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Deep Dive into Organizational Learning and Safety Culture with Gareth Lock

Deep Dive into Organizational Learning and Safety Culture



“The beauty of human factors is that it’s applicable in every space. It’s just the stories that change.” In this episode, we’re excited to have Gareth Lock take us on a deep dive into organizational learning, decision-making, and safety culture through the lens of human factors. Tune in as Gareth shares practical advice for creating a shared mental model within an organization through prioritizing psychological safety and how to effectively foster a culture of embedded learning and growth.


Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and wellbeing of their people first. Great companies, ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost. For the C-suite, it’s a real topic of daily focus. This is The Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized Ops safety guru, public speaker, and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now.

Hi, and welcome to the Safety Guru. Today I’m very excited to have with me Gareth Lock, who is the founder of The Human Diver with ex-military aviator who’s taken his operational experience into diving and safety. Gareth, you have a very exciting and interesting story and background, so why don’t you start us there?

Excellent. Thanks Eric, for the invite on to here. So yes, it’s quite a diverse background. So, I spent just over 25 years in the Royal Air Force as a Hercules navigator, transport, aircraft, teaching and operating both low level, high level operational environments. I then went into flight trials, then did some research and development work, like working for an organisation like DARPA, then into systems engineering and procurement. So, I’ve got a very broad view of how systems work and then come 2015 decided I was going to leave the Air Force and set up my own consultancy, which was about bringing crew Resource Management nontechnical skills into high-risk environments. Crew Resource Management is just part and parcel of how military aviation operates. And so, I’ve been a diver since 20 19 99 Is certified and then got back into it in about 2005. And I’ve been trying to bring this view of safety and operational concepts into the diving world. So, in 2016, I set up the human diver. And the goal of that was really to bring crew source management, nontechnical skills, just culture, psychological safety, all the stuff that creates safety or influences safety into the diving space.

So since then, I’ve written a book, put a documentary together, trained probably about 500 people face to face around the globe and about two and a half thousand people online through face to face and online self-paced learning programs. And the interesting thing is people take the materials that I’ve written, the book that I’ve written, under pressure, they’ve gone. This is not a diving book. It’s like no, I know. And that’s the beauty of human factors, is that it’s applicable in every space. It’s just the stories that change. Individuals behave broadly the same way; organizations behave broadly the same way. So why can’t you take stuff from as a general thing from aviation or oil and gas and healthcare and move them into other spaces? And the biggest barrier is that doesn’t apply to me because I’m not in that space and it’s a known bias that’s there.

So, you touched on briefly CRM, which is very common, as you mentioned, in the Air Force, in civil aviation as well. Tell me a little bit more about CRM and how you think it applies to a lot of organizations.

Yeah. So, CRM is now known as Crew Resource Management. It used to be known as Cockpit Resource Management, and it came about from a number of seminal events in aviation, like Tenerife Kegworth, Manchester, where the analysis of flight deck recorders recognized that actually the crew knew that there were things not quite going right, but they were unable to speak up and challenge what’s going on. And it wasn’t until later events that they realized that actually, the back-end crew, the cabin crew, they also had a part to play in building this shared mental model. So, it then became Crew Resource Management. And what that? It started off as communication and assertion skills. Where I’m taking it personally and where it should be is about creating this shared mental model within an operational team. So that could be a flight deck crew plus the cabin crew. It could be on an oil rig where I’ve done CRM work before. Well, you’ve got the drill crew. In a normal business, even if it’s a high-risk business, you will have different perspectives about what’s going on. You’ve got the senior leadership, the middle management, the front-line supervisors, and the operators.

Each one of them will have a different perspective about what’s going on. And the purpose of CRM is to try and align those views as best they can. They will always be different because they’re all have different perspectives. But that’s also part of CRM is the fact that the front-line workers recognize that the senior management have got a different set of problems to solve. They don’t understand what we do. Well, that’s not their job to. But the purpose of this CRM is to share these interlinking circles, like a Venn diagram, that there will be a thread that overlaps. And so, the purpose there of CRM is to increase the overlap. So, we’ve got shared knowledge, but not make it so overlap that we end up with group think and nobody’s thinking outside the box or the circle.

Right. So, you touched on when you were talking about this, you talked to shared mental model. Tell me a little bit more about how that applies to an organization and how do you build it?

Yeah, so shared mental models, the world goes around as our decision making is based on these mental models, approximations of how things will operate. And as we build experience, we gain knowledge, we start to populate that model. And the research shows that the more models we have, the more accurate our decisions can be because we’ve got better, more realistic patterns to match that are there. Now, how that happens in an organization is that it’s done at multiple levels. So, you could have something like a small team debrief an after-action Review, which is about sharing a very local story about how that last event worked and not just about where things went wrong, which is often where the focus is on debriefs. What went wrong? Nothing. Well, what’s the point of running a debrief? But actually, the After-Action Review is about understanding how things went and how do we improve. Then you can start to grow those, and you can get I mean, the US forest Service has got some great resources in this, looking at facilitated learning analysis, where you start stepping up to a bigger group, a bigger team, and then you’ve got something as large as a learning review, where you’re bringing in multiple subject matter experts.

And the purpose of those learning reviews and to facilitate learning analyses is to bring multiple perspectives, conflicting perspectives. And you’re never going to get a unique line that says, and this is what happened, because and that’s uncomfortable for businesses because they want to have one truth. Well, there is no one truth. Each level within the organization will have some interactions and relationships which shape how they view the world. So, organizations need to create an environment where the bad news can be shared, where we can have constructive dissent, where we can undertake these intelligent failures. As Amy Edmondson talks about that we go out there and innovate and expect that okay, failure is okay as long as it’s not catastrophic, because the catastrophic basically means that we didn’t pick a whole bunch of other minor failures up and we’re hiding those.

So, when you mention shared mental model, you bring a lot of examples about organizational learning, which predefined that we’ve had some events that we’re learning from, which any organization does. But is there something that can be done at the front end as you’re coming to start implementing something to define a shared mental model within the organization?

