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Broader Management Skills For The OHS Professional (And Other Professionals)
Because they go to work in Australia, 10 people per hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a
year have their lives permanently altered (Geoff McDonald)
Damage to people at work has a number of adverse outcomes: Financial loss to employer, worker and community
 Pain and suffering
 Dislocation of lives
 Permanence of death
Damage to people from work falls naturally into one of three Classes.
 Class I damage permanently alters the person’s life and subdivides into
- fatal
- non fatal
Class II damage temporarily alters the person’s life
Class III damage temporarily inconveniences the person’s life (Geoff McDonald &
Some people indicate a fixation and emphasis on minor personal damage. In terms of cost and
suffering Class 1 personal damage far outweighs Class II and class 111.We get to hear about some of
the fatal class I damage but little is known about the massive area of non-fatal class I damage. If you
are talking about getting the best bang for your buck you must focus on class I personal damage
I have been doing safety professional impressions for nearly 4 decades. I have been fortunate to have
done this in a variety of industries, often in high performance environments in times of significant
change. The majority of people I have worked with have been very dedicated and caring but there
have been a few mongrels. No matter what your specialty is the most significant challenges will be
the people ones. The people make or break an organisation.
In my time in safety I have helped my employers cope with the aftermath of 13 fatalities, 1 case of
paraplegia, 1 serious burns case and a major stress episode. All of these had a devastating effect on
the organisations involved but were easily prevented.
I am a long time critic of education for OHS people in Australia because I believe it has too much of a
focus on technical OHS skills and not enough on the required broader skills.
I like the General George Patton quote “Lead me, follow me or get out of my way”
The following largely results from my critical reflection on my experience and learning, in a few areas
it represents input from my network of associates, I thank them for that.
Quotable Quote
"A health & safety problem can be described by statistics but cannot be understood by statistics. It can
only be understood by knowing and feeling the pain, anguish, and depression and shattered hopes of
the victim and of wives, husbands, parents, children, grandparents and friends, and the hope, struggle
and triumph of recovery and rehabilitation in a world often unsympathetic, ignorant, unfriendly and
unsupportive, only those with close experience of life altering personal damage have this
Guiding principle
• When initiating change remember “People
support what they create”
One of the things that came to me a number of years ago was that the OHS person needs a
number of non OHS skills as well as OHS technical skills to be effective. You have to resolve
to be a life-long learner; often learning in fields allied to your major discipline will increase
your effectiveness in your major discipline.
Be a sponge and soak up all the knowledge and experience you can. Never be scared to ask
for advice and experience, never stop learning. Look beyond what others see and learn to
understand the ‘why’ and ‘how’.
Finding yourself a mentor will be of real value and constantly discuss issues with your peers.
Deliberately ask for the hard jobs. Putting yourself out of your comfort zone is a great way to
learn and do not be afraid to fail. Failure is a great way to learn.
Start your learning at the level you can handle. Simple principles can be easily learnt, you
don’t need to be an academic.
The following attempts to explore the required non OHS technical skills.
Non OHS technical skills I maintain are necessary include1.
Communications Skills
Interpersonal Skills
Management of Organisational Change
Psychology and Sociology
Project Management
Quality Management
Facilitating Meetings / Problem Solving Groups
Time management
Mentoring / Coaching
Managing Committees
Recognising Displacement Activities
Human Resource Management
Ethical High Performance Standards
Being a Champion
Commitment to Excellence
Being a Chameleon
Relevant Industry Experience
Customer service
Presentation skills
Political awareness
Organisational skills
Personal experience of leadership
32. Managing yourself
33. Your life
1. Communications skills
An observation of mine is that despite having great OHS technical skills a number of OHS
people are let down by their communications skills.
As I get older my critical reflection on practice tells me communications skills are just as
important as OHS technical skills. There is not much point having a great message if you
cannot get it across, if you have great technical skills but cannot get along with people you
will not succeed.
Keep it Succinct
The biggest problem with written communications is its length; generally I think you must try
to get your routine messages across in a maximum of 2 pages. Busy people do not have time
to write more and busy people do not have the time to read more. Concentrate on the MUST
KNOWS. I am sure some safety people must be paid by the word, the result is long
ponderous written communications. You can be certain that if it is too much like hard work to
read it will not be read.
Professor T.J. Larkin’s book “Communicating Change”
After receiving their communications employees should return to their jobs, change their
behaviour and perform better. The change should be immediate and measurable. If the
communication changes behaviour it is good communication, if it does not it is bad
The goal of communication is improving performance, it should change the way employees
do their job. If communication is to change behaviour it must be grounded in the interests and
desires of the receiver. To be noticed communications must contain something that interests
the receiver and touches their values. Communication must be what interests the frontline
employees not the bosses.
There are 3 very important principles for effective workforce communications1. Use the supervisor not management
2. If it is not face to face it is not communications
3. Focus on the local work area
Effective Communications
Effective communication skills are fundamental to success in many aspects of life. Lots of
jobs require strong communication skills and people with improved communication skills
usually have better interpersonal relationships. Communication is a two way process so
improving communication involves both how we send and receive messages.
Improving Communications
Put yourself in the other persons shoes
Project an image that you care
Listen well
Beware of others emotions
Use your listening skills to understand both sides of an argument.
Use humour - Try to be friendly, upbeat and positive. If you smile and stay cheerful
people are more likely to respond positively to you.
o Do not get overexcited
o Only whinge when necessary. If you must complain focus on the issue not the person
Communications skills are a key requirement for OHS personnel; you are encouraged to learn
about them.
2. Interpersonal skills
An observation of mine is that despite having great OHS technical skills a number of OHS
people are let down by their interpersonal skills.
As I get older my critical reflection on practice tells me interpersonal skills are just as
important as OHS technical skills. There is not much point having a great message if you
cannot get it across, if you have great technical skills but cannot get along with people you
will not succeed.
10 Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills
1. Be happy
2. Show you care
3. Look after others
4. Listen actively-We have 2 ears and 1 mouth; they should be used in this ratio
5. Promote team values
6. Settle disputes
7. Be funny
8. Put yourself in their shoes
9. Do not complain
Cite H.R. on Interpersonal Skills
1. Keep skid chains on your tongue; always say less than you think. Cultivate a low,
soothing voice. How you say it counts more than what you say.
2. Make promises sparingly, and keep them faithfully, no matter what it costs.
3. Never let an opportunity pass to say a kind and encouraging word to or about
somebody. Praise good work, regardless of who did it. If criticism is needed,
criticise helpfully, never spitefully.
4. Be interested in others, their pursuits, their work, their homes and families. Make
merry with those who rejoice; with those who weep, mourn. Let everyone you meet,
however humble, and feel that you regard him as a person of importance.
5. Be cheerful. Don't burden or depress those around you by dwelling on your minor
aches and pains and small disappointments. Remember, everyone has their problems.
Keep an open mind. Discuss but don't argue. It is a mark of a superior mind to be able
to disagree without being disagreeable.
6. Let your virtues speak for themselves. Refuse to talk of another's vices. Discourage
gossip. It is a waste of valuable time and can be extremely destructive. Be careful of
another's feelings. Wit and humour at the other person's expense are rarely worth it
and may hurt when least expected.
7. Don't be too anxious about the credit due to you. Also, pay no attention to any illnatured remarks about you either. Simply live your truth. Success is much sweeter
that way.
The following 3 techniques are invaluableAppropriate Self-Disclosure
I was introduced to and practised appropriate self-disclosure in a Psychology subject. You
will find in a new relationship if you reveal a little bit of you (provided it is appropriate) the
other party will reveal a little bit of them (provided it is appropriate), if you then reveal a little
bit more of you (provided it is appropriate) they will reveal a little bit more of them (provided
it is appropriate), and so the cycle goes on. This is very simple, incredibly effective and I use
it all the time to build relationships. Of course if you really hang all your dirty washing out it
will probably stuff up the process.
Reflective Listening
On a counselling subject I was introduced to and practised reflective listening. This is a very
powerful technique to get to the core beliefs of those around you. Someone says something,
you may say “If I understand you properly you think x”, this gives the other party the
opportunity to expand on their view or “Correct me if I am wrong but I think you are saying
The Formula
There will be times others do things that annoy you, often they will have what they think are
good reasons for what they are doing and they will have no idea they are annoying you. A
good formula for these situations is to express your feelings as follows“When you A, I feel B, because C, and I would like you to do D, because E”
The only person who knows how you feel is you and most people will not know how you feel
and many will be happy to adjust their behaviour accordingly. If this does not happen at least
you have the basis for ongoing discussion.
