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. This was easily the most enjoyable and rewarding course I’ve ever attended and the most important – 2 days a month for 4 consecutive months and not a single PowerPoint slide.

And then, driving along the A43, thinking about nothing in particular, the blue spark hit my brain. Learning about coaching and developing my skills had become very important to me because I knew it was helping me become a better practitioner – so weren’t coaching skills important for others too? Weren’t coaching skills precisely what the safety profession needed to counter the traditional stereotype of the finger-wagging ‘compliance policeman’, technically capable but ultimately a safety ‘boffin’, unable to provide the collaborative support that managers need. In that instant, Coaching for safety was conceived and my career veered off in an unexpected direction.

With many weeks work and the assistance of the excellent people in the tailored course team, my course achieved IOSH Approval and I launched it onto an unsuspecting marketplace via a very expensive advert in the SHP and a direct email campaign. Fully expecting practitioners to be banging down doors to attend, I naively booked venues in Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and London – and nobody did. Not a single soul booked. Not one enquiry even.

“What!?”

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