Well, I’ll start off with saying, look, we, we are a learning organization. That means that we’re going to make mistakes.


And you know, Timothy Clark talks about the four stages of psychological safety of inclusion learner safety, contributor safety, and, and Challenger safety. And organizations want to have this Challenger safety that the people speak up when things aren’t going right. So, you don’t have to have an accident, but you want to have people challenge what’s going on. But unless you feel included and you feel that actually you can make a mistake, then actually you’re never going to get to the Challenger space. So how do leaders create that environment? That’s about talking about the issues they face. It’s about opening themselves up and saying, you know what, I don’t have the answers and here’s some mistakes that I’ve made. And actually, they are going to model that vulnerability so that people are able to speak up and there are a whole bunch of things that people can do. So, if you talk about mental model as being a culture frame of understanding how this works? Absolutely. You can have a learning culture created within an organization and when people bring ideas to you, awesome. Explore them. That might be they don’t work, that’s fine, but go back to them and say it doesn’t work because of X, Y and Z or yes, let’s give it a go and if we fail, we fail.

It’s not a problem other than there might be some resource, but at the same time you might find some amazing stuff in the heads of the people. And that links me just to something that sort of triggered a thought when you said about organizational learning. Organizations don’t learn. Organizations have memories that are created by individuals within the organization. So, it’s about how do you get the knowledge out of those individuals and share them. And there’s some great work by Dave Snowden talking about the challenges of doing that. Because if you have a common understanding, a common vocabulary set, a shared mental model of what stuff looks like, then actually you don’t have to spend quite so long explaining something to somebody else. But if you go to somebody who’s got no idea about what’s going on, you’ve got to spend time building a framework in which you can start hanging ideas off. Because if you give somebody a whole bunch of ideas and they’re not able to abstract it or convert it into their own mindset or experiences, it’ll just go whistling past and it won’t make sense. So, it often does depend on the audience that you’re talking to and what do they know about stuff.

And it might be you’ve got to tell a whole bunch of different stories, analogies, bring those metaphors in so people can make that bridge. So, it’s not an easy thing to do. I get that it requires investment and that’s often a bit that organizations don’t follow through because they don’t see the value in the learning.

Right. So, what are some of the ways that you’ve helped instill organizational learning? As you said, it’s really the collective memories. You talked about after action reviews, you talked about learning reviews, which are very much highly interactive, team-based reflections on what I was setting to do, what occurred, what can we take away from it which is positive and negative? If you won a battle, you want to know what did you do well? And if something didn’t go as well. So, it’s not just post-mortem, as some people call them, that says basically everything that went wrong. It’s very much constructive being part of many of them. So, tell me about some of the other tactics an organization that wants to embrace more deeper learning can take.

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So, one of the first things that I often do is run through concepts of nontechnical skills, about how you create this shared mental model and the fact that it’s made up of situation awareness, decision making, communications leadership, teamwork, performance shaping factors, that these are interdependent skills. And I’ll go through some workshops. I use computer-based simulations. I get people to fail in a non-professional, jeopardizing way. So, the simulations are used. They’re about flying prototype spacecraft. Nobody can bring any prior knowledge. We can mess around with team dynamics. And so, people who are normally following, they will now lead, and the leaders are now following. And often it’s a great way of showing leaders what it’s like not to have a voice because there might be some equipment failure, which means they can’t talk. And they’re now sat there, and you can see them being really frustrated because they can see a train wreck arriving in front of them, but they can’t say anything. And so, you say, what do you think it’s like to be a follower then, when you don’t have a voice? So that’s what it’s like. So, making it as experiential as possible, making it as unthreatening in a professional context as possible, digging into details and using a structured debris format, which is transportable across any sort of domain.

But it’s looking about creating psychological safety. It’s about learning from what went well and why and what do we need to improve and how. And out of those four questions, the why and the how and the most important observations are easy. Oh yeah, we saw that, we did this, blah, blah, blah. Okay, so why did he go well? I’ve got to think about this and how are we going to make the improvement? It’s not enough to say, yeah, yeah, we won’t do that. Okay, do you understand why you failed when that happened or the improvement that’s needed? And do you know how you’re going to address that? Because if you don’t, all you’ve done is you’ve created a lesson identified. You haven’t done a lesson learned. And that’s a bigger piece as well, is that lessons are not learned until you have identified the thing, put something in place, and measured its effect, because otherwise it’s just a lesson identified. And so, you go into organizations, and you say, we’ve got a lesson learned book. Oh, yeah, we got one of those. We’ll get one at the end of the project. We’ll do a sort of post-mortem.

Who looks at it before you run a project? Oh, nobody looks at it. Right. So, what you’re doing is you’re collecting a whole bunch of data that nobody’s using and you’re not actually feeding forward into the next program, project or whatever to see whether or not it changes that might not it doesn’t work. Well, that’s a lesson learnt too, that intervention didn’t work in that space. Okay, why? Let’s look at these things. So learning is a continual process that requires you to take stuff in the past, match with what you’ve got, project into the future, have a look. Not that in work, right? We learnt something and then move on its. It’s not just collecting stuff at the end of a project in a wash up and say, right, stick it in the register book.

So, an analogy I use often in the safety space, I talk about learning and then embedding of the learning. It’s essentially the same thing because at the end of the day, you haven’t learned anything if you haven’t actually embedded it is there’s a lot of great learnings that come in from events, they get communicated, shared, and then people forget about it and the same event continues to happen. And so, the embedding part is about change. Management is making sure that we check so one is validated, is this the right correction? But in some cases, it could be that the correction isn’t being adopted, followed as an embedding piece. Because if you want a thousand pilots to do the same thing tomorrow, a Bolton won’t necessarily change the behavior.

