Applying Social Psychology of Risk in practice: A podcast with Brian Darlington

August 17, 2022



In this podcast, I speak with Brian Darlington, the author of two books in Social Psychology of Risk and the Group HSE Manager at Mondi Group. We discuss how Brian and his team studied Social Psychology of Risk (SPoR) with Dr Robert Long in Australia, applied it to their work and strategically influenced the culture of an entire organisation. Packed with compelling stories, practical examples and methods about how to have conversations that would connect you with people, this podcast will make you think and challenge your worldview about how to do risk and safety

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Brian Darlington, Nippin Anand


Nippin Anand  00:00

Welcome to another podcast on embracing differences with me Nippin Anand. In this podcast I have the privilege to interview Brian Darlington, someone whose ideas whose work has inspired me for some time now. Brian is the group HSE manager for Monty group and Austria. And the author of two very interesting books based on social psychology of risk, you will hear this term over and over again in this podcast, so get used to it. The first workbook is called it works, very practical approach to how we can transform the culture of the organisation. And the second one is called humanising leadership, which is shifting focus from objects to persons, and that is the title of the book. By the way. Both books provide ample evidence about how social psychology of risk or we call it sport, can change you as a person and transform your organisational culture for the better. And I recommend reading both books. You know what I thought I would have a two way conversation with Brian, but I mostly ended up listening to him. It was so interesting, and I hope you like it, too. Brian has actually done it. He’s actually applied the concepts of social psychology of risk in his life and his organisation. And they are both on a learning journey. In this podcast, we draw up on lots of personal and compelling stories from Brian. And I hope that you will enjoy it and you find your time spent worthwhile. Great, Brian, nice to have you. And welcome to this podcast. How would you like to introduce yourself? Well, thank you very much love. And so I’ve been in safety for 35 years.


Brian Darlington  01:54

I did. I did some military training when I joined a steel company, that an engineering trade and then decided to join Monday, back in 87. And a year being in the in charge of maintenance, I decided to find out more about safety. And then my journey was the traditional safety approach for many years, worked in South Africa and moved to Europe in 2005. And hit up the safety and rest of our safety and health department in the Monterey group around the world. So responsible sites in over 30 countries. 27,000 employees. So interesting job. And yeah, the the shift was for us to look at shifting from objects to people. And that’s why we’ve gone in a different direction to quite a few companies. And hopefully, we see more to follow in the future.


Nippin Anand  02:53

Shifting from objects to people. That’s interesting phase. And I know it’s also the title of your book. Would you like to elaborate on that why you chose this particular topic?


Brian Darlington  03:04

Well, I think, you know, I had some debate some years ago with a friend of mine, Michael Krieger. And we were discussing ways that we could shift the focus because we felt traditional safety is really focused on objects or controls, and moved away from people. And I think we felt the change came many years ago, we safely tend to move from the HR department into the engineering department. And somehow, the shift focus, the shift changed as well, from people to objects. And we we’ve been doing the same thing for year in and year out. We’ve seen the improvement in our companies, but we plateau. And they had to come this change. And the discussions were had led us to rob long in Australia. And I met Rob in Belgium some years later, I think 2016. And in discussion him over breakfast one morning, immediately showed me that this is the direction we should go. I was confused at the end of the discussion. But I knew we had to make this change and put people back at the centre of what we do. Will like you said in my book, it’s actually titled humanising leadership. But yeah, it’s about shifting the focus from objects to people.


Nippin Anand  04:23

I would like to hear a little bit more about the confusion at the breakfast table, and how that light shone on you. And where did that start to? And how did that start to make sense? This is the way that this is the direction to move forward to.


Brian Darlington  04:41

I think coming from traditional safety is all about the controls, you know, your risk assessments, your linear approaches, you know, investigations, zero harm, you know, all injuries are preventable and those type of mentors that that we all have grown up with in this industry. And certainly Robert Redford As I mentioned, you know, Mondi has the drive of really preventing all injuries. And immediately we had a discussion and a challenge. Well, is it really possible? And what zero harm possible, obviously, coming from that background and training all my people, in those mentors, really to challenge myself whether I could make this leap of faith, if you want to call it and go further. So psychology of risk and trying to understand it more, to break the confusion and ahead, before I could introduce an organisation, I was overwhelmed. And I mean, I’ve done a lot of modules as part of my studies with Rob. And each time you get a little bit more confused, but the puzzle starts coming together. So really interesting journey.


