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How does the mindset of leaders impact safety?


Read this straightforward article by our Head of Culture Development Collette Murray on how the mindset of leaders impact safety.

– 5 mins read –

Rules and Regulations are not enough

What is it that drives people to behave in ways that puts their own or their colleagues’ health and wellbeing, even their very lives, at risk? 

Like many others, I was shocked and saddened to watch this video from the UK-HSE Ltd which was shared on LinkedIn recently (video below). It shows how safety rules and regulations were flouted on a daily basis which led to the devastating loss of life.

The unsafe practices were caught on the site CCTV and show that even basic rules were not being followed. Presumably there were at least some rules were in place – but could it be that rules on their own are not enough? Is it in fact the culture of an organization that has the biggest impact on behaviour?

Would this tragedy have occurred if the culture of the organization was one of intervening on even small aspects of unsafe behaviour? 

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

Sir John Whitmore, coaching pioneer and Co-founder of Performance Consultants

Example of best practice of safety in a workplace

Years ago, when I was working on a project with a multi-national oil company I too was acting in an unsafe way. It was a small thing (in my mind), I was just walking down the stairs, but was carrying “stuff” in both my hands so I couldn’t hold the hand-rail (a golden rule in the office, as a slip, trip or fall in the office counts every bit as much towards incident reporting as on a refinery). 

A colleague walked past me and rather than admonishing me, or telling me to follow the rules, they asked a simple question and offered help “can I carry something for you so you can hold the rail?” “How kind” I thought to myself and then I realised what had happened! A safety intervention had happened, pure and simple. Acting safely at all times was so deeply ingrained across the whole company that everyone felt empowered to intervene and had the skills to do so in a way that made me think and want to care for myself and others in the same way.

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Benefits of a Safety Culture

This example seems trivial compared to loss of life, but if people can intervene on the smaller things (which probably happen more regularly) with care and kindness, it makes it easier, through practice, to intervene on the bigger things (which hopefully happen less regularly).

A culture of intervention requires trust and psychological safety and doesn’t come from the rules and regulations it comes from Leadership creating the environment for this to thrive. A deep understanding that safety is embedded in the DNA of everything a company does is only achieved by leaders being visibly aligned and speaking with one voice about what they expect, role-modelling safety interventions, creating a sense of inclusion and belonging in their teams and genuinely caring for their health and well-being.

How a coaching culture helps transform behavior

Read this article from the Financial Times about our work with Linde to discover how consciously creating a coaching culture can transform safety behavior.

Or alternatively click here if you would like to know more about our approach and results read our case study with Linde.

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