Absolutely. And the other thing to bear in mind is the number of stories that happen at the sharp end and why those stories are told. And there’s a piece that I’ve just finished reading as part of my studies, just looking at why those stories don’t get told up higher. And it’s often because the front-line operators don’t understand the organizational influence of accidents. So, when they report something, an incident, they look at very proximal social bits at the sharp end and they don’t understand that the genesis is often further up. So, they don’t see the value in sharing. And if they do share, they don’t necessarily draw the analysis and the investigation process often just focuses on fixing the worker when they’re inheriting failures that are within the system. And it’s about how do you best prepare those workers to finish the design? Because those workers always finish the design of the paperwork. The paperwork is never complete, and it can never be complete. So, it’s this bit of how do we close those gaps?

So, touch on another area that you touched. When you went and talked about CRM, you talked about decision making, you talked about communication. There’s a big part of CRM which is how do I make the decisions? And I know you do a lot of work around organizational decision making. Can you enlighten us with some thoughts and insights on that space?

Yeah, organizational decision making is really going to be influenced by whatever the drivers and the goals and the culture within the organization is. So, this bit about safety is our number one priority. Rubbish. It’s about making profit. So, if you want to create that change in terms of safety decisions? How does it align with the bigger picture that’s out there? And there’s some tools out there and I’ll make a big shout out to the guys at Red Team thinking for the way that they manage a structured constructive dissent program. So, looking at the assumptions, formally validating those processes, you’ve got a strategy document that says, this is how we’re going to do something, or this is what we’re going to do going forward. That document will have lots and lots of assumptions in it. Some of them are explicit and some of them are implied. So, going through those and saying, right, what are those assumptions? How do we know that we can validate those? And what happens if those validations are false? And there are a bunch of tools that you can do that, but the way that most of our decisions made, even at the organizational level, will be done through emotional processes rather than logical.

What we would talk about decision making tools like Toddler, which came from British Airways of Time. Diagnose options. Decide, assign, review. That’s a system two thinking process. Very rarely do people go through that and understand the biases that they’re in because they know what the goal is, right, we’re going to do that. And they’ll look for so much evidence to reinforce their thought process and their path, rather than looking for disconformity evidence and say, why is this a rubbish idea? What can go wrong? And one of those tools is a pre mortem. And that’s a great way of talking about failure that has happened. And you dig into the emotion that people are happy to share stories of failure as long as it’s in the past, but they’re not quite so happy to share stories that might fail on them. So, a facilitator creating an environment that tells a story that says the failure has happened, you’ve now got two minutes to write down all of the answers as to why that thing failed. And because you compress time, people just throw stuff on the paper and then you can go around in a structured way to explore those ideas and then say, have we got this on our risk register?

No. Okay. And it’s a great way of dealing with the emotions we have and exploiting them in a positive way.

Makes sense. So, a lot of very rich topics we touched on CRM, we talked about organizational learning, we talked about decision making. If somebody wants to get in touch with you, Gareth, and get more insights on all of these very rich topics, how can they go about doing it?

So, my website is now. It is primarily diving focused, but as I said right at the start, this is just anything that’s out there or [email protected] is the best email address for me. And you can find me on LinkedIn as well, posting pretty much every day and a whole bunch of useful stuff.

And as you said, this is not just about diving. This is about leadership. This is about being safe and organizational decision making.


Thank you so much for joining us.

Thank you, Eric. I really appreciate the invite.

Definitely. Thank you.

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Gareth Lock is the founder of The Human Diver, an organisation set up to deliver education and research into the role and benefit of applying human factors, non-technical skills, psychological safety, and ‘just culture’ in sports, military, and scientific diving. He has published the book ‘Under Pressure’ and produced the documentary ‘If only…,’ both focused on improving diving safety and performance by looking at incidents through the lens of human factors. While primarily focused on diving, he also works in other high-risk, high-uncertainty domains such as healthcare, oil & gas, maritime, and software. He is currently undertaking a MSc in HF and System Safety at Lund University where he is looking at the power (and limitations) of storytelling to improve learning.

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Happiness Index for Safety and Mental Health with Nick Marks



Happiness in the workplace matters for sustainable wellbeing, safety, productivity and business outcomes. It predicts if teams and organizations are building a better future. Today, our special guest Nick Marks shares his insights on psychological safety and mental-wellbeing, two critical drivers of safety outcomes. He also addresses skeptics by demonstrating how feelings connect to data.


Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and well-being of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-Suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is The Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized Ops and The Safety Guru public speaker and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now.

Hi and welcome to The Safety Guru. I am Eric Michrowski. Today I’m very excited to have with me Nick Marks. He’s a statistician with The Soul. He’s got 25 years working with organizations to improve happiness, quality, quality of life and organizations in general. A phenomenal speaker has also launched a tool called Friday Pulse. We’ll get into that very soon. But Nick, welcome to the show. And I’d love to hear from you a little bit about your passion, how you got into all of this, and how you became a statistician with a soul as a client once called you.

Yes, it’s one of my favorite client quotes. So, I think in some ways what it captures is I’ve got this slightly odd mix. And yes, I am a statistician, but my mother was a family therapist and I trained as a therapist when I was young. So, I sort of have these soft people skills as well. And it probably becomes inevitable that I become the guy that starts measuring people’s experience of life, their happiness, their well-being.

It took a long time to evolve into that. You know, I did a lot of work on sustainability, quality of life, health statistics first and then slowly moved into that area. And I used to work in think tanks. So, I used to advise the Tony Blair government and then the David Cameron government on how to measure well-being and let a lot of work there in a very exciting time in the 2000s where the British government started to take this very seriously.

And then about seven, eight years ago, I started to think about businesses and moved into that area. And so, I now have a business called Friday Pulse, which measures and improves employee experience. And that’s what I do now.

That’s phenomenal background. So, one of the themes that’s incredibly important when you’re trying to improve safety outcomes is that or even wellbeing and all of those components is this element of psychological safety within the business. Can you share a little bit about your thinking, your research and what you’ve seen around the importance of psychological safety and maybe some ideas on how to drive it forward within businesses?