I suggest all safety professionals read up on these techniques, it can make your life much
When it comes to recruitment a good understanding of interpersonal skills can make the
difference between not getting and getting that dream job.
People Skills by Bolton is a good reference, to get the best value out of the book you need to
work through some of the exercises in the chapters.
The Use of Humour
In the days when I used to work in the mining industry I remember being in a meeting in
Rockhampton about a series of personal damage occurrences (“Accidents”) that had occurred. Two
representatives of the company that manufactured the equipment involved were in attendance along
with a number of industry Safety Advisers. The manufacturer representatives would not acknowledge
that the design of their equipment was a factor and were spinning us their company line about how
safe their equipment was. Tempers progressively got more frayed and we were getting nowhere. My
workmate Terry Condon came out with a classic, humorous one-liner that defused the tension and set
the scene for meaningful progress.
That was the first time I have seen humour used in a meaningful way in business. I watched Terry in
action after this and noted his frequent effective use of humour.
Humour can be used effectively in formal and informal presentations and in general
interaction in business and non-business life.
Avoid humour that focuses on religion, politics, race, class, sex, age, physical
appearance. To use any of these will run the risk of upsetting someone. I hear you
asking what the hell else is there that I can use. The only safe butt of your humour is
Introduce the humour in the general flow of your conversation.
For a major presentation rehearse and listen to yourself on a tape recorder.
Like many things in life humour follows the 7 P rule-Prior Preparation and Planning
Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.
Try to use humour that relates to things others see as an annoyance.
Quotations from famous people are often sources of humour; you can search these on
the internet. Laurie Lawrence’s web-site has a lot of quotations.
Stretching the truth is forgivable.
If you are a communicator who uses effective humour, presents well and has a relevant
message you will be invited back.
For more information Google the topic and look at the paper, “The use of humour “on
Set the Example
One of the best ways of influencing others in your discipline is through you setting and living
the example. You will gain respect. While a simple competency on the face of it, setting the
example is very important. No matter how good a line you talk, if you do not match it with
your behaviour you will gain no respect. As a leader you are constantly watched by those you
work with.
Great interpersonal skills should be part of the OHS person’s tool-kit. There are a number of
techniques you can use to enhance your interpersonal skills.
3. Management of Organisational Change
The only thing constant in business is change. General organisational change principles can
enhance safety change if they are applied thoroughly.
Introduction to Change
Change has been around a long time.
I cannot say whether things will get better if we change, what I can say is that they must
change if they are to get better. Georg Christoph Licthenstein, 1742-1799
Dr. Merv Wilkinson puts change into perspective when he says: Organisational change is a
generic body of knowledge that is applicable across the board but only when contextualised
into the particular workplace within the culture and people characteristics and professions
etc. of the situation /workplaces.
Employees often resist changes which diminish skill requirements in jobs, personal status,
authority, power or influence, personal or job security, remuneration, workplace
communication and opportunities for social interaction. They also resist changes which are
forced on them, are not fully understood, affect accepted ways of doing things, violate
behavioural norms, disrupt established social relationships, make people feel ineffective or
incompetent or expose personal weaknesses.
Organisational Change Management Theory
Experienced safety professionals will recognise the relevance to safety change in the three
change management practices outlined by Perkins. Managing cultural change requires three
things-management commitment, universal approval and appropriate measures and rewards.
1. Management Commitment
In order for anything to happen in an enterprise, including change, executives and
managers must be consistently committed to make it happen. Only enterprise leaders
can ensure the resources necessary to effect the changes are available. Leaders must
continuously and obviously support the changes. The visibility of leadership support
is a primary factor in achieving universal approval for change.
2. Universal Approval
Internal change is successful only when the people involved approve of the change.
They understand the need for change. They believe the change is good for the
enterprise and for them. They agree that the change being undertaken is the right one.
3. Measures and Rewards
Getting everyone to want change is difficult. It requires a level and degree of
communication not found in many enterprises. The best way to get and maintain
universal approval is to ensure the process and results of change are measured
appropriately and accurately and communicated enterprise-wide. Good results and
changed behaviour must be rewarded. At the same time, unchanged behaviour and
poor results should not be rewarded. Employees will not work toward change if they
continue to be rewarded for old practices.
Kotter speaks about the eight steps for successful large-scale change.
1. Increase urgency. Those who are successful in change begin their work by creating a
sense of urgency among relevant people.
2. Build the guiding team. With urgency turned up the more successful change agents
pull together a guiding team with the credibility, skills, connections, reputations and
formal authority required to provide change leadership.
3. Get the vision right. The guiding team creates sensible, clear, uplifting visions and
sets of strategies.
4. Communicate for buy-in. Communication of the vision and strategies comes nextsimple heart-felt messages sent through many unclogged channels. Deeds are more
important than words. Symbols speak loudly. Repetition is the key
5. Empower action. Key obstacles that stop people working on the vision are removed.
6. Create short-term wins. Short-term wins provide credibility, resources and momentum
to the overall effort.
7. Do not let up. Change leaders do not let-up they create wave after wave of change
until the vision becomes a reality.
8. Make change stick. Change leaders make change stick by nurturing a new culture.
Appropriate promotions, skilful orientation and events can make a big difference.
Kotter’s text “The Heart of Change” is a recommended must-read for anyone undertaking
cultural change.
Schein relates how leaders embed and transmit change. The most powerful mechanisms for
culture embedding and reinforcement are:
What leaders pay attention to, measure and control.
Leader reactions to critical incidents and organisational crises.
Deliberate role modelling, teaching and coaching by leaders.
Criteria for allocation of rewards and status.
5. Criteria for recruitment, selection, promotion, retirement and excommunication.
The principles of organisational change management must be examined for their applicability
to OHS Change. Safety Change will be much more effective if these principles are put into
During author’s organisational change studies he discovered the concept that “People support
what they create”. It is suggested this motto is directly applicable to safety change.
References and Further Information
For references and further information refer to the paper Organisational Change Management
Principles on www ohschange.com.au
4. Leadership
Leadership can make or break an organisation. It is my contention that general leadership
principles are not applied frequently or well in Australian industry.
Why is Leadership Important?
Leadership defines the purpose, goals, vision, mission and objectives of the organisation. It
further sets the direction, lays down the expectations and guides implementation. It is a vital
component of strategic and operational management plans. Leaders must manage by walking
around and often be seen in the workplace.
Leadership Perspectives
Having survived a number of years in industry I am acutely aware that leadership of an
organisation can make or break the organisation. The importance of leadership is vastly
underrated in Australian industry. Leadership is the often forgotten key to excellence in all
aspects of business and life. Unfortunately it is sometimes the refuge of scoundrels.
In my experience many supervisors and managers know little about general leadership. I
would go as far as to say leadership is not understood by many in management. People are
often promoted to supervisor / manager positions because of their technical skills and with
little knowledge of and preparation for leadership.
Leaders influence, inspire and drive people to a common goal, create vision and excitement;
set a direction, motivate and inspire people to follow; align people; and build new
relationships and structure. Leadership is about people.
Managers keep the day-to-day operations of an organisation running smoothly and must plan
and budget; coordinate, control and execute activities; organise staff and work within an
existing structure. Management is about systems and things.
General Colin Powell is reported as having said leadership is the art of accomplishing more
than the science of management says is possible.
Honest and ethical behaviour is the centre piece of leadership, we constantly hear about
otherwise highly competent leaders who fail because of ethical issues. When highly ethical
leaders do not take up the leadership challenge less ethical people will fill the void. This
appears to happen commonly in politics, business and the sporting world.
Framework of What Follows
The majority of what follows is the wise words of acknowledged experts in leadership gained
after extensive research into this topic.
Management Commitment
Livermore (in Carter, Ulrich and Goldsmith, page 46) observes “The best system or model in
the world is not going to do your organisation a bit of good unless you have a top down
commitment to making it work. Your board of directors, C.E.O., and senior management
have to be firmly committed to being the best of the best .They set the tone and direction of
the entire organisation. This creates a trickle-down effect throughout the organisation. Once
mid-level management and low level employees see top executives leading the way, most of
them will begin to support the initiative as well.
Kouze’s on Leadership (The Art and Practice of Leadership Coaching)
The most important quality people look for and admire in a leader is personal credibility.
Credibility is the foundation of leadership. If we do not believe in the messenger we will not
believe the message. And what is credibility behaviourally? The most frequent response is
“Do what you say you will do.”, or “DWYSYWD” for short.
Leaders must be clear about their beliefs. They must know what they stand for. Then they
must put what they say into practice, they must act on their beliefs.
