and thriving “community” of people driving success. Help them unleash all of this through ES².



This is what we call people who consciously, unconsciously, or accidentally block people from saying what they need or want to say. They block the flow of innovation and ideas because of how they have historically behaved before.

This can be due to the pressure they are under from a senior manager or leader. The constant demands for KPIs and targets to be met are relentless. This creates pressure that people must deal with, which changes their normal behaviour.

Remember that many blockers may be totally unaware of the effect their behaviour is having on the behaviour of others. So don't chastise them. Instead, help them understand, coach them and bring them around to the concept of ES² (see below). Ensure they appreciate the benefits it brings to everyone, the smooth running of their team, strengthening relationships and far better organisational innovation and success. Help them lift that barrier.   

Emotional Security + Emotional Safety = ES²

Here at LaPD Solutions Ltd, we coined the term Moccasin Approach®.

The only way the Moccasin Approach works properly is by creating Emotional Security for everyone within an organisation. Emotional Security provides your people with an environment of Emotional Safety. People are not just able to say what they want; they are actively encouraged and rewarded for doing so. But they will only do this if they know the security protects them. Only then is it safe for them to speak out.

The link to Emotional Intelligence (EI) is perfect. In EI, we are looking to become more self-aware, manage our behaviours and become more socially aware by knowing and understanding our people (walk in their moccasins) and building superbly efficient and effective relationships. And yes, this works within a family and social relationships too.

But what if their manager or senior leader is a blocker? There can be only one reason for this; all do not truly practise Emotional Security. To be effective, ES² MUST protect every person in the organisation and have checks put in place to ensure it exists.

ES² must be implemented from and by all senior leadership. It must be proactively fostered, driven and supported by all. Leaders, managers, and HR must monitor it, and it has to be managed like our other precious resources, such as our humans in Human Resources.

If any good came from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is how we have become far more focused on each other. Here at LaPD Solutions, we hope that ES² will become a recognised necessity in organisations. As an external consultant, I can talk about EI and ES², point out the eye-watering evidence, and still be ignored. But I’d like to think that with a presence in HR, it would demand an ear and be heard and acted upon.

Unconscious or Conscious acceptance:

I have made it sound easy; get some EI & ES², and the job is done! But not quite. All sorts of people in our organisations, including senior leaders, managers, and teammates, unconsciously or consciously block others. Experience has shown me that some very senior people live in a bubble of incorrect beliefs and “big assumptions”. (“Immunity to Change” A great read - Kegan R and Lahey L – 2009).

Many senior leaders believe that their organisation’s culture is lived out through its values and underpinning behaviours, but often it is not! People just say it is! People do not tell their managers the full story; people hide facts and figures, and why? Because they’re scared to speak the truth! Senior leaders will even defend it, saying, “no one tells me there's anything wrong, so it must be fine”, to which I say, “that’s exactly my point!” Wake up!

LAPD's Solution?

My key message to senior leadership is to create your own organisational ES² environment.  Take the time to truly understand what it is like in the world of your people by using the Moccasin Approach. Feel what it is like to walk in your people's shoes, what their challenges are and DO something about it. Encourage them to speak out and feed innovation.

ES² is a slow drip-feed type of change that will gradually create a real feeling of safety. This has to be viral; this has to be lived and breathed by everyone. You have to earn their trust, which takes time, effort and consistency; there is no other way. People need to feel it is working first. The critical ingredient for this to work is social awareness from EI.

As I said in my short answer, “It is all about the working environment that the organisation, leaders or managers create”. It’s about the lived experience of your people (all of them). Getting your people to feel they can say what they want and respectfully disagree with peers, managers or leaders is only achieved by ensuring ES² is in place and monitored.

Most importantly, while this can create one of the most powerful and empowering working environments any organisation can hope to achieve, it is also the most delicate. At the first sign of any form of being held to account for just being open and honest, it won’t just melt; it will shatter in a moment and be gone!

Don’t lose the innovation that surrounds you daily.

“Embrace challenge; it is the birthplace of innovation.”

‍ ~ Mac Macdonald ~

Mac runs LaPD Solutions Ltd (Learning and Performance Development)

LaPD Solutions offers EI-based solutions to help your people work together through

an organisational culture based on values and measured underpinning behaviours.

The word culture with a flattened globe showing the whole world

1. Origin culture, as in the country people were born and raised in, the religious upbringing they were taught to follow and respect, and the values they learned. Their parents and wider family would have passed on their values. This formed an initial belief system and guided people to what is right, wrong, correct, or incorrect to do (acceptable) in that culture.

2. Workplace culture, where the workplace culture has been formed by their experience (good or bad). Perhaps in an organisation which did not welcome people who were outspoken or people who spoke their minds. Perhaps it was dangerous to do this, and those people who wanted to speak their minds probably left their previous organisation because of this. People really do leave people rather than organisations (in general).

The word Innovation with some associated words.
An image showing a woman and see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil
The umbrella is offering Emotional Security from the oprganisation, helping the people under the umbrella feel Emotionally Safe.
A man with his mouth taped closed