Nippin Anand  05:45

The The interesting thing is that as you speak to many business leaders, safety leaders, one of the things people would say is that, although we all understand that this is not zero harm is not achievable. What’s wrong with having it as a goal? What would you say to that?


Brian Darlington  06:04

That was the challenges I got, and I still get from a lot of people. And when I decided to do this a Mondi, I met with some of the senior managers and bouncing off him. And then 0 injuries is is a possibility. And what I did is I gave somebody a piece of paper, and I said, Take this piece of paper, I took it back. And I said, Okay, I’ve just given you a paper cut. Am I gonna be doing that? And is that an injury? Yes. And the others injuries, we will we will have? And to explain that most of our actions are the unconscious. And if it’s the unconscious controlling us, then how can we prevent all injuries, and they would say all but a lot of resource he went outside on Mondi. But surely, it’s an aspiration, you want to get to events. And my argument is, well, if it’s an aspiration you can never achieve, you tend to build a bit of mistrust. And if you have it as a goal, you can also you can absolve under reporting of injuries and incidents. So I felt it, we shouldn’t be going that way. And I use the example, if necessary to say, we’re going to reach setien in a couple of years. And then No, it’s never achievable. You build that level of stress, and they might only reach more. So and I think, once you understand that aspiration, yes, it’s good, but it must be achievable. Otherwise, you do both mistrust. And probably under reporting, we’re definitely under reporting, because people feel failure. You know, if you don’t do it, I always use the example of a daughter at school. So if your daughter’s doing well, and she’s getting 100%, for math every time and that becomes that milestone, and you really drive you on, you’re only wanting to achieve 100, and she gets 98. That gives you that sense of failure. So if we cannot achieve that the target that we set in people, the numbers we setting, a does create sense of failure. And because people don’t want to fail, you find that they start under reporting or hiding things. And I think it goes in a different direction to what we really want to achieve when we put people first in what we do.


Nippin Anand  08:17

Oh, absolutely. I mean, fallibility and perfection cannot go along. You know, human beings are fallible, and putting a goal that is all about striving for perfection is bound to fail us. I think, still, there’s a lot of people out there who are convinced that there’s nothing wrong with having a goal such as zero 100 something that the sanitizers companies understand it better than many of those leaders, I would argue, you buy a bottle of sanitizer, it never promises 100 99 point.


Brian Darlington  08:51

Nippin you mentioned vulnerability and it’s so important because my late wife was really she did everything she could she enjoyed life she paraglider to scuba dive to bungee jump, she did everything that gave you action in life, and loved life. And in 2019 She fell over the dog and hit your head on the floor and died. And that was one of those moments in my my life that I realised we are fallible human beings. And incidents will happen we cannot control everything. And although Bella could control her life and everything she did and had fun, we lost her in an incident where she fell over a dog, the dog that she loved, and we’re not controlling it so you cannot control everything in life and obviously with the unconscious mind as well. There’s no way that you can control it. So fallibility was one of those kicking moments in my life that made me realise this we on the right direction are already met Rob and 2019 just before she passed and And when I joined this, this, this journey with Rob, it made sense to me that we got to realise that people are fallible, they will make mistakes, there will be injuries, as we go along in life and risk is good, you got to take risk, if you want to learn, you know, just make sense. To a certain degree.


Nippin Anand  10:19

I’m sorry to hear that. But yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a very unfortunate situation. But what I, what I always have noticed in talking to people is that, of course, the argument argument can be made both ways is that when people, you know, when they’re stuck with uncertainty, and something as tragic as what you did, it could either put you back, you know, reinforce your beliefs even further into something, or it could shift your worldview completely, you could start to see life completely differently. And I’ve seen many people, you know, sometimes their spouse passes away, sometimes the child is born with a particular disability, many, many things like this, and then they have a very different take to life. Not all of them, but a lot of them, it really shows that when we as human beings are confronted with uncertainty. This is the this is the power of, of what these things these experiences can do to us.


