Coaching for safety 5th Anniversary – Turning the corner

I’ve often thought that my career in health and safety chose me. I remember a day in 1988 when my then boss, called me into in his office to say “Cliff’s retiring, I want you to be the new health and safety adviser.” My first thought was “Cliff’s the health and safety adviser!” and my second thought was “What’s health and safety?” It was the first time I remember hearing the phrase. I’d played a part in helping this company achieve the quality standard BS5750 and I thought I was destined for a career in Quality. To say I was reluctant about a detour into this remote backwater called health and safety, is an understatement. So it was with coaching too. I very nearly didn’t attend the course that turned me on to the importance of coaching skills for OSH practitioners. Had I not attended, I’d have continued thinking of myself as a traditional, systems-led health and safety practitioner. But I did attend, and my career took a very unexpected turn. Having achieved IOSH Approval for my Coaching for safety course and received no bookings, not a single one, for the first four open courses advertised, I realised two things: – i. the health and safety profession was fixated with technical knowledge and didn’t value soft skills at all; and ii. practitioners didn’t understand what coaching is. It seems strange now that I didn’t give it all up there and then, but it didn’t cross my mind. Instead, I saw that it was down to me to promote coaching skills and educate practitioners about how important they are. I...

Coaching for safety 5th Anniversary – In the beginning

The 9th January 2018 marked the 5th Anniversary of Coaching for safety achieving IOSH Approval. It’s been a most unexpected journey and whilst it’s true to say that it never occurred to me not to do it, looking back, I do wonder sometimes why it didn’t. This is the perfect opportunity then I think, to stop, draw breath and reflect. In 2012 I was invited to attend a 2-day course entitled High Performance Coaching. I nearly didn’t go. For a long time I’d described myself as having a coaching style. My CV talked about my coaching style and I talked about my coaching style at interviews. I thought I knew something about coaching and I didn’t think there was much I could learn. Midway through the first morning, the penny dropped and I realised that what I thought was coaching, isn’t coaching and actually, ‘real’ coaching is profoundly more important for me as a career health and safety professional than I’d ever given coaching credit for. It quite simply ‘blew my mind’. I couldn’t believe I’d never been told about the importance of coaching before. At the end of that first day as others rushed off to the bar, I headed to my hotel room to look for my next coaching course. I wanted something more closely associated with safety than the course I was on because this was all about me, and me becoming a better OSH practitioner. I couldn’t find anything and so I booked on the Practitioner Diploma course with the Academy of Executive Coaching (AoEC) in London and I became qualified as an Executive Coach....

Coaching for safety 2017

What a wonderful way to wrap up 2017 this Coaching for safety course in Aberdeen was last week. It’s great to watch people come together to learn and develop and to see them enjoying themselves supporting each other. And Craig, you didn’t just embrace your coaching session sir, you smashed it! You were coaching – no ifs, buts or maybes about it. Over 150 delegates have attended IOSH Approved Coaching for safety courses in 2017, the 5th consecutive year in which the number has increased. We’ve delivered courses to companies across a wide range of sectors including university education, waste management, oil and gas, utilities, steel distribution and office services to name a few and we’ve met people from many more sectors through our open courses. Every course is different but what’s common to them all is a general sense of positivity and a determination that these skills, if developed, can be the key to a better health and safety culture. Paul Turnbull said in Aberdeen last week that he didn’t really know what to expect and this is true of many of those who attend. Many think that coaching must have something to do with training but discover that its so much more than that. A trainer can only train on subjects about which they have some knowledge, but coaches can coach when they have no relevant knowledge. Imagine that. Imagine having skills that enable you to support your colleagues/clients in situations where you have no knowledge or experience to bring to the table. Paul confessed to being highly-sceptical but by the end of the course that’s exactly what he was doing. And...

What’s the problem that Coaching for safety solves?

Being coaches, relentlessly positive and solutions-focussed, we believe in Saint Jerome’s adage “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.” That’s how we see IOSH Approved Coaching for safety, as a development opportunity, designed to facilitate a transformation from good, to better and best. We understand however, that it’s usual these days to ask what problem it is that a product or service has been designed to solve. So, whilst things are undoubtedly improving, what would you say is the traditional stereotype of a health and safety practitioner? Would you say that they are thought to be technically strong but often inflexible, driven by policies, standards and procedures with little mind for the realities of working situations? That they are often unable to engage with people in a way that encourages engagement and the contribution of their colleagues? Would you say that ultimately, the  traditional stereotype is of a professional that is unable to provide the support that organisations need, one that has to adapt for a more modern reality? Do the above statements describe members of your health and safety team? Do they describe you? If yes, do you know what you’re going to do to address this and when? These are the problems that IOSH Approved Coaching for safety has been designed to solve. By providing skills to complement the technical knowledge that practitioners have, it’s a course to help them develop a collaborative style with a view to better, more productive relationships and more effective conversations. IOSH Approved Coaching for safety has been gradually maturing over several years and steadily developing an excellent reputation as a must-attend training programme that is like no other...

Don’t you wish health and safety could be more person-centred?

What is your vision for the culture at your organisation? Have you defined it? Imagine you had magical powers and just by clicking your fingers, you could give yourself the culture you aspire to have. How would you know you had it? When you arrived for work tomorrow, what would you see? Would you see people looking out for each other and helping each other make safe choices? Would they be trying to understand each other’s situations and valuing each other’s contributions? Would you see them collaborating to find solutions that they can all buy into and own and manage going forward? Would people be focussing on solutions rather than the reasons things aren’t ideal? Would they be putting good ideas and intentions into action because at the end of the day, it’s the things that get done that really count isn’t it? Having defined your vision and assuming of course that you don’t really have magical powers, how will you go about bringing it to life? Is the path that you’re on going to get you there? Are there examples, however small, of the kind of culture you want that have already taken root and with proper care, just might flourish? The culture described above is a coaching culture. At it’s core is a firm belief that people are resourceful and that developing people is a fundamental part of safeguarding their health and safety. Read more about person-centred health and safety...