Quotable Quote
“The people are fashioned according to the example of their king and edicts are less
powerful than the life (example) of the king” Claudian, c. 365, Egyptian epic poet
Leaders Must Build Trust
Introducing change inevitably upsets the established order in organizations and forces people
to question their existing role in the organization. Often people will be asked to do something
that is different from the norm and to do that which they do not agree with. Persons
introducing and leading change must ensure they are trusted by those they are seeking to join
them in the change journey.
The above is adapted from Johnson D.W. “Reaching Out” (1990). This text is recommended
reading for those involved in leadership.
Emerging Challenges in Leadership
Having an individual who is a great leader is one thing, maintaining that leadership after that
individual leaves the organisation is another thing. Someone much smarter than me said good
leaders lead and great leaders develop other leaders.
Much is spoken about developing leadership; an equal amount of effort must be expended on
developing “followship”.
What Various Professionals Can Do To Improve Leadership
1. Learn as much as you can about leadership. Reference to the sources of information in
this paper will help.
2. Carry out a survey to identify the workforce perception of company leadership, there
are various ways of going about this. Sometimes there is value in collating the
answers onto histograms, displaying the histograms to the people who completed the
survey, discussing the results and trying to establish why the responses are the way
they are. This is best done by as senior a managers as possible who does not react
defensively to criticism.
3. Survey the leadership styles of your leaders, various instruments are available.
Carrying out a force field analysis on leadership may help to focus issues.
4. Identify the relevant learning needs of leaders using a formalized learning needs
5. Based on the above develop a leadership project plan in association with the
stakeholders. Form a project team to manage the plan. Get management approval for
the plan.
6. Launch and communicate the leadership project plan. My general advice with
communication is to use face to face communication wherever possible, use the
powerful influence of the work group supervisor and frame communication relevant
to the work environment of the group being communicated to. High powered
communications from senior management about the goals, mission, vision and the
objectives of the company will not have much of an impact with many of the workers.
7. Carry out interactive leadership learning using Action and Experiential learning
models. The learning must have a focus on the reality of the workplace. My advice is
to check out both the process and content of potential providers very carefully, there
are some snake oil salesmen in this space. I know it is not everybody’s thing but
properly structured outdoor learning experiences can be a powerful means of
leadership learning. Just ensure the focus is on the learning not the outdoor
8. As a follow up to learning facilitation, engage in authentic leadership tasks / activities
/ projects in the workplace. Progress must be regularly discussed, reviewed and
evaluated. Celebrate the success of these. McDonalds use WOW projects in their
leadership learning.
9. Meet with the people who attended the learning facilitation and discuss what is going
well and what opportunities for improvement have been presented. I know it is not
everybody’s thing but I encourage leaders to maintain a reflective journal about their
leadership experiences, used properly this can be a powerful means of learning.
10. Evaluate, communicate and celebrate success. Establish what was learnt in the
process and how you would do it better next time.
The Top 10 Things that are Essential for Leadership
1. Leaders must visibly demonstrate commitment and focus. Good leaders lead, great
leaders develop other leaders.
2. Leaders must set the example.
3. Leaders must create high expectations.
4. High values and detailed standards of performance must be used
5. Leaders must listen to and involve the workforce
6. Leaders must do what they say they will do.
7. Leaders must value goals.
8. Employees must be made to feel they are part of something important and satisfying.
9. Leaders must reinforce, reward and celebrate success.
10. Everyone must be held accountable for performance.
There is a vast body of knowledge on general leadership that can be applied to industry but
this is not done frequently or well in many Australian companies.
Leadership needs to be applied at a higher level in Australia. Various professionals can have
a major impact on leadership by application of well developed interventions.
I will leave you with a quote “Managers do things right, leaders do the right thing, always”
(Private communication, S. Munro)
For references and more information refer to the paper “The Things You Need to Know
about Leadership”.
5. Psychology and Sociology
I have completed a small amount of study in both of the above areas and think they have
significant application in OHS. I intend to learn more. Dr. Robert Long appears to be carrying
out excellent work applying the learning from these 2 disciplines to OHS.
6. Project Management
I have had no formal learning in project management but have led a number of highly
successful project teams. With good leadership, careful selection of members, appropriate
management support, incorporating change management principles and a focused project
plan, project teams can be a great way of driving significant change. Detailed work on the
project plan is vital. There is a range of project management learning available.
7. Quality Management
In the 1990’s BHP-Coal introduced what was arguably the most robust quality system in
Australian industry at the time. I was involved in quality auditing, development of work
instructions, development of quality procedures, document control and attended various
quality training courses. The continuous improvement message was very vigorously
incorporated in every aspect of the business. Since leaving BHP I have worked for
organisations with no quality system, a quality system in name only even if it may have been
successfully audited and effective quality systems. The most striking problem with
organisations with no quality system or a poor quality system is the lack of a continuous
improvement philosophy.
I have worked in organisations without document control; it is frustrating not to be certain
that the documents you are referring to are the latest version. Organisations without a good
quality system do not have good procedures and work instructions. When Fred dies, ceases
employment, is run over by a truck or goes on long service leave, no one knows how Fred did
his job and the organisation suffers.
8. Teambuilding
My motto is-When Initiating Change, Remember People Support What They Create.
Working in teams is an essential part of most management functions.
Teams are small groups of people with complementary skills who work together as a unit to
achieve a common purpose for which they hold themselves collectively accountable.
Effective Teams
Create clear roles & goals
Willing to try new ideas
Ensure mutual accountability and a common purpose
Establish clear rules for behaviour by the team
Create expectations
Call a spade a spade
Get the right people
Require people to do their work
Constantly upgrade skills
Build trust through appropriate self-disclosure
Consider “What’s in it for me” from the perspective of the other person
Create short-term wins
Celebrate success
Have fun
Be a bit crazy when appropriate (calculated risk-taking is good!)
Do what gives you the biggest bang for your buck
Teambuilding Workshop
With one organisation I facilitated a teambuilding workshop with a particular focus on newly
appointed OHS personnel. The workshop aimed to define and clarify the roles of the various
parties in the OHS mix. Participants were the Department Manager, the H.R. Manager the
OHS people reported to and existing and new members of the OHS team.
Objective of the Workshop
Build a highly effective safety team that will lead the organisation to safety excellence.
1. Existing team members gave a 10-15 minute presentation on a. What they do
b. How they do it
c. What the challenges are
d. What they would like to do if they had the resources
e. What assistance they want from the team leader to help them perform at a high
2. New team members discussed the challenges they saw integrating into the safety
3. There was some discussion from senior personnel of their expectations of safety team
4. Discussion on “Where to from here?”-What additional assistance is needed to
participants in their journey to build a highly effective team?
All participants reported that the workshop assisted to clarify their role in the team. We all
got to know and understand each other better.
Teambuilding is an important part of the OHS person’s role. You are advised to read up on
the topic.
9. Facilitating Meetings / Problem Solving Groups
Persons in OHS roles are often called upon to facilitate meetings and problem solving groups.
Much can be found on the internet about facilitating effective meetings and there is no need
for me to repeat it here. The reality is many meetings do not realise their potential through
poor facilitation of the meeting. Keeping discussion focused and deciding on positive means
of moving forward are key areas. The book Teachers As Facilitators, Dr. Merv. Wilkinson,
Catalystofchange contains good advice on facilitating problem solving groups.
10. Time management
It used to be said that man has a finite time on this earth, possibly this is changing to a certain
extent with modern advances in medical science. The important thing to realise is that
whatever time we have it is important to use it well and manage it wisely. The following is
adapted from notes I took on a time management course conducted by Ray Prince.
There is often little correlation between hard work and the level of achievement. Active
people do not necessarily get the most done.
Activity = Productivity is a myth. Measure by results rather than by activity.
Time Management Tips
Develop a time log of a typical day or week to help you analyse your time usage.
“Procrastination is the thief of time”
The following works for me, I do not know if it will work for you. Trim time wasting emails. Attempt to be succinct in all your written documents; you do not have time to write
pages of waffle that others will be too busy to read. Use management summaries with major
reports. Trim non-essential meetings and use video-conferencing instead of gathering people
at a meeting where people have to travel to the meeting venue. An open door policy is fine in
theory but can waste a lot of time. Instead let people know your not to be disturbed times and
the times when you are available for consultation. Come in early, leave early and use the
early morning when no one is about to your advantage. At the beginning of the day divide
your “To Do” list into the MUST DOS, SHOULD DOS & COULD DOS. Your aim is to
complete at least all those on the MUST DO list before you go home.” Excessive work habits
are more often a debit than a credit.
Common Time Wasters
Trying to take on too many tasks
Poor planning
Accepting jobs that should & could be done by others
Putting jobs off
Lack of organisation
Taking on tasks not capable of doing
You need to identify what are the time wasters for you.