Brian Darlington  11:22

Yeah, you’re right. You know, the one of the calls I’ve got after Bella died was from one of our CEOs in Mondi. And I say to, you know, I’ve worked 35 years to save the lives of 27,000 people. And I couldn’t save the life from my own life. And that’s when I realised you cannot save the lives of everybody, you know, everybody’s an individual, everybody’s gonna take certain risks. You’re not everybody’s going to enjoy life. It’s about the people thought about the controls, to prevent the internet. There’s no ways we could have prevented Bella falling over the dog But it’s no different to other injuries and event the GEA?


Nippin Anand  12:01

It’s interesting, you say that, that you cannot save the lives of all people. And yet this is this seems to be the normal belief, or at least, the implied responsibility that many safety people end up taking. I would like you to elaborate a little bit on why you feel that we cannot save every life. And if that is the case, then what do we do? Because that’s a very existential crisis for a safety person, that you cannot save our lives. What do you do them? What’s your job? Why do you exist?


Brian Darlington  12:36

Yeah, I believe our job is to prevent injuries, and put systems in place and develop the culture in the organisation that hopefully minimise injuries, but we still gonna have injuries, you know, as having a having no injuries for a period of time is only a window in existence. And that window will come to an end and injury will come, you know, you will ever you could have a year that injuries doesn’t mean they’re not going to. And we can only do our best in preventing or minimising the injuries. But we cannot hold ourselves responsible when there’s an injury. You know, even the employee that’s having an injury, it could be an unconscious mind. And therefore him himself or herself cannot even control the internet. So how do we safety practitioners think that we can save lives we call with aid to support people in being safe. But we were not there to save lives. Does that make sense? In what I’m saying? Absolutely. It, it makes all the sense. It’s, it’s the general belief that sometimes you are, you know, you’re you’re almost swimming against is this identity as a safety person, which comes with a sense of responsibility, and that you are responsible for every life, but also a sense of control. And hence, you know, follows that you must control everything, and you must have a control over everything, because you are responsible for all for all those lives. And that’s such an interesting insight what you just said, Now you cannot control. We can do our best in putting systems in place. But again, I think in traditional safety, the belief was put as many controls in place, put as much paperwork in place procedures, you know, trained people without even ensuring these learning in some of those elements, which is all this workspace controls. It’s actually this icon behind me in red, that we all fought and saved vectors and that’s what will save people which was wrong. And now we’re not saying we get rid of it, we find that balance and what are the controls that add value? What are the controls that are easy to understand why how’s our learning initiatives you know, in the organisation, and then finding the balance between the two other two icons, the yellow the green one is hard is what we have affects the individual. What is the mindset of an individual and then Last on the cultural overload, what is the group dynamics that we have? In operation, I think if we can shift that focus to at least 30% into each one of them, we are then going to see the change where we reduce a number of injuries, not prevent them all, but reduce the number of injuries. And then in turn, getting rid of the word zero harm or all injuries are preventable. We build the trust in organisation. And whilst building the trust, we’re continuously developing the culture in organisation, and I mentioned culture as a company and not safety culture. I think there’s also this misunderstanding that companies have a safety culture, which I don’t believe in, I think a company has a culture and safety is one of those elements of the jigsaw. That makes up culture.


Nippin Anand  15:48

Very well said yes. And this brings me to the to the core of this discussion. You know, you, you, you, you were probably the first one apart from Rob, who who vote and who has applied social psychology of risk at work. And and you have seen the shift, even to the extent that you ended up writing your first book, which is called it works. So I would be interested to hear from you in this journey. What is it that that has that motivated you to? Or what is it that led you to believe that it works? I mean, this new framework, this framework of social psychology of risk, what is it that works? Would you like to and and so would you like to elaborate a little bit on that?


