February 25, 2023

A Guide to Coaching and Collaboration in Safety

Data to Win at Health and Safety

Unlocking Effective Safety Conversations: A Guide to Coaching and Collaboration

Effective communication is more than just talking; it’s about actively listening. Unfortunately, many leaders fall into the trap of lecturing instead of engaging in a two-way dialogue. This communication style is not limited to senior leaders but can be found at all levels of organizations.

The way managers and supervisors communicate is a reflection of the safety culture within an organization. One-way safety conversations indicate a culture of compliance, while interactive safety conversations indicate a culture of commitment.

In the past, I discussed how the motive behind a conversation significantly influences the safety culture. If your motive is to exert control, the approach will be critical and focused on enforcing compliance. However, if your motive is genuine care, the approach will be coaching and seeking commitment through collaboration.

One model suggests that effective organizational conversations have four key attributes: intimacy, interactivity, inclusion, and intentionality. I propose a five-step guide for effective safety conversations that incorporates these attributes while promoting coaching and collaboration.

Whether reactive (after an incident) or proactive (identifying risk and potential errors), the following steps can be applied:

Frame the Conversation: The first few moments of a safety conversation set the tone. Instead of signaling control, approach the conversation with care and concern. Ask non-threatening questions that encourage participation and dialogue.

Listen for Influences: Actively listen to the responses to your questions. Identify any potential influences on risk. People don’t take risks without reason, so understanding their perspective is crucial. Focus on perceptions, habits, obstacles, and barriers.

Discover Error Traps: Instead of solely focusing on rule violations, aim to discover potential error traps. These are conditions or circumstances that increase the likelihood of making mistakes. Examples include time pressure, distractions, vague guidance, and peer pressure.

By following this guide, you can unlock the power of effective safety conversations that foster coaching, collaboration, and a stronger safety culture. Take the first step towards a safer and more committed organization.