Planning Your Work Will Save Time.
Refuse to do the unimportant.
Set deadlines for yourself and others.
Telephone-Do not be scared to terminate conversations, block calls in your quiet time,
pre-plan your call, delegate your calls, do not encourage small talk,
Handling interruptions-Do not encourage them, filter phone calls, tell people you are
busy, you be the visitor rather than encouraging people to visit you, limit the time of
the visit, work elsewhere, come in early, keep a certain time of the week free, learn to
say no, improve delegation.
Paperwork-Do you really need that memo? Does Fred really need a copy?, C.Y.A. &
J.I.C. paperwork?, be succinct in everything you write, expect succinct
correspondence from others, purge files regularly, write on the original rather than
produce a new piece of paper, can correspondence be replaced by a phone call?
Meetings-Do you really need a meeting?, can someone else attend?, do your
homework before the meeting, have an agenda, have a time schedule for the meeting,
define the objective of the meeting, allocate responsibilities for agreed tasks, leave if
not relevant to you, review meeting effectiveness.
Travel-Is travel really necessary?, can you video-conference instead?, must it be you
who travels?, plan / combine trips to reduce frequency, verify appointments before
you leave, have a checklist, take your lap-top with you and do some work, use the
airport lounges,
Reading-Choose what you read, cut down on the reading of newspapers, skim read,
read with a purpose, delegate reading and ask for a summary,
Keep a reasonably tidy desk
Take the time you need to do a quality job, saves re-work.
Do it straight away.
Prioritise, do the important first.
Ask yourself “Have I got a better way of spending my time?”
Do not leave e-mail sitting in your in box.
Do not take on too many tasks at once
Group tasks of a similar nature and do them together
Say no
Get feedback on job performance
Collect everything needed for a task before you commence it
Set an example by same day processing of your in basket
Tell your staff “Bring me solutions, not problems”
Remember the Pareto Principle, 20% of activity gives 80% of results, make sure the
20% gets done
Keep one day of the week free
List your common time wasting problems, causes and actions you could take.
Busy people need time management strategies to maximise their effectiveness.
11. Mentoring / Coaching
Formal learning is one way of developing inexperienced personnel. Mentoring and coaching
by experienced people is another. With a well organised approach all parties will learn.
Having a mentor is often of great assistance to progress in your chosen field. The following
are tips to get the most out of the mentoring process 1.
Encourage feedback
Share your thoughts and feelings
Be conscious of mentees personal and learning needs
Reflect on learning frequently, both parties maintain a reflective journal
Define and focus on mentee’s goals
Celebrate success
Brainstorm the list of learning opportunities when you start
Define purpose and objectives when you start. In some cases carrying out a force-field
analysis may be beneficial in the early stages.
9. In some cases a self and others rating of the mentee’s competencies may be beneficial
initially (Refer to “Resumes” on ohschange.com.au for a list of possible
“A good coach will make his people see what they can be, rather than what they are”
Being a Good Coach
Listen a lot
Ask open questions
Give praise
Listen more than you speak
Try to build trust
Always support others
Smile a lot
Respect people
Encourage life-long learning
Boost everyone’s interpersonal skills
Ask for regular feedback
Celebrate success
An important point about being a mentor or coach is that it is not your role to provide
solutions; rather your role is to get others to explore their options.
Mentoring or Coaching Plan
A plan that is regularly monitored and modified as necessary is essential. The following is an
example of one mentoring plan that was developed.
Mentoring Plan ?
The plan lasts for 12 months from 25/8/12, we will meet at George’s place every second
Saturday, 10am, meetings will generally last about one hour with the exception of the initial
one that may take longer. We will keep in contact via e-mail between meetings and if
necessary by phone. The frequency of the meetings will be controlled by the mentee on an as
needed basis.
Mentee Objectives - Example
To get a more fulfilling job where I can make a difference
Improve my OHS skills and knowledge
Develop a better resume
Improve my interview skills
Mentee Goals
To learn how I can do better as an OHS professional
Mentee Expectations
To be provided with practical advice of the type I do not learn through formal study.
Mentor Objectives-The objectives are to assist the mentee in improving their level of OHS
and OHS related competency in order to ensure they perform well in their current role and to
prepare them for the next step forward in their career
Mentor Goals- Mentees to receive a positive performance appraisal at work and, where
applicable, progress to a more senior position
Mentor Expectations-The mentor expects the mentee to take responsibility for their own
learning, attempt homework where they see it of value and engage in a major project to
cement their learning. It is suggested the mentee maintain a reflective journal
1. Accident investigation-? to enquire about accident investigation training from
Intersafe and have George review his accident investigation efforts
2. Prepare a 15-30 minute presentation on workplace bullying
1. It is recommended the mentee maintain a reflective journal of their experiences in the
mentoring process, the journal should reflect on what went well, what opportunities
for improvement were identified and what they have learnt. Up to you put I find they
help with learning. Also helps you prepare for performance appraisals with your boss,
negotiations about a pay rise and revising your resume. It also helps with writing uni.
assignments and writing for professional journals.
2. You should give consideration to the development of a WOW project. A WOW
project is one that is so effective everybody says WOW. Some major companies use
these as a regular part of learning programs for managers. A well executed project
will get you noticed where you work and look great on your resume.
Well developed mentoring and coaching programs can be a great way of learning.
12. Strategy
Many employers will tell you they value strategic thinking and execution in their
professionals. For the purposes of writing this section of the e book I started to research the
topic as I have had no formal training in this area. I quickly came to the conclusion that a lot
of the literature is quite theoretical, academic and not practical and applied. I decided to
comment instead on my experiences implementing strategic OHS policy.
George’s Strategic Experience
For over 10 years I had a corporate OHS role with a major Australian company. I was
involved in developing strategic OHS policy and helping the field OHS personnel at the
business units implement it. At one business unit I would arrive with the latest innovation
from head office and the field OHS Adviser would say something like “That is really
impressive, but will it work in the real world?’’ This was a very profound experience for me
and one that I learnt a lot from. There were occasions when it became obvious the strategic
approach from head office missed the mark practically.
When I was in the corporate role I forced myself to spend a lot of time in the field so I had
some chance of being grounded in reality. I observed others in the corporate office that did
not do this and noted the theoretical nature of their strategic recommendations.
I started a consultancy job with an organisation and they said I should read through their
strategic policy, procedure and fatal risk protocols. I got to about page 50 of the 150 page
documents before I gave up. All very thorough, well written, extremely detailed, all
emotionally appealing but would it be read & implemented? Somehow I could not see the
people up the sharp end wading their way through all the paperwork!
The thing that really annoys me is the rambling papers one sees in some so-called
professional journals. These are often academic in nature, designed to boost the ego of the
writer, usually removed from the real world of work and tell us things experienced people
will have figured out for themselves a long time ago. They also take an incredible number of
words to say not too much. Often an academic wank!
One organisation I worked for had a large corporate OHS team that developed large strategic
policy and procedure, when they came to train the troops the deficiencies in what they had
produced were very obvious. My experience is that many corporate OHS departments add
little to the bottom line and should be trimmed or abolished.
Two government organisations I worked for were buried in policy and procedure and making
even small amounts of progress was incredibly slow and difficult. If they had been in the
commercial world they would have quickly gone broke. People got to accept the situation and
simply stopped trying to force progress; it was too much like hard work.
Another organisation I worked for introduced an overseas commercial safety management
system. Those of us with field experience quickly realised the major weaknesses of the
system. Rather than accept that they had been sold a dead duck the corporate people persisted
with the system with little success.
13. Managing Committees
How to Have an Effective Committee
Committees are much maligned and often ineffective. They can easily denigrate to a whingefest and end up covering topics that should be dealt with on a routine, every day basis. There
is a tendency to save issues up to a committee meeting rather than action straightaway. There
is also a tendency to deal with minor issues.
1. Have a well-developed charter for the committee, searching educational institution
and government department web sites will find some good examples.
2. Train members in their roles and responsibilities.
3. Deal mainly with substantive issues; give the committee a meaty job to do.
4. Carrying out a force field analysis (Refer ohschange.com.au) with the committee can
be very valuable.
5. A good way to use the committee is to have them do the leg work to recommend
major change to senior management.
6. Produce succinct minutes.
7. Ensure people are given the necessary time to attend meetings and carry out necessary
tasks; this is a common failure with committees.
8. The relevant professional often ends up being the chairperson, much better to have
someone with management horsepower so decisions can be made on the spot.