Brian Darlington  16:37

No, I don’t see, I don’t think we the first thing implemented, because I know, my colleague Michael had implemented before me. I mean, I know Rob has a lot of clients in Australia, and I think it’s Canada, that it was implemented. But we I felt that Rob’s written a lot of good books. And I’ve learned so much from Rob over the years. And I said, Rob, let’s write a book, and explain some of the initiatives that we’ve implemented, that people can learn from, including the engagement board process, and I’ve actually one behind me, we we have this IQ listening, and talking to people that’s, we put that into organisation as an anchor, together the three icons behind me. So they saw something was coming. And we introduced engagement board process as like you’re listening to, we could drive discussion from this workspace controls, because we’re so good at it. Safety people are good at listing, one of the good things we see on site and one of the negative things workspace positive and negative. And how could we draw the discussion from workspace controls to headspace and the group special psychological and cultural elements. And that was the ankin organisation. And people saw that coming in initially the borders called the safety and health engagement board. And within a couple of weeks, we change it to the engagement board process because we found it not only being used for safety and health, but engineering production logistics projects, they were starting to use this both now being rolled out across the group. And what when I was writing the book, I decided to do an exercise with somebody outside of London. So I spoke to a young lady that was a crew member for a large international company. And she flew around the world and she was also part of an events crew that would go to various events to market a company, sports events. And she had surprised her father to come back. For his birthday, she flew home for 24 hours. And when going to the airport the next morning, her dad was driving her car, they were involved in arrow collision. And she had broken her back in four places. And after recovery, she went back to the company and continue to work. But she lost the joy for flying. She lost that fund that she used there. But when I did this the IQ session whether she had explained that she was part of this events group, and she was dropped from the crew because she had a scar on her leg where the laptop actually struck her leg during the accident. And she was no longer perfect perfection. And then dropped her from the team and she then realised that she had not lost the lifeline. She had lost the respect for the company that you work for. And it only came out once we started speaking about the headspace and the group space elements. And that again convinced me that this is the directory to do so when you do investigations. What do we come out we see now in serious investigations where we’ve used the board instead of saying words like controls are not followed procedures are not followed. We are now seeing words like coming up like trust, support hearing that type of human side of things, and not just the controls. Now, when you look at the actions that come out of investigations, it’s no longer revised risk assessment provides a safe procedure, retry, that’s more of a human element and understanding how the things affected people that we work on that really inspired me to write the first book with Rob Huling. It works. And we give a lot more examples of system initiatives that we’ve put in place that have made this journey of Maundy a success, and we now in our fourth year of it, and it’s the language in our organisation, zeroes out of the language. When these three icons you see behind me plus the hand icon, is really the way that we’re going forward in the language that we use. And the hand icon, if I can explain that you can see a little end and a big end. As I was trying to come up with a new, a new icon fast, we used to have a 00, my God. And I was at a meeting in South Africa. And that evening, sitting in the hotel, trying to think of what we could do as a different life. And I got a call from my son in law telling me my daughter had gone into labour. And it was about eight hours later, when my granddaughter was born. And I got this idea, I have the icon sets my granddaughters hand in mind. And I use that for the organisation of being it’s about people, whether it’s at home, whether it’s work, it’s all about people. That’s why we put the words WorkSafe home safe. Everybody ever done, we now seeing people using the login organisation at the words, because the sign and the symbol that people know what it means. And they interpret differently, whether it’s work safe, be safe at home, or works, I’ve got home safely, or vice versa, whatever they interpret, it’s fine. The hand has that iconic logo for the guys. So very much a change in language. And a lot of it is mentioned in the book ebooks. Obviously, we’ve implemented more sensing because the books now just a reordering. But yeah, it works. It definitely does work. And that Robert myself thought about various titles for the book in the beginning. And while so I could we just decided this is proof that so psychology of risk works. That’s where the title came from.