Yeah, I mean, it’s a phrase I think coined by Amy Edmondson and certainly popularized by Google. And it’s really trust. It’s the it’s the you know; trust is really about consistency of behavior. And, you know, in a team when, you know, if you’re going to experiment, you’re going to be innovative, you’re going to collaborate, and you need to have the freedom to express yourself and the security that you will know that you won’t be that that that the spirit of your motivation for doing that will be recognized even if the outcome doesn’t show exactly where we are.

So, it becomes more about process and about how we do that. And I think that psychological safety and of course, you know, if you’re in certain parts of the world, physical safety, I mean, there’s still parts of the of the developing world where physical safety, workplace is not guaranteed, you know. So, but, you know, we’ve actually luckily got legislation in North America and Europe where those things are covered. But it becomes really important people’s experience, because, you know, just like if you’ve got a parent who’s very unreliable, inconsistent, that’s actually the worst type of parenting.

And it’s the same. It’s the same. Same with the boss. I mean, you know, if you don’t really know if the boss’s mood is always going to change or this or you suddenly get an earful for something which you weren’t expecting to you, even when you get praised for something we would expect to, that inconsistency is very difficult to deal with. So, it’s about consistency. It’s about reliability. It’s about support. And there’s lots of evidence that, you know, when that when people are in those environments that not only that teens going to the people, they enjoy working the more and they go hand in hand.

I mean, I wouldn’t say it’s the only cause of people’s positive experience, but it’s a very significant one.

Interesting. So, the other element is that we’ve talked about when we had our conversations together, is that this element that feelings are data. Can you can you share a little bit about and have that element? And is it real? Is it being it tangible? I know a lot of leaders I’ve talked to over the years, particularly operational leaders, doubt the reliability of that data. They don’t even necessarily see it as real, tangible data. So, share some thoughts and insights on that.

So, the expression feelings that they have for me comes from both of those sources. I mean, it’s in some ways a sort of mixture between that statistics and unhappiness. And I. Actually, this is actually the draft title for a TED talk. I was going to do last year, which obviously got canceled because of it. But, you know, my idea really is that is that are our feelings. Firstly, just from a purely neuroscience perspective or psychology perspective or even evolutionary perspective, feelings come before cognition.

So, beings, animals, organisms were in a sense a sentient before they were cognitive. And we needed to feel whether we in the right environment. So, in a sense, our feelings give us information about whether a good fit in our environment had a very, very basic biological level. So, you know, we you know, we can feel creeped out by something without really knowing what it is. The sensation is there before we’ve got the awareness about precisely what it is so we can feel, you know, we can feel secure in an environment without really knowing exactly why.

And that’s because that’s how feelings work in the organism. And in that sense, can we turn them into data? What is data? So, data can be quantitative. It can be qualitative. You know, it could be different types. I, I statistically try and capture that data, which would have just basically a very simple, good, bad signal. So, I’ll ask people things like, you know, have you felt at work this week where you very unhappy to very happy and you get into one to five scale or whatever and people can answer that question.

They can think, oh, this week, yeah, it was a good week. You know what week it was a bad week. And they give you an answer on that. And that’s what I mean by turning feelings into data in this sense, that you can put a number to it. And when you do that, you get very interesting time trend data that by asking about time specific period, you see the ups and downs. And the reality is we’re not happy all the time.

That actually would be kind of dysfunctional because you would be overriding the thing. Sometimes can be bad. The environment changes. You know, it would have been pretty weird to have been exceptionally happy in March this year.

Really? Yeah.

And, you know, and she has been really hard, hasn’t it? You know, and it’s like so it’s perfectly fine to have a goal that you want to be happy, but to also accept the fact you’re not going to be happy all the time. There are not conflicting things to want to do.

So, you touched on the march and feelings and you’ve done some analysis of data through the last several months. How has it revealed? What was the main takeaway that you saw across multiple different organizations?

Yes. So we basically we ask all across our client base, you know, that question. And we basically provide data for team and senior leaders on people’s experience of work. And we do it in real time. Real time. We do weekly in saying, you know, this is how people’s weeks have gone. So, we’ve been we’ve got 52 well, we haven’t quite got 52 measures this year. We’ve got like forty or fifty, whatever it is we’re up to now.

And so, we can see the whole trend through the year. And what we had was a perfectly normal year in January, February, March. I mean, January doesn’t tend to be the happiest months anyway. You’ve just come out of the Christmas period. So, it’s always a bit suppressed after that. People are happy after Christmas to come back. Oh, well, you know, the weather’s pretty bad and its certainly Europe, certainly in England in January, February, you know, it’s the worst time of the year.

So, you know, people aren’t most happy, but, you know, starting to pick up in March, then, you know, the week beginning on the 12th of March, you know, we suddenly had I mean, I was working in London in the beginning of the week. The underground was normal. She was normal. And by Thursday, you know, half of the traffic had gone. It was extraordinary just to see it drift away from us.

And then, you know, the next week we had our lockdown and it was very, very scary in March and it hit our data, all our clients, it plummeted. And then we still a slow climb back up again. But in those first weeks, you know, there was a lot of pressure on H.R. departments, everybody to scramble home. You know, have you got the right equipment? Can we support you? How do you do that?

Everyone is, you know, worrying about their mother. You know, the kids, whatever they worried about. Suddenly kids were home from school. There’s a huge pressure. And all of that comes out in our data. And then we basically see a slight return back to where we were over a period of several months. But then it’s never got back to quite where it was. We’re still we’re still five, ten points down. We sent our data 100 scale.

Chirikova the average was seventy. It’s now 65. So, we’ve seen a drop over that time. A significant drop, actually. But, you know, not as bad as it was in the week, you know, with the Caved strike where it’s more than fifty. So, you know, it’s a big impact and you need data every week to see that. So, you can imagine it as a graph. And of course, we see that.