9. An occasional guest speaker will liven up the show.
10. Substantive discussion and decisions must be feedback to the workforce.
11. Do not take yourself too seriously.
12. Celebrate success.
13. Require members to do their homework
14. Be conscious of Group-Think (Look the term up on Google if you are not familiar
with it)
Remember that management must respond positively to well researched recommendations
from the committee
14. Recognising Displacement Activities
Industry often responds to the latest fads promoted by high profile, smooth, marketing
professionals, often these fads are displacement activities. Displacement activities are things
we do, things we put a lot of energy into but which there is little valid reason for doing them.
Some occupations are full of displacement activities and these need to be recognised.
15. Marketing
I have attended some marketing training but admittedly the focus was on marketing
consultancy services. What I have tried to do with the following is provide are a few
marketing tips I think can be applied to the work of most professionals in a normal employer
employee relationship. The following is adapted from a Marketing subject I did at Q.U.T. and
a course from Logan Biz, Springwood, Qld.
Marketing Basics
Marketing is putting the right product in the right place, at the right time, at the right place.
You have to create a product people want.
Like a lot of things in life the 7 P rule applies to marketing-Prior Preparation and Planning
Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
Have a marketing plan with ideal customers specified, a vision, a customer mission
statement, goals and objectives.
Marketing people talk about the 4 P marketing mix - Product, Place, Price, and Promotion. It
pays to put a lot of work into defining these. People buy products not services and carefully
defining your products is vital.
Once you have defined you marketing approach get feedback from your customers to ensure
it is really what they want.
Marketing Goals
Increased product use through creating an interest in my products.
Get more repeat customers.
Raise my professional profile.
Launch new products.
Increase client recommendations.
Improve relationships with customers.
Educate relevant professionals and business operators in Safety.
Be a credible source of best practice information for Safety professionals.
Marketing Tips
Focus communications on the C.E.O. and senior management when applicable.
Formula for advertisements - Attention, Interest, Desire, Attention.
Have a Unique Selling Proposition that clearly differentiates you from others doing
similar things, put a lot of work into defining this.
Say thank you to customers.
Give customers “What’s In It For Me” from their perspective.
Give them an offer they cannot refuse.
Show the customer how the product will benefit them.
Keep in contact with old customers much easier to sell to than getting new customers.
Have a call to action.
Always treat the customer like a King or Queen-If you do not your competitors will.
People buy benefits but want to know features.
Word of mouth from satisfied customers is the best advertising, if they are happy they
may tell one person, if they are not they will tell 20.
Marketing Activities
Write papers for journals and LinkedIn forums, internal publications, present papers
at conferences.
Put materials on the company web site.
Record customer details and what they buy.
Get customer feedback; always make a call after a sale.
Customer discussion group, sandwich lunch, with incentives to attend, to discuss my
latest ideas.
Send regular e-mail updates.
Ask for referrals and put on web site, reward customers for referrals.
Have a regular newsletter to clients and make available through subscription on the
web site.
Marketing skills can improve the impact of many initiatives. A basic search on Google will
reveal a number of good, relevant ideas. As I said before - Always treat the customer like a
King or Queen-If you do not your competitors will.
16. Human Resource Management
Many organisations indicate their people are their greatest assets, some act this philosophy
out and for some it is a cynical exercise that is not practiced. In these days of litigation
adhering to human resource management policy and process is becoming increasingly
important. Equal opportunity, discrimination, harassment, bullying, health & safety,
compliance with legislation are just some of the areas where you can land in a lot of trouble.
Modern professionals must have knowledge of and commitment to human resource
management practice.
My advice is that most initiatives involving people in organisations must be discussed with your
human resource management staff prior to implementation.
Job interviews short
The following is an extract from a 7 page handout on job interviews that is available from
[email protected] The following is provided as advice to job seekers.
This paper mainly represents critical reflection on the authors experience being interviewed and
interviewing others. Formal learning in broad H.R.M. and interviewing techniques has assisted.
Major tip
Recruitment & selection uses “Past behaviour predicts future behaviour” The idea is to give plenty
of examples of where in the past you have successfully done the sort of things that you will be
required to do in the new job. Say what you did, how you did it and what were the results.
The interview
A lot of interviewers sit there dead-pan and uncommunicative, often this is because they are new to
the process and very uptight about it, do not let this throw you off, just relax and be yourself.
An important tip for interviews is to project an image that you are highly interested in the job and that
you are generally high energy in your approach.
The following questions are often asked in interviews in the private sector.
“What was it about the job ad that attracted you to apply?” Pretty hard to respond if you have thrown
the ad away or do not have an electronic copy. Sometimes the person who wrote the job ad will be the
person asking the question so a bit of stroking is appropriate. You can talk about things like a good
match for your skills, opportunity to learn more about X, an industry you have experience in, an
opportunity to apply solid skills learnt in another industry to a new industry, opportunity to bring
skills learnt in a high performing company to the new company, opportunity for a bit of travel if that
is your thing, opportunity for lots of people interaction and so on.
“What do you know about our company? ” If you have not looked up the company web-site if they
have one or otherwise researched the company you are going to look like a bit of a dill at this point in
time. Always refresh your memory of company details just before going to interview.
“Why have you applied for this position? / What interests you about this position?” You might be
tempted to say you need a job to pay the bills but this may not necessarily be the best response. You
should have got as much information about the job as you could. I would talk about having similar
experience in a similar job in a similar industry or how experience in similar roles would add value to
the position with them. You could also talk about the new things you are keen to learn. Some
organisations are going through change processes and you could mention this is an exciting process
for you or how you found working at Y with similar change processes very interesting and learnt a lot.
Probably does not hurt to mention the job is close to home if appropriate.
“Where do you want to be in 5 years time?” Be careful with this one. You want to demonstrate you
are keen to learn, am ambitious and want to progress in your chosen field but if you are over
ambitious to the extent that your ambitions are not achievable with that employer and the employer
knows you are not a really long-term prospect you may not get the job.
“Tell me about your ideal job” Much the same caution as the question above
“What makes for an ideal supervisor for you?” The most dangerous question of the lot! Impossible to
predict as the personality of your potential supervisor can vary so much. I always say general things
like sets high standards for themselves and me, is thorough, has good communications skills, has good
interpersonal skills and a sense of humour is a bonus. Getting into the specifics too much may reveal a
clash of personalities.
“Tell me about yourself”.
“Why are you the best person for this job?” /”Why should we give you this job?”
“What are your strengths?”
“What are your weaknesses?” Hint, mention a relatively minor weakness and say you have realised it
is a weakness and say what you are doing to overcome the weakness.
“How would your friends describe you?” Conservative if not obvious another approach is required,
think about what is a good answer from the employers perspective.
“How would your boss describe you?” Conservative if not obvious another approach required. Think
about what is a good answer from the employers perspective.
“Describe what good communications means to you”
“What motivates you?”
“Why did you choose to start working in x field?”
“What is your most significant achievement in x field?”
“ Please give me an example of where you have gone the extra mile for a customer”
“Please give me an example of how you went about x”
“How did you contribute to accomplishing a team goal?”
“Describe how you found it difficult to build an effective working relationship with a customer /
“Tell me what you have done to help a peer / team member to understand what knowledge / skills area
to strengthen?”
“Tell us about a time when you faced conflicting priorities?”
“Describe the most difficult conflict you have been involved in or the toughest group you have had to
work with?”
Government jobs usually stick to questions based on the selection criteria. Generally I would go to the
interview with 2 examples of how I had successfully implemented the things in each of the selection
Towards the end of the interview ask the time frame for making a decision and appointment.
Ask when feedback from the interview will be available. Always ask for feedback, you will often not
agree with it but it gives you an idea of how others perceive you.
Prior to an important job interview you should have a mock interview with friends.
It is a good idea to think about what some of the questions you are likely to be asked are and have a
prepared answer in your head.
Note-For male interviewees be careful of the female interviewer with the low cut dress, this could be
a test! If you have tattoos on your lower arms wear a long-sleeved shirt AND please get rid of the
studs and other metal
17. Ethical High Performance Standards
You have to beyond reproach in everything you do. If you are not, it may take awhile, but
you will be found out eventually and you will lose all credibility. General Norman
Schwarzkopf said “Failures in leadership are invariably failures in character, not
competence”. People have to trust you; doing what you say you will do is a good way to
build trust. The business, political and sporting worlds have been full of otherwise competent
people who have failed badly through ethical issues.
18. Motivation
One definition of motivation is that it is the general desire or willingness of someone to do
Tips for Self Motivation
Get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself
Learn from your mistakes
Be a lifelong learner
Never quit
Have huge but realistic goals
Prior Preparation And Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Have good plans and
regularly review them.