Nippin Anand  22:24

That’s an interesting thing. And I’m I can, I can only agree with you on this, having had so many interactions, so many engagements with people at work. And you talked about the unconscious mind, as you know, not once but twice, I heard you saying that. But every time you speak to someone, and if you’re able to connect with their unconscious mind, they will tell you a lot more than you ever expected from them a lot more. The thing is, and that’s an interesting time where to what extent that actually surprises you, all you feel curious to know more about. Because a lot of times when people talk about their misery at work, there’s things that are bothering them, we we either are not surprised. Or we think that this is something that happens every day everywhere. Let’s not talk about the person, let’s just get straight to the process. Let’s just see how the process works in practice, because that’s what I’m here for. But I think what I felt intrigued with as I was listening to you was that your starting point was really, you know, looking at where HR has become so disconnected from its intended purpose and where safety has gone into controls and processes. And what it tells me is that there is no place that recognises the person in the organisation. It was originally the job of the HR departments to look at people to look after their well being and slowly now now that that is being shifted to to the safety departments, you know, with mental health and mental health and well being programmes and and so on, but somewhere down the line, the hour, most organisations have lost touch with the person. Yeah, and to me, that’s a very interesting insight.


Brian Darlington  24:25

I’ll get back to that. So that’s a reason the second book came out. Humanising leadership is really putting the people back into focus. And unfortunately, leaders are not only talking about safety and health people, leaders do not listen to gestures to observe gestures, listen to metaphors and listen to the gifts. We tend to regain today that we don’t suspend our own agenda and authority and discussions as leaders. People say things that we don’t hear. Let me let’s think of example So Friday afternoon. A person leaves is leaving the site and, and he sees a crane lifting a load with economic slings or the load not secure enough. And he goes to the crane operator says, Hey, your slings are wrong or your loads wrong, can we slow down and the guy says, Hey boss, you know, it’s four o’clock I finishing off and I just want to finish this job, you know, I’m dead tired, it’s end of the week. And usually these bugs know your controls are wrong, you need to sort the slings out for barricade your area, whatever the problem might be, and then miss that metaphor of Ambay tight. And if they called insights, step me through your your you said, we need to take me through that. And the train operator then says, Well, you know, I’ve been working seven days on the shut 15 hours a day, and I’m really tired. Your focus now of your discussion is on the person, you focus on the culture of the organisation where they have, the opposite is having to work these long hours. Not that you can ignore the the slings and the load, but you’re going to stop the guy working, you’re going to get the leading, you actually replace the guy and then you’re going to address the issues of the people with the organisation for slinging the load and barricaded area, does not mean you’re not going to have an incident because this operator is tired, but we focused on those controls the yellow sling or the barricaded area, you want to focus on both. But if we follow gestures, and body language and listen to metaphors and gifts, our discussions are totally different. And I think that’s where we want to see leaders going that they understand how to have dialogue. You know how to listen for gestures or to take time out. I came up with a quote in my second book saying leadership is time and a simple cup of coffee. It’s not about telling it’s not always about enforcing rules. It’s about giving your time to somebody in discussion. And giving them the opportunity to say what they want to say giving them the power the discussion. And I think if we can shift leaders in leadership is time minute, somebody’s cup of coffee, we’re gonna go a long way as well. We need to teach leaders how to have dialogue, how to talk to people out engages people, and placing the people at the forefront of what we do.


Nippin Anand  27:23

Yeah, it’s interesting you say that? Because shouldn’t this be expected from any leader? The ability to actually listen? And pay attention to what is being said. But that, but that rarely ever proves to be the case, isn’t it? Well, what’s your experience with that? I,