And lots of our clients, they have setbacks. Teams have setbacks, individuals have setbacks, but they have a global setback. I mean, we never see again, I don’t think is just huge, huge impact. Yeah.

Let’s hope we don’t see it ever again. Yeah, I certainly hope so. I’m a CEO. I get this. There’s regular data point, this pulse on my business. What can I do with that information? Because some might argue it’s too much information. How can I use that to shift? My decisions, my actions, and even if you have some examples from the last few months how it’s helped organizations and businesses would be phenomenal.

Yes. So, the way that we help people use the data is that we feed it back to the right level of the organization. I do think that the best place to act is at the team level. I’m sure it’s the same for safety and everything is that it’s the people you work most closely with. You know, can you rely on the people around you and you work together? Can you have the same goals and collaborate? And what we basically do is feedback data, a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data.

So, we think feedback you how, how what’s the score? Last week when we also ask people, you know, what’s going well for you last week, what hasn’t, and they still allow people to build on what’s gone and deal with what hasn’t. And it’s getting into that weekly flow of people’s work by doing a little and often that you make the most changes, you know, you make that you basically get them talking about their experience. And then that validates that it’s actually useful to listen to people’s experience.

And basically, everybody in an organization is kind of like a sensor that’s sensing everything around them. It’s like that that data was never collected before. You know, it’s that there’s knowledge like whenever there’s a sort of big corporate failure, when they do the investigation afterwards, people within the organization knew something was up. They hadn’t. The data is very rare that something hits, but that totally blindsided. There are people that know and, in a sense, you need to gather that data in a way and encourage people to share not only their successes, but their concerns, because it’s valid to have concerns about what’s going on.

You know, and if you collect that quickly, you can act on it quickly. And I think that’s what most organizations try and do in some way is be responsive to what’s going on. And we have a product that helps platform that helps with that. And we’ve seen lots of different examples. You know, I mean, the issue is covid and working from home was it’s so variable, the experience for people. Sure. You know, people like me whose children are left home and I, I, I live with my wife, who I not only love, I like you know, I enjoy spending time with her.

So, it wasn’t a difficult spend time with Zoya. Some people, you know, my sisters got divorced in covid. I mean, that would be a horrible experience. Yeah, well, three years too late in my opinion, but that’s a different matter. But, you know, but, you know, and other people was stuck at home with young children, which was very, very difficult. Three or four. My team have got children under the age of five and they were driving them up.

The wall wasn’t about their work. They just were a very difficult. So, there was different things that we needed to do. And of course, when you’ve got a bit of data on that, you can start thinking about how, how, how you did. And then you’ve got teams that are struggling. So, you know, I mean, my organization has not been adversely affected by covid. I mean, we’ve had to change. We’ve had to pivot.

I had to lay off some people that were doing events work, but we’ve actually recruited into other areas. So, we’d have to do some changes. And but it hasn’t been a disaster. But if your inhospitality you know, it was right the way across the board. It was you know; it’s just appalling. And if you’re in businesses depend on that or you know, so it’s how do you respond if large organizations have got sections, one sections that haven’t.

And it’s how do you differentiate your policies towards those people? And we’ve you know, we’ve got clients that have done, you know, brilliant work in this area, really, really helping people, you know, cope with it. And I mean, even in my organization, we’ve gone to a four-day week, for example, because I think boundaries between work and life so collapsed and burnout is such a big issue with people working from home and remotely.

They haven’t got that human contact. But they also, you know, just works with their sort of, you know, working for them. I’m working. I’m you probably are. You were completely you know, it’s like how when does work stop? When does life start? Becomes harder. So, I’ve actually just made a bargain with my employees that let’s work hard for four days and have three days off and do other things. And, you know, that’s quite a radical policy.

We can do that in my field. It doesn’t always work with something because it’s 24/7. So, it’s how are you how you look after you employees, I think is changing very dramatically.

Absolutely. And I think what you shared is consistent with all the organization I’ve seen. For some people, it’s been phenomenal. So, for me, the secret blessing is I normally spend almost all my time on a plane and now I get to spend time at home enjoying kind of experiences with my wife. Like you said, it’s a very different experience, but I see others who are constantly trying to balance home schooling and all of those components all at the same time and trying to do work.

And they don’t necessarily have a partner that can help, but it’s a very, very different experience. But it gives you insights on how I can lead, how it can drive change, how it can drive impact on the themes that are relevant for my workforce at this point in time when one of the themes I’d like to explore. Law is the impact that you can get from a mental health standpoint, because we know the link between mental health, mental wellbeing and safety, overall safety culture incredibly linked.

Unfortunately, not all organizations are talking about that link. More and more are trying to drive visibility, awareness to the importance of mental health. What’s your thoughts around mental health, well-being? And would you be able to gather from a pulse within your business?

So, I mean, mental health is. Still a lot of stigma around it and there’s a lot of work going on about destigmatizing it, but this is just a story from just two years ago. I know I spoke at a conference on a group called Minds at Work here in the UK who do a lot of work on mental health at work. And a fireman went off work for being injured in a fire. And he was off work for six months and 100 colleagues came to see him.

He then had stress two years later and one colleague came to see him and was still terrified of that sort of, you know, mental health breakdown, breakthrough, whatever it is. And it’s and it’s an issue that is starting to change. I mean, you know, we see it we see it being led probably sometimes. Yes. At work, but we also see it being led in the sort of celebrity world, like there’s a band, little mix.

I don’t know if you got teens who are interested into them, but one of them has decided to retire from the band for mental health reasons. And it’s not getting paid. It’s getting really supported out there is basically saying, yes, you need to look after yourself. That’s what you need to do. And so, I think we’re talking more and more about it. And it’s becoming more and more accepted and it’s more accepted in the work. But the issue is it feels, you know, a little bit frightened of it because they’re frightened of their own mental health.