Have a good work life balance
Tips for Motivating Your Team
Lead, set the example, be a role model and assist team members
Clearly define the mission and vision of the organisation. Work with team members to
define their goals and objectives.
Empower team members to succeed, vigorously promote a continuous improvement
Work with team members on developing their personal development plans.
Regularly review the progress of team members.
As well as being a team leader be a coach, mentor and guide.
Should team members be experiencing personal difficulties pull out all stops to help.
Have fun and celebrate success.
19. Being a Champion
I have personal experience working with a senior manager who was the OHS Champion; his
concentration had an extremely powerful effect. Those in less senior positions can be the
champion of their discipline and have a profound effect. A relentless approach and a
commitment to excellent standards and continuous improvement are required.
20. Counselling
Interpersonal difficulties occur frequently in organisations and relationships can become
strained. It is useful if those in leadership positions have basic counselling skills. The 3
techniques listed under interpersonal skills are basic counselling approaches that can be easily
applied to simple situations. One must realise however that human relationships can be very
complex and for all but the basic situations you will need people with professional
counselling learning and experience.
21. Commitment to Excellence
Excellence is deliberate, not something we stumble onto. You need to realise that sometimes
the reason you do not achieve your goals is that you are playing by the rules. I have always
been one to challenge the status quo, it has got me in a lot of trouble but I maintain it is better
than putting up with fools and average standards. With one employer I was trained in and
practiced continuous improvement that has had a lasting effect on me.
Many people in business want to perform their tasks at a high level; unfortunately work
systems and supervision sometimes do not allow this to occur. My frequent experience has
been if you want to know how to do something better, ask the people doing it.
The motto of the Australian S.A.S. Regiment is “Who Dares Wins”, that motto works for me.
Have huge but realistic goals and do the simplest thing that will work.
22. Empathy
One definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. I
believe empathy is one of the most important skills for all occupations. Many in management
have no respect for the workers or understanding of their plight. Many engineers I have
worked with were great with things but lousy with people, while I am insulting people, I
might as well say this comment also applies to those in financial services.
Empathy is a double edged sword. I have also worked with people who get so carried away
with their loving, caring, sharing approach that they achieve little.
I never cease to be amazed at the strength of character in front line Australian workers. Many,
even in what could be considered lowly positions, have amazing intellect and ability.
23. Being a Chameleon
One role I had, could see me one day giving a presentation to senior management justifying
significant expense, and on the next day conducting a safety meeting with a group of miners.
One needs to have the ability to be a chameleon and adapt your behaviour and language to
the situation i.e. boardroom or crib room. Adaptability and flexibility are important traits.
24. Relevant Industry Experience
I communicate with a number of inexperienced people trying to obtain an OHS position. The
problem they report is you cannot get the job without the experience and cannot get the
experience without the job. The view of many in management is that is essential for
employment applicants to have practical experience in the particular industry. I understand
this approach and have seen benefits accrue from its application.
Having reflected on the above approach I am now of the view it can be limiting. I have
worked in a number of industries and had little trouble making the adjustments required to
operate in particular industries. Certainly there was some work required on particular idiocy
cries but I found that could be done quickly and painlessly. I would suggest that if you have
extremely sound skills in your speciality you should be able to adapt to most industries.
An acceptance of industry practice and a consequent lack of challenging the status quo can
result from employing those with industry experience
25. Learning
One of the activities we all do in business is "training" others. It is my contention that modern
adult learning principles are not practiced frequently or well in general "training" in industry
and in consequence the learning experience is not as successful as it could be.
Learning Background
The teaching of adults (androgogy) has many differences to the teaching of children and other
young people (pedagogy). Adults have considerable life experience to bring to the training
room and are more likely to question training input that does not accord with their life
Critical reflection is an important element in androgogy and this happens most naturally
when the content of a class invites involvement, when students are encouraged to respond to
the material by drawing in a disciplined way from their life experiences. Reflection helps
move learners to greater complexity and sophistication in their understanding of any material
Tough (1979) has demonstrated that mature learners frequently prefer to be in charge of their
own learning with only minimal direction from an instructor, facilitator or resource. This has
prompted a change in the role of the instructor from that of content giver to learning manager,
facilitator and resource locator. The traditional role of instructors was to impart knowledge to
receptive learners; nowadays the instructor facilitates and manages the learning process itself.
(Heimstra,11) Therefore the instructor or trainer works to assist individuals in taking
responsibility for their learning.
For the learning to have meaning activities should be organised to allow participants to
discover the concepts for themselves (not always an easy thing to do). Discussions, case
studies, practical exercises, role plays are preferred. These are usually more effective
learning methods than the lecture but they take a longer period of time. Activities must be as
close to real life as possible and a content expert must be on hand should participants feel the
need for his/her input.
Far too often training activities are devised by trainers or managers who are removed from
the workplace environment of trainees. The content represents what the trainer or manager
thinks is what is required, often this approach misses the mark. Major efforts must be made
to consult with the work force on their perceived training needs. The SKILLS,
KNOWLEDGE and ATTITUDES (OR ABILITIES) to perform tasks must be examined to
gain insight into deficiencies; in some cases when gaps between current competencies and
desired competencies are revealed, training will be an appropriate remedy.
Explain "What's in it for me" early in the session and elicit participant’s expectations of the
training in initial stages.
Interactive Learning Strategies
For adults interactive rather than passive learning strategies are preferred.
It has been suggested that we retain:
10 percent of what we read;
20 percent of what we hear;
30 percent of what we see;
50 percent of what we hear and see;
70 percent of what we say;
90 percent of what we say and do.
Saying and doing are certainly important for retention and later application.
Smith and Delahaye Learning Principles
In their excellent text How To Be An Effective Trainer (Smith and Delahaye. (1983, 9-23)
refer to certain learning principles.
Whole or Part Learning divides the learning into manageable segments and work from
the known to the unknown.
Spaced Learning Learning that is spaced at reasonable levels is usually superior to
massed or crammed learning if you want long term retention.
Active Learning
If trainees are actively involved in the learning process (instead of listening
passively); they will learn more effectively and become self-motivated. Active
learning is often described as "learning by doing".
Give the trainees feedback on progress early and regularly and also obtain feedback
on how you are progressing as a trainer.
Over Learning
Stated simply, over learning means learning until one has perfect recall. Then learning
it some more. In other words, forgetting is significantly reduced by frequently
attempting to recall learned material.
Learning that is rewarded is much more likely to be retained.
Primacy and Recency
Given any sequence of facts, trainees will tend to remember what they heard first and
last. What they heard in the middle they often forget. Therefore, emphasise and
reinforce facts that are in the middle.
Meaningful Material
When presented with new information, we unconsciously ask two questions:
1. Is this information valid when I compare it with experiences I've had in the
2. Will this information be useful to me in the immediate future?
The implication of these questions means that one must move from the known to the
unknown and ensure information is readily usable by participants.
Multiple-Sense Learning
Always use sight and hearing but do not neglect the other senses.
Transfer of Learning
The amount of learning that trainees transfer from the training room to the workplace
depends, mainly, on two variables:
The degree of similarity between what was learned in the training program (and this
includes how it was presented) and what occurs at the workplace.
Lawler’s Principles of Adult Education (Lawler 1991)
Principle 1. Adult education requires a physical and social climate of respect.
2. A collaborative mode of learning is central to adult education.
3. Adult education includes and builds on the experience of the participant.
4. Adult education fosters critical reflective thinking.
5. Problem posing and problem solving are fundamental aspects of adult
6. Learning for action is valued in adult education.
7. Adult education is best facilitated in a participative environment.
8. Adult education empowers the participant.
In The Keys to Adult Learning Theory and Practical Strategies Lawler offers practical advice
on utilising these adult learning principles and is well-worth a read.
Action Learning
There is a large body of research literature that suggests that action learning is particularly
appropriate for adults.
Marsick (1991, 23-45) speaks about action learning (Project work on real-life problems and
reflection where participants draw out the lessons learned from their project work.)
There are three key components of the action/learning facilitation process: action, reflection
and the building of one’s own theories (Marsick 1991, 32-33). The action component is
developed in two ways “through appropriate experience provided by the project work and
through an action oriented approach to the way in which people learn from experience.
The video "An Introduction to Action Learning" The National Staff Development Committee
(1995) outlines the benefits and process of action learning.
The following equation is referred to:
L = P + Q where
Programmed knowledge balanced with
Questioning insight
Experiential Learning
This has some similarities to action learning and once again is thought to be particularly
relevant to adult learners.
Kolb and Fry (1975, 33) have developed an experiential learning model.