Brian Darlington  27:42

I once visited a mine as a as a as a guest auditor for a auditing company. And they asked me when I come along, and I just needed to seek an audit. And we went down the shaft, and it was a goldmine. And we arrived at one gentleman and the mind managers, are you asking me as long as we really are going without even introducing him or introducing myself at least as the resident alien guy, but he’s working with an area that is responsible and told me to fix immediately we walked away. And while we walk away, the leader said to me, now that goes backwards, his first step back at work, his son had died. And I was just flabbergasted that at no time did he say to him? How’s your how’s your family? I’m sorry to hear about your son. You know, are you okay? Are you ready to come back to work? We need more time. He was none of that. And that just proves that there is no, once I know a lot of leaders don’t understand how to engage with people how to how to do that. The iron the Dow, what connects you and me? You know, is it the death of your Sunday when something tragic when my wife died when my boss, thank you continuously spoke to me and made sure I was comfortable and things are being sorted out. It was that hyphen between the two of us it was I care about you. And this is what connects us. And I think a lot of leaders don’t do that. You know, if I was before, if I want to connect with you, immediately, now I can speak to you about shops. And it’s going to connect us and it’s going to bring that smile to your face. And we have a nice discussion. Where if I speak to rob, it will be about Australian Rugby team. And what connects us to have open and honest and and developed a dialogue between each other. If it makes sense, but I really believe we need to shift the understanding of how do we communicate with people are we engaged with people? This is one of the tools that we brought out in one day that we’ll be rolling out now is the do’s and don’ts, dialogue cards, which gamification of our people can dialogue and learn to speak we spent six weeks once a week on off sessions with Rob with my senior safety team. And it’s amazing how they moved within those six weeks to a totally different way of it. communicating with people.


Nippin Anand  30:03

Absolutely. And you talked about ICue listening, and I think there’s there’s a huge, huge potential, because the way I see it is that, yes, but we can all be better listeners, we should all pay attention to what is being said. But it is very, very difficult for for most people to actually say, What should I listen to? You know, what is the what is the method? What is the approach? What is the framework? And I think, in some ways, what ICue does, that gives you that framework to actually start paying attention to do a lot more than words in the physical space. And I think that, that that is what enriches the conversation and builds that trust that you’re talking about. So I’ve also, I mean, I resonate with you, because I’ve been practising and we’ve been practising ICue with a lot of clients, and we see some some really good results as a result of that. I mean, initially, there is a lot of resistance, there’s a lot of discomfort, because, you know, you start asking people to pay attention to emotional words that they’re not very used to or not very comfortable with, is a big ask. But slowly, when people start to realise that all decision making is emotional, it is in the unconscious, as you very rightly said, that, how can we ever ever underestimate or ignore the power of those words? Yeah, I mean, I’ll give you one example from my end. And I’ve written an article on this. I visited a ship some years ago, and, and I was, I was practising, how to bridge the gap between how people do the work and what’s what the procedure says. And even before I could start that audit, I asked the question, there was this guy who said that, I will tell you everything about that. But you got to listen to what I’m saying. I have an issue here. And I said, So what’s your issue? He said, the company has just started introduced income tax on our salaries and the seafarers were not supposed to pay income tax. And suddenly, I’ve been told 30% of your income will go into income tax. And he said that. And then there has been so many people from the office who have visited us and but nobody, nobody listens to this. And I took him to one side, and I couldn’t do anything because I was just an external auditor. But I did listen to him. He ranted for for about a good 20 minutes. You know, there’s other people who joined him who was also equally affected by that policy change. And we had a good chat, not that I could solve any problem. But at the end of the conversation, he said something really powerful. He said that, I know you will not be able to solve my problem. I know this is outside your area of work. But at least you you listen to it, nobody listens. And at that time, I was totally unaware of the concept of IQ. But what it taught me was that people when they talk to you, they do want you to solve their problems always there there. There are a lot of mature enough people who say who just want to vent it out sometimes. But that human ability to just give a listening year, can can change everything. Because from that point onwards, you you don’t have to ask the question about how you know about anything at all, it all comes at once in one go without asking a single question because you have built that trust with the unconscious mind. The eye and the Tao connection has become so so much more powerful, isn’t it? Yeah. So yeah. And I’ve I’ve seen this, and it happens organically, not that you go consciously with this mindset. But if you if you listen enough to people, they will tell you things that you will never ever be able to, to uncover through standard templates. And question is, because they have a place also in risk and safety, but I think we have gone too far with it. Yeah, I all I wanted to say was that I totally resonate with your, with your approach.