They’re frightened if we stopped going forward, you know, would we fall over? I think Einstein once said, you know, life is like riding a bicycle. If you stop paddling, you fall over. And it’s just a feeling that if we don’t continue, will, you’ll suddenly collapse. I think that’s really unwise because I think when the end happens is burnout happens and, you know, burnout tends to be from people who engaged in their work, but they go the extra mile.

That isn’t the same as mental health. It’s a different issue, but it’s a problem. But mental health, I think it’s about working with people. There’s a lot of new neurologically atypical people, particularly in tech businesses and whatever like that. You know, probably 20 percent of the population are what we could call neurologically atypical, you know, and that’s a lot of the workforce. And so, it’s often brilliant, all sorts of things.

They just need some different boundaries. And I don’t really understand why. I think this straitjacket of, like, you work from nine to five or ten to six or so over time is going I mean, I he doesn’t actually work for us anymore. But I had an employee who really did struggle every few months with something. But, you know, I just used to say to him, we need two days off. You have two days off.

And I knew he’d make it up because he didn’t, he wasn’t irresponsible. He just was just, you know, couldn’t get out of bed that day. And you don’t help it by sort of saying, pull yourself together. That’s not how you do it, by being kind and compassionate to them and, you know, and talking. Yes. About the business needs. But, you know, but also about what their needs are. And it’s a sort of dance between those two.

It’s you know, it’s like employing I mean, I’m going to say particularly women, but it’s parents with young children, really. But, you know, I’ve had a lot of people have maternity leave or have children, you know, during you know, during my time working people. If you if you’re kind to them, they come back and they give you everything. So, it’s being enlightened in your leadership. And doing a mental health is the same really in the you know, it’s accepting that people’s anxieties, their panic attacks, it’s depression.

This is something that they’re living with. It’s not something. And it does get triggered by environments in that, you know, if you put too much stress on them or put them in a team that you know really doesn’t help, then, you know, it’s going to get exaggerated. But you can work with it, you know, like one of the supermarket chains in the UK. They work with a lot of people with depression. And you know, what you don’t want to do is shove them at the back of a dark warehouse because that’s basically going to make their problems worse.

If you put them in a bright light place where they can interact with other people, which might be, you know, in the car parks doing trolleys, it might be helping pack bags, it might be doing shelves, whether in the light they’re much better. If you put them in a dark warehouse, they’re not going to do well. It’s understanding what the triggers are for them, listening to them and working with it. And people tend to thrive when they feel cared about.

So, and I I’m you know, that’s definitely the side of the fence I’m on. I know that other people some people have other views on that. But I think that we can work with people from all walks of life. And if you if you respect them, they respect you back 95 percent of the time and the five percent of time they don’t. Well, then deal with it. You know, let’s assume the best. And then occasionally you deal with the things that they work.

Yeah. And I think with the pulse that you’re advocating is you’re getting a sense for themes within the business that are emerging so you can better adapt and be more enlightened. In terms of your comments before that last question I want to throw, we talked about feelings or data. How do you deal with a skeptic? Because I’ve come across. Engineers, though, say it’s not real data perception data input of that nature is not real data. How do you overcome that challenge?

Well, I mean, one engineer is a brilliant to talk to about this because they understand feedback and if you start explaining to them in analogies, they can hear about, you know, basically a thermometer, a governor in a steam engine, whatever is a feedback loop, just basically through the and steam engine, you know, where more steam goes through and it starts closing the steam. And it’s basically a feedback loop. Emotions are the same in lots of ways.

Some of them are positive reinforcing. Some of them are negative dampening, but they’re basically helping us act efficiently in the world. And so, it is data, it’s not the same data. So, you know, when you when you’ve got so-called objective data, you know, you’re counting physical things. When you have subjective data, you’re using scales. You’re using things which basically people are giving you a sense of the difference. So, when I ask people how have you felt at work this week, I give them five response codes.

Very unhappy, unhappy. OK, happy. Very happy. If I can answer that. We don’t know precisely three to the four is the same as from one to two. In fact, I can tell you, isn’t the data quite well? It is, but it is ordered. The data is ordered. And so, you can work with that data, which just you have to work with it differently. You also have to understand you’re not maximizing.

People often think that you’ll take any variable going to maximize your optimizing with subjective data. You know, actually, you don’t want people to be not you don’t want them to be. It’s unrealistic for people to be very happy all of the time. You actually kind of want to know when they’re feeling very happy and you want to know when they’re feeling happy and want to know when they’re feeling OK. And that is data is feedback and it’s learning. I mean, the whole way that organizations and us as individuals is that we learn, we learn.

So, we need to have feedback that helps us learn. And I use that’s how I use the data. And so, you know, we create effectively what we call happiness KPI for business, which is this data weekly team happiness. And it’s a people metric for people, for organizations and organizations don’t have good people metrics. They tend to have what we call lagging indicators like; you know, how many people didn’t turn up for work, how many people left us, or do we do an engagement survey once a year, which gives you a snapshot experiences really fluid.

It’s not a snapshot. It’s not even a series of snapshots. You know, you could have done a snapshot in February this year and then three months later and three months is a really frequent pulse survey. You know, your set up march, you may well, you just basically see almost a flat line. You’ve just missed the whole dramatic, interesting part, you know. And so, you know, by taking data more frequently, you get that fluidity.

And basically, our experience is fluid. It’s always ebbing and flowing. It’s you know, you can you can take people’s I mean; I measure weekly because that’s convenient. It’s good for work. But, you know, sure, you could measure people’s experience through a morning and you’d have it going up. You could measure it through an hour and it’d be going up and down your year, a lifetime. You know, there’s different wavelengths if you want to do of it.

So, it absolutely is data. It’s data that’s correlated and predicts things. We know that people who have more good weeks and bad weeks are happier at work, are more productive. We know they stay longer. We know they’re more creative and innovative. We know that they have a better safety record when they go back to that, because if you care about the machinery you’re working with or you care about your colleagues, you know, you take care and you and you avoid you deal with risks and you avoid you avoid things getting out of control, which, you know, most accidents are a series of errors, aren’t they?

And if you’ve got that communication and collaboration, well, it works out better. So, you know, it’s not only is it data, it’s useful data and it predicts future good outcomes. So, I take it seriously. It’s my opinion.

I think that’s phenomenal. Last starting point you launched recently a tool called Friday one. Can you share a little bit about what it is and how it can help businesses?

Yes. So, Friday one is, say, Friday Pulse is the business we have, which creates platforms for teams and organizations. So, we wanted to do something that was for individuals. People always ask us how can we do something on our own? So, we’ve created Friday one, which is basically a sort of an individual. These are the key drivers to happiness at work. How are you doing on it? So, if you’ve ever taken one of those tests, like six personalities organize breaks, you do them and give you a report back, that’s the same thing, but it’s context.

So, one of my critiques of those sort, the personality test, is that their context free. And actually, we change personalities, we change who we are. We change how we feel, giving context. So, our context is very specific to your work and it’s your work now when you fill it out and basically, we ask you how you doing on the five big drivers which we call which are which are about relationships, about fairness in the system, about autonomy, about learning and about purpose.

So, we call those connect, be fair power challenge, inspire. So, you ask three questions on each and some demographic questions. I give you benchmarks and you get a lovely report and it’s to help you reflect. On your work and how you doing, and that does form part of our Friday post when we do it for whole organization, but this is just a free tool for individuals to do and have fun with.

And can they track themselves in terms of time and how they’re progressing, or is it a one-time snap?

It is a one-time stop, which is why we called it Friday one. And the reason we haven’t done that is also to keep our problems of storing people’s data with a free tool. And you do get into, you know, sort of things like we decided we do a snapshot. We may we may do something tracking, but we you have to get a little bit you have to get a little bit fancier with that stuff. And so, at the moment, it’s a snapshot and you can say the PDF and do it again three months later and look at it.

But we don’t hold your data in any way. We didn’t want to get into that really. And you just go to Friday, one dot com and, you know, take the test. And it’s just that’s it’s just free and fun to use.

Love it. Well, thank you very much, Nick, for taking the time for connecting, sharing your thoughts, their own feelings and the impact on the business and great insights in terms of how people can shift from week to week, from day to day from hour to hour based on the context, the environment they’re in.

Thank you very much indeed.

Thank you for listening to The Safety Guru on C-Suite radio. Leave a legacy, distinguish yourself from the pack, grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your teams. Fuel your future. come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops guru, Eric Michrowski.

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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Nic Marks, Founder & CEO, Friday Pulse

Described by one client as a “statistician with a soul”, Nic has been working in the field of happiness and wellbeing for over 25 years.

In 2010 Nic gave a TED talk on his previous work in public policy, which has now been watched over 2.3million times. Named as one of the Top Ten Original Thinkers by the IoD’s Director Magazine, Nic’s work was hailed as one of Forbes Magazine’s Seven Most Powerful Ideas in 2011.

As Founder and CEO of Friday Pulse, Nic shares his creative thinking with leading organisations on how positive emotions drive productivity and profit.

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New Year Special Episode – SAFETY’S TOP 21 FOR ‘21



Happy New Year from The Safety Guru! Are you ready to charge up your Safety strategy for 2021? Listen in to a special, must listen episode: our top 21 predictions for safety in 2021 with Eric Michrowski and Dr Josh Williams. We identified our Top 21 predictions on what to look out for in Safety in 2021. Our list is based on emerging themes in all our interactions with senior leaders.