Concrete experiences
Testing implications of
Observation in new
concepts and reflection
Formulation of abstract
concepts and generalisation
Figure 1 : Experiential Learning Model, Kolb and Fry (1975, 33)
Experiential learning is based on three assumptions (Johnson 1990, 20). People learn best
when they are personally involved in the learning experience; knowledge has to be
discovered if it is to mean anything or make a difference in behaviour and commitment to
learning is highest when people are free to act their own learning goals and actively pursue
them within a given framework.
The process of experiential learning is shown below. (Johnson 1990, 20) The learner reflects
on their concrete experiences and examines their meaning in order to formulate a set of
concepts or principles. The sequence is concrete personal experiences followed by:Observation and reflection and examination of one's experiences and this leads to the
formulation of abstract concepts and generalisations which leads to hypotheses to be tested in
future action.
personal experience
Personal theory to be tested
in new situations
Formulation of concept
and principle
Figure 2 : Experiential Learning Cycle (Johnson 1990, 20)
Learning in the Workplace
Billett (2001) “Learning in the workplace-Strategies for effective practice” is recommended
as a “must-read” for those responsible for facilitating learning in the workplace. Many
workers are not prepared for work through vocational education programs; instead they learnt
their vocational practice through working. Traditional educators point out many
disadvantages to workplace learning without considering the many problems with a
traditional class-room education. One of the distinguishing features of workplace learning is
that, unlike class-room learning, it is directly relevant to the work being performed
In Billett (1993, 1) it is argued that informal learning settings such as workplaces provide an
optimal place for the acquisition of robust and transferable vocational skills. The training
that is conducted is in the workplace using situations as close as practicable to those
encountered in the workplace. The process used models the most traditional forms of
learning - the notion of an expert novice relationship (Billett 1993, 2). The approach used
utilises activity theory originally proposed by Vygotsky who claimed that knowledge is
socially and culturally constructed. Central to Vygotsky's view is that the relations between
the learner and the teacher/expert are socially constructed. Consequently, the quality of the
relationship will determine what type of knowledge the novice has access to and is allowed to
learn (Billett 1993, 3).
Billett (1993, 4) maintains the authenticity of learning activities is a determining quality of
learning experiences.
Research carried out by Billett (1993, 5) in the Queensland Coal Mining Industry revealed a
preference for learning by doing on behalf of respondents. The respondents also believed
that the expertise for learning was already on site. The following quote from Billett (1993,
10) appears relevant.
"The engagement of learners in authentic activities in natural settings, guided by experts with
reference to other learners and by allowing the learner to experience both the process and the
product of their activities have the potential to make the workplace a powerful learning
Billett (1992, 4) indicates the skill development activities and assessment should only be
conducted by those who have and are seen to have a strong base of skills in a specific area (a
content expert). It is also postulated that activities should closely reflect the activities that are
used as part of everyday practice in the workplace (authentic activities). This emphasises the
role of natural settings and authentic activities and reflects the research of Glaser (1984),
Glaser and Bassok (1989), Collins Brown and Newman (1989), Collins and Duguid (1989),
Gott (1989) and Raizer (1991). Billett (1992, 5) speculates that a learning process that gives
responsibility for the learning to the learner, engages them in dialogue with more expert
workers, asks them to problem-solve real situations and then provide an analysis of their
approach is appropriate. Billett (1992, 6) says that learning tasks must be realistic,
challenging but ultimately achievable.
Facilitating effective learning can be quite complex, modern adult principles and process
must be used. The paper Adult Learning Principles And Process goes into considerably more
detail and provides the references.
26 Customer service
I have been an internal or external OHS consultant for many years and have learnt the importance of
customer service. Sometimes customers are a pain in the rear end but they are still customers and
without customers you do not have a job. Customers sometimes need assistance separating wants
from needs and generally clarifying their needs. Under promise and over deliver is not a bad strategy.
Pull out all stops for a good customer. Always treat your customers like a King or a Queen, if you do
not you can be assured the other supplier will.
27 Presentation skills
The following has been assisted by formal learning / education but largely represents critical
reflection on the writer’s personal practice. The people who say an amount of it is based on the
writer’s stuff-ups would be quite correct
The essentials
The number one thing you must do is identify your audience’s needs, the number 2 thing you must do
is satisfy those needs
“When listening to your presentation the listener must say “Wow” within the first 3 minutes”
Whatever you do make it interactive, build in some activity for the participants
10 steps to success (Successful presentation skills, A. Bradbury)
Decide on the required outcome. Define a clear purpose for the presentation.
Identify your audience
Decide what is needed to get the desired outcome
Decide whether a presentation is the best means of achieving the outcome
Collect your information
Select a structure for the presentation
Prepare a script
Prepare visual aids
Do it
The guidance
Most of us are not naturally gifted speakers and need some assistance to make an impact. The
following will make your presentation unforgettableDo not focus on what you are going to talk about but focus on your outcomes, objectives and end
results (What you have achieved for the participant)
Tell your audience what you expect of them early up
Have a power sound bite-What single idea do I want the audience repeating as they leave the room?,
What single idea do I want them repeating to their friends and colleagues the next day? Have the
power sound bite in the introduction, repeated in the body and in the conclusion.eg. Leaders do what
they say they will do-L.D.W.T.S.T.W.D.
Have a variety of presentation styles to cope with differing learning styles.
Use clear, simple messages
Super prepare for an important presentation, particularly rehearse your opening & conclusion so it
comes out strong & clear
Sometimes some comment on why you are qualified to talk on this topic is appropriate
At the beginning tell them what you are going to do, why you are going to do it and how you will do
Throw in a bit of humour
For more detail refer to the paper How To Give An Unforgettable Presentation.
28 Political awareness
In most of my roles I have been an OHS Management and OHS Learning expert and relied on my
technical expertise to get things done, I left organisational politics up to others and generally tried to
divorce myself from the politics.
There was one organisation however where I found it wise to play the political game. My first
manager was ineffectual, resistant to change and rooted in practices of the past. I probably made my
criticisms of him too public and had done myself damage in the eyes of senior management. The
manager’s job was advertised and the old manager was not appointed. A young manager with an
agenda of change was appointed.
In an admittedly cynical approach I decided the way to restore my credibility in the eyes of senior
management was to be seen to strongly support the new manager. As it turned out he was quite a
personable and effective young bloke and my support was genuine.
It pays to be aware of the politics in organisations but my advice is not to become too immersed in it.
When there are senior people with different perspectives it pays to be careful which one you put your
support behind. If the one you supported wins the day you will be in good shape, if the one you did
not support wins the day it could be interesting. Just look at the fallout from the recent Labor party
leadership issues.
29 Listening
The following is adapted from People Skills by Bolton, for my money a must read for everyone in
business. To get the best value out of the book you have to do some of the exercises.
Listening takes up more of your waking hours than any other activity. Many of the important aspects
of your life are affected by your listening skills. Unfortunately most people lack the ability to listen
for the deep meaning in what others say. The ability to maintain good eye contact is essential as is
having a non-disruptive environment.
Bolton talks about attending skills, following skills and reflecting skills, all essential for excellent
The book has extensive discussion on reflective listening, a simple but very effective technique.
30 Organisational skills
According to the South West Institute of T.A.F.E. organisational skills =Setting goals, time
management, enlisting support, motivation, active learning, prioritising, living a balanced life and
overcoming setbacks.
When I was in the Australian Army I quickly realised the importance of getting organised. I got
friendly with the catering Sergeant (Got the better tucker and could organise a hot meal in the field
when others relied on ration packs), the Staff Sergeant in charge of the Quartermaster Store ( Could
get the good gear and things that actually fitted) and the Transport Sergeant (Could get a ride instead
of walking) The above made my life much easier and lifted my credibility with my soldiers.
My Uncle, Bert Weale was an Australian Army infantry R.S.M. in Vietnam, he used to say the
soldiers that had a better chance of surviving were the ones that had their s—t together.
My oldest son started work as a motor mechanic, studied mechanical engineering part time, now has
an engineer job and is looking at post graduate engineering study, I can proudly say I think he has his
s—t together.
Some people in business simply flop from one crisis to the next. Having a plan with agreed timelines
for deliverables is imperative. You are urged to read up on organisational skills.
31 Personal experience of leadership
Early in my OHS career I made an error of judgement while working for a safety consultancy
organisation. The General Manager attempted to discipline me in a team meeting. My manager, Tim,
intervened and took full responsibility for my mistake. I later thanked Tim who explained he did what
he did to send messages to 3 groups of people.
The General Manager
“No-one interferes with my people, discipline of my people is my responsibility and it
will only be used when all other avenues have been explored and it will always be
positive and done in private.”