Brian Darlington  34:14

I mean, I mean, not only if you think about traditional safety with the safety talks, there is daily or weekly safety talks, if somebody stands with a piece of paper in front of everybody, and says, This is what you need to do today and keep your housekeeping Rodopi up and they walk away. Let’s add no value. And if you work at hundreds of or 1000s of hours at some big operations, spend on safety talks every week. If they do one engage in one session a week rather than seven safety talks, they will be a lot more benefit because it is also developing their trust like you say, I can say what I want to say. And if I say something that triggers the unconscious of somebody else in the group, that might have something else to say as well. And when you leave the is more value add is done. What about developing action plans? Sorry? Sorry about that. What is that? So yeah, so in your leave, it’s not about an action plan, another list of action items, it’s really just going out there and agreeing on what we’re going to do differently as a team. And we don’t want to accidentally take a photograph of the board. That’s your proof that you’ve added discussion teams, because some legal requirements require you to have proof that you’ve had the discussion, that much, much more value adding, then we saw in the general type of sector talks, it had absolutely no value, when people read it from a piece of paper. And they’ve heard it so many times, I always use the example of airlines. When we start an airline, how many of us listen to that, a crew member giving those this those instructions, it’s because it’s the same old message that we are day in and day out. And we tend to, but then you fly airlines, or one man’s names, but some of them have these videos that change quite often. And one of the airlines a video of all the instructions was done by children, the pilots or kids, the passengers are kids. And then people watch because you made an interesting game, and you brought the people into the video. It’s not about the object of the seatbelt, you need to clip like this. It’s about the people, it’s about the fun, it’s about the culture of people together. And it’s no different than safety toast. If we bring the people in the front back and refresh our message, and allow people to engage during our sessions, and it listening gives you


Nippin Anand  36:39

Yeah, you know, my phone rang, and I got a little bit distracted. But one, one thing that I experienced a few days ago was, I always felt that, you know, there is a there’s something called a just culture. And in just culture, there’s many organisations who have set up processes to, to, to, to put just culture into practice. And the idea is that if something goes wrong, one of the part of the process is when something goes wrong, you will have somebody else to, to verify whether what this person is saying is actually true or not whether their mistake was honest or negligent. And it’s called, it’s called a substitute test, it’s a substitute test, where in the philosophy is that we are, we are an independent assessment of the decision made, would then qualify whether this was a negligence case of negligence or, or, or innocent mistake, often coming from experts who have been in the field for a long time. And for a very long time, I was very, very critical of this idea that, you know, if because people are divided between what they say and what they do. So even if I’ve made a mistake in the past, and I’m an expert, and I’m sitting on the panel to evaluate somebody else’s behaviour, I would err to the side of what I would like to say, rather than what I would have done in that situation. So I’d like to look at look like a good person. But what happened in this exercise as I was running with a group of people was that we they started to form the trust with me. And we were evaluating the you know, the better this particular ship captain had made an honest mistake, or was it something that was totally unacceptable, and they wouldn’t have done it. And once we develop that trust with each and every member in the room, each of them got up and said, Yes, it is something that any one of us could have done in this moment. And that was a fascinating insight, because I think what it gave me was access to their emotional and mind to their unconscious mind, something they would never agree with, or admit to, during an external audit, because, you know, they are talking from the rational mind, very calculated, but once you connect with people, they will tell you amazing things. What I wanted to ask you was that, you know, this is a revolutionary idea, at least, I mean, this is how I made to believe I don’t see revolution in a seat as the way forward and a very natural way of engaging with people, but somehow, a lot of people would say it’s a very revolutionary idea, and it’s difficult in many organisations. And I wanted to ask you, because you have been a front runner in this in this journey. How did you know what sort of challenges you faced, within your organisation and elsewhere to convince to other people? Now I’m sure the light that you saw on the breakfast table on that morning, starting to drop was a very personal idea or personal enlightenment, you could say, but how did you how did you how did you How were you able to successfully implement it at a such a wide scale? In such a huge organisation.


Brian Darlington  40:03

Yeah, as I said, Did you face as I say, first I was confused. And I knew I do not take it to the next level. And before I went up, I actually had to deal with my senior team. So my team, senior teams were 12 people. And I had to really convince them that what I was saying now was what we needed to