Safety’s Top 21 for 2021 1. Mergers and Acquisitions: As the pace of mergers and acquisitions is likely to pick up in 2021, there will be increased attention on integrating Safety Cultures and conducting Safety Culture due diligence, something that isn’t sufficiently front row center today. Doing this well on the front end will help prevent unforeseen cultural challenges for years following the M&A. 2. SIFs and SIF Potential: When you track macro data you can see the significant progress that has been made in reducing injuries over the past 10 years and unfortunately the insufficient progress around SIFs. More and more organizations are starting to realize that actions to reduce SIFs and Potential SIFs are often different. Based on our leadership interactions, we think that 2021 will see more attention being placed in reducing SIFs and Potential SIFs. 3. BeHop – Combining the Best of Behavioral Safety and Human Performance (HOP): Rather than finding ways of integrating new ideas, organizations too often abandon what was working before. That’s the case with Behavioral Safety and HOP – we’ve seen some great ways to integrate the best of both worlds to increase impact and we are seeing more organizations trying to integrate the best of both worlds. For example, instead of checking hardhats, observations can be focused on checking themes such as “are you OK?”, “what would help you do the job better?” and focusing more on the conversation, not the cards. 4. Virtual & Flex Work: Whether you like it or not, it’s here to stay in some shape. Based on a lot of current research, employers who don’t embrace it could face significant retention risks. This shift brings a lot of positive opportunities when properly embraced. Safety teams need to think about how to better adapt to this new reality – from observations, to conversations and personalization of messages. 5. Mental Health: Particularly with COVID-19, studies have shown a significant increase in the rates of depression and anxiety, particularly for those 30 and younger. People are feeling isolated and alone. So mental health is becoming a more common area of focus for safety teams. Both the mental and physical side of safety are so critical going into 2021. 6. Digitization: You can’t turn a page in the newspaper without reading about new apps, tools, technology, robotics… This brings a lot of new opportunities for safety leaders from data to process improvements that reduce hazards and we think the pace of change will continue to increase significantly in 2021. 7. Re-Engineering: A greater focus on removing the hazard. That’s ultimately the best way to impact SIFs. For example, can we send a robot into a confined space or can the work at heights be performed by a drone? With advances in the IoT (Internet of Things), robotics, we are expecting greater advances. 8. Big Brother: With these technological advances (i.e. cameras on job sites, sensors…), there likely will be an increased perception of Big Brother watching. While some of these advances are very positive, organizational change considerations will need to be front row center otherwise we risk seeing people dialing down on their safety ownership. 9. Ownership and No Blame: One of the most positive attributes of Human Performance (HOP) has been the focus on removing the focus on blaming the employee and focusing more on how the system failed. There is a need to combine that with elements of cognitive psychology to increase safety ownership. 10. Rethinking Safety Training: 2021 will continue to see a large generational shift in most workplaces. With that shift there is a need to rethink safety training and safety leadership training: bringing new technologies and micro learnings and moving away from the old classroom approach. We are talking about generations that grew up with iPads and technology day in and day out – there is a greater expectation on more interactive and real time training. 11. Big Data & Predictive Analytics: With advances in technology, Big Data and Predictive Analytics are increasingly becoming incredibly helpful tools to understand where our hazards are located. This can be used to analyze observations or even in some organizations the hazardous jobs that will take place. But at the end of the data, someone still needs to take action which is where Safety Ownership is so critical. 12. Generational shifts in the workplace: As we mentioned in #10, we can expect a greater generational shift in the workplace. This will bring issues and challenges around knowledge transfer and knowledge management. That will need to be a significant area of focus in 2021. 13. Too Much “Lean and Mean”: With more organizations having to reduce operating costs, we are seeing an increase in themes around “not having enough people or resources”, “burnout”, “scheduling challenges”, resulting in an increase in production pressure. Balancing Safe Production messaging and finding the right balance of “lean and mean” will be essential to safety in 2021. 14. Developing Safety Leaders Beyond the Classroom: While leaders often want to have the right impact on Safety, they don’t always have the insights needed to drive higher impact. 360s have provided too little insights as they don’t tie the impact of leaders to front line workers. We see greater use of better 4D insights increasingly being able to help leaders and leadership teams understand how to improve their leadership skills and impact together with Safety Leadership Coaching. 15. Increasing Safety Leadership Commitment: Too often organizations rely solely on training as the lever to improve Safety Leadership and Commitment. While it’s definitely a great tool to leverage, sometimes what’s needed is simply to bring existing safety leadership knowledge to life every day. We’ve seen great success focusing on building commitments, habits, and even micro habits to make safety real. In lean times, this can be a great lever to drive rapid impact. 16. Safety Supervision: Often Supervisors have the greatest ability to influence the Safety Ownership of frontline team member. Yet it’s often the level of leadership that receives the least investment. In lean times, this can be the best area of investment – to increase safety coaching and influence skills. 17. Safety Implications of Returning to Work: We’ve got a large portion of the workforce that hasn’t gone into an office for over a year. As they return to work, there will be lots of safety hazards that they will need to be re-accustomed to. That will require focus for safety leaders to draw back attention to the hazards that exist. 18. Psychological Safety: To drive Safety impact, team members need to feel Psychologically Safe to speak up and to feel comfortable calling out unsafe work, stopping work or escalating issues. We’re seeing more and more organizations drive the right emphasis and drive meaningful change and set up systems to get input from people that are on the job, doing the job. 19. Learning Environment: We’re hearing more and more about learning environment. That’s a good trend, we’re going to see more of it in 2021. From safety suggestions, to close calls, to learning from incidents. Additionally, the more involvement and participation from team members, the more the learnings will stick. In a NIOSH study, the participants that were involved in designing their own observation card were 7X more likely to use it than those that were given a great card designed by another group. 20. Emphasis on Brain Science: We’re learning more and more about how the brain works. We know about our capacity to process seven units of information at a time. We’re learning about some biases that get us in trouble like the fundamental attribution error (if I make a mistake, I blame the environment; if someone else makes one, I blame them). That’s problematic with injuries because if I get hurt, I’m more likely to look elsewhere for blame and if I am a leader, I’m more likely to blame the employee. Another example is Confirmation Bias, which can get us into trouble because we’re not always open to new ideas and new thinking. Focusing on an understanding of how our brain works allows us to get rid of some of those biases and increase impact. 21. Health & Safety is More Important than Ever – Make it Count: In 2020, Safety Leaders became essential to help keep businesses open. In most organizations, Safety has gained significantly in terms of executive access. It’s a unique opportunity to capitalize and influence the strategy for the years to come – presenting a balanced view of improving Safe Production. Those are our Top 21 trending themes to drive greater impact on Safety in 2021. Happy New Year!

Safety’s 21 for 2021 Key Topics

1. Mergers and Acquisitions.

2. SIFs and SIF Potential.

3. BeHop.

4. Virtual & Flex Work.

5. Mental Health.

6. Digitization.

7. Re-engineering.

8. Big Brother.

9. Ownership and No Blame.

10. Rethinking Safety Training.

11. Big Data & Predictive Analytics.

12. Generational shifts in the workplace.

13. Too Much “Lean and Mean”.

14. Developing Safety Leaders Beyond the Classroom.

15. Increasing Safety Leadership Commitment.

16. Safety Supervision.

17. Safety Implications of Returning to Work.

18. Psychological Safety.

19. Learning Environment.

20. Emphasis on Brain Science.

21. Health & Safety is More Important than Ever – Make it Count.

For more information on this topic, please read the related blog Safety’s 21 for 2021 at Propulo Consulting.

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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For more than 20 years, Josh has partnered with clients around the world to deliver customized, sustainable solutions to improve safety culture and prevent SIFs. Dr. Williams earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Virginia Tech and is a behavioral safety, human performance, and safety culture improvement expert.

Josh is the author of Keeping People Safe: The Human Dynamics of Injury Prevention and co-editor of Keys to Behavior Based Safety. He has published more than 50 book chapters, government reports, white papers, blogs and articles in leading journals. Josh has also delivered hundreds of presentations at leading national conferences and is a highly regarded public speaker. He received the Cambridge Center National First Prize for his research on behavioral safety feedback.

A sample of Josh’s recent projects include delivering a series of motivational presentations, conducting comprehensive strategic planning sessions, and managing safety culture assessments and improvement activities.