“You were feeling down and I wanted to let you know you were still a valued member of
my team”
Other team members
“I am in charge of this outfit and no-one else interferes with my team. Making mistakes that
we learn from is perfectly acceptable”
I would have followed Tim anywhere after this.
It has taken me thirty years and reading extensively about leadership to realise the significance of
what Tim did that day.
“Leaders send out messages, often subtly, about what they value and expect.”
For about a year I worked with a General Manager Operations, John, who could best be described as a
humble but focused leader who had an overriding commitment to safety. John would turn up at
operating sites in the middle of the night to see how safety was being managed. He would jump on a
haul truck and go with the operator while the truck was loaded, John would question the operators
about safety and tell them that he expected safety to be their top priority. He would walk through the
workshop and observe how work was being performed. He would then gather everybody together and
give them feedback about safety and tell them what he expected.
He used to give the workers his mobile number and tell them to call him anytime if a safety issue was
not solved to their satisfaction. This did not happen often but there was some big action when it did.
The approach by John was not always appreciated by the business unit supervisors and managers as
he often knew more about how safety was managed at their site than they did, they were kept on their
John had a very simple approach to safety audits, he chose ten things his wide experience told him
had been known to cause fatalities and the associated prevention methods. He audited to see if the
required preventative actions were in place. At the audit closing meeting he reported on the status of
the items and said he expected the required actions to be in place by the time he came back in six
months. All this was said in a soft, slow, Southern drawl but the managers and supervisors knew their
jobs were on the line.
John let his subordinates know he expected nothing less than 100% commitment to safety, those who
did not comply were not around long. Word quickly got around about his safety expectations, single
handed he raised the profile of safety in the organisation. Unfortunately after John left there was no
one to carry on his work at the same level.
Then there was my manager, Greg. I organised an outside training organisation to conduct training for
health and safety representatives. Early in the course the instructor asked me to come over and talk to
the participants who raised a number of quite reasonable safety issues with me. Some were within my
power to fix so we discussed how to fix them. Some required management action so I asked Greg to
attend. Well what a circus! We lost count of the number of times he told us how committed to safety
he was, we also lost count of the even greater number of times he refused to commit to positive action
to address the issues. In the end the group lost patience with Greg and told him to leave and stop
wasting their time. The course instructor, a highly qualified OHS professional, was dumbfounded by
the performance Greg put on and asked me where I had got him from. It was not long after this that I
resigned, I figured I was wasting my time with a manager like Greg.
For 10.5 years I worked for ?, a very intelligent man. Unfortunately he spent a fair bit of his time
playing political games designed to make himself look good in the eyes of his masters. He had a nick
name of boot laces, I will let you figure out why but it had something to do with sucking up to his
boss. He had some brilliant theoretical approaches but it was not balanced by him seeking practical
input from people up the sharp end.
A bloke who knows us well says ? should be relegated to the role of a back room boffin, bought out
when technical input is required and put away while the real people got on with managing the show. I
never trusted ?
Lastly there is my mate Roy who leads the “Connect” program for at risk youth, “Connect” uses
adventure-based training to teach team building, leadership and life style skills to young people facing
various difficulties in their lives. Working from a simple but well researched and validated model
“Connect” influences the lives of everyone it touches, for many it transforms their lives.
Roy is an extremely humble and effective, grass-roots leader with very high moral principles who
puts his heart and soul into his work. Through his uncomplicated leadership style Roy has moulded a
highly motivated team that consistently operates at a high level. If I was to analyse Roy’s leadership
style I would say he simply does the leadership basics exceptionally well. There is little complexity in
the way Roy goes about leadership, this is a major strength.
32 .Managing yourself
As a leader you have an awesome responsibility for leading your team. Setting a positive example and
being a role model is part of this. I know a mistake I made for many years was having an excessive
focus on my work with the result my family was neglected. Maintaining a work / life balance is very
You have to resolve to being a lifelong learner, receptive to change, deal with others in an empathetic
manner and very importantly maintain a sense of humour.
Giving up the smokes, drinking moderately, getting exercise and avoiding fast foods is very
important. As we get older the ways we abuse our bodies in younger years catch up with us.
Maintaining psychological health is a challenge in modern society and there is no shame in admitting
you have problems and asking for help. Wellbeing programs and Employee Assistance Programs can
When you are in a role with significant responsibilities it is easy to put the focus on the role and
neglect looking after yourself, be careful of this. Sometimes it pays to chill out and do something
Go camping in the bush or on the beach, the relationships that are built around the campfire are
enduring. Have a pet, my red cattle dog Rusty is a source of a lot of fun for me, she is smarter than
most people I know!
Google this topic and see what you can find to assist you.
33 Your life
I am 58, have had a challenging OHS career, have a very good marriage and 3 great boys and am not
particularly religious. For the last 14 years I have been involved in a Christian program that uses
adventure-based learning to teach lifestyle, teambuilding and leadership to at risk youth. It is an
excellent program, has revealed to me the psychological challenges young people go through and has
enriched my life. Sitting around the campfire listening to young people talk about the challenges they
face is a levelling experience. Mental health issues are a major challenge in modern society and
modern research has indicated the mental health issues associated with the use of marijuana. If you
know someone using the weed do not take it lightly.
There was a time in my life when I was very aggressive in my approach to safety work, nowadays I
am more relaxed and focus more on the people issues because I find this more effective.
Whatever your discipline you must set the example to be credible. It pays to learn about leadership
and attempt to be a leader in your field. Learning how to be a good facilitator of learning and problem
solving groups is essential. Challenging the status quo can land you in a lot of trouble but is very
satisfying when you achieve.
Building a relationship with those around you is the most important thing.
Having a hobby is a very good way of reducing an over focus on work. I played Rugby Union for
many years, I was probably never particularly good at it but had a great time. For me camping and
four wheel driving have been a source of great satisfaction particularly when I do it with my boys.
In my youth I used to ride horses a lot, you can build a great relationship with a horse. Friends of ours
in Rockhampton had an ex-polo horse, Copper was a man’s horse, strong & spirited, we got on well. I
used to ride him hard and he reacted positively.
I have never been a cat person and have had Australian Cattle dogs for many years, this has enriched
my life. A woman I used to work with had 30 cats and when she asked me if I liked cats I told her
they were great in a curry, that got me in a bit of trouble!
An important thing for me is to be able to say I have made a difference to those I have associated
with. The relationships you build are the most important thing in your life.
The above are my thoughts on the broader management skills OHS personnel need to have. Having
these skills can make your safety life much easier. A good bit of advice is to park your ego at the
door; it is about them not you!
I will leave you with some quotes that reflect my beliefs.
John F. Kennedy “Leadership and learning are indispensible to each other”
Jim Rohn “A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and help
those who are doing well do even better”
Gerry Adams “It will always be a struggle between those that want maximum change and those who
want to maintain the status quo”
Warren G. Bennis “The manager accepts the status quo, the leader challenges it “
Brian Kennedy “ Training is what others do to us, learning is what we do to ourselves”- “ Learn a
Jesse Jackson “Do not look down on anyone unless you are helping them up”
Dale Carnegie “ Most of the important things in life have been achieved by people who have kept
trying when there seemed to be no hope at all”
Unknown “ It is kind of fun to do the impossible”
Unknown “Failure is not the worst thing in the world, the very worst thing is not to try”
W Somerset Maugham “ It is a funny thing about life, if you refuse to accept anything but the best,
you will often get it”
Stephen Covey “The most important ingredient we put into our relationships is not what we say or do
but what we are”
Tony Robbins “Trust is the glue of life. It is the most essential ingredient in effective
communications. It is the foundational principle that holds all relationships”
T.J. Larkin “If it is not face to face it is not communication”
James Cash Perry “The art of effective listening is essential to clear communications and clear
communications is necessary for management success”
Jade Pinkett Smith “My belief is that communication is the best way to build strong relationships”
Peter Drucker “ The most important thing in communications is hearing what is not said”
George can be contacted on [email protected], he welcomes debate on the above (it would be
indeed a boring world if everybody agreed with George)
George Robotham, Cert. IV T.A.E.,. Dip. Training & Assessment Systems, Diploma in Frontline
Management, Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education), (Queensland University of
Technology), Graduate Certificate in Management of Organisational Change, (Charles Sturt
University), Graduate Diploma of Occupational Hazard Management), (Ballarat University),
Accredited Workplace Health & Safety Officer (Queensland),Justice of the Peace (Queensland),
Australian Defence Medal, Brisbane, Australia, [email protected], www.ohschange.com.au,0738021516, 0421860574, My passion is the reduction of permanently life altering (Class 1 ) personal