Telling stories and changing cultures
“Catch a man a fish and feed him for a day. Show him how to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” That proverb ran through my mind while attending the 2018 Saiosh conference.
Knowledge sharing has to be one of the most powerful human endeavours. This was certainly evident as I listened to the 11 world-class speakers that Saiosh had lined up this year. Each shared lessons from their daily work, knowledge from decades in the health and safety industry, or pertinent information regarding the latest developments that could help make the jobs of their counterparts that little bit easier.
In addition to thought-provoking talks by two of this magazine’s columnists – Brett Solomon and Brian Darlington – all the other speakers certainly left a lasting impression. You can read about some of them in this issue, and in issues to come, but I want to specifically touch on two here.
The first was by a larger-than-life character by the name of Ken Annandale. A name well known to the industry and author of The One Minute Safety Manager, Annandale told a story – about telling stories – from which most people could learn.
“Everyone has a story to tell … storytelling is something we’ve always done and will always do. In the health and safety world we need to tell stories. However, the way we tell these stories is usually uninteresting and leaves people cold,” he began.
Annandale noted that all an organisation’s people need to be more aware of occupational health and safety…
“Every one of us can change the lives of people. If we can personalise our health and safety stories, and make them real to people, we can reach them on a deeper level,” he concluded.
Then there was one of the international speakers, Kevin Robinson of RTMS Global, who discussed the difference between behaviour and culture.
“Does culture influence behaviour, or vice versa? It’s a chicken or egg scenario… The definitions indicate that our culture is the root cause of behaviour, but can behaviour not become cultural?” he questioned.
“If we’re at work and something happens, how do we respond? Is it an automatic reaction? What if we get a negative response from someone – how do we then respond to them? This is to do with our behaviour,” Robinson noted.
He added that, in terms of culture, we could consider anything from nationality, to upbringing, religion, gender or age.
“How do we deal with people from other countries or backgrounds, who are, themselves, working in a different culture – is there cultural sensitivity? We are still seeing the need for change…” he warned.
So what about the need to change an organisation’s health and safety culture?
“If you want to deliver change, you have to know what you want to change and have a clear end goal. How will you achieve this and in what timeframe? There must be benefits to changing a culture,” he stressed.
So, are you telling the right stories in your organisation? Or do you need a cultural change? These questions all provide food for thought and many organisations would probably benefit from exploring them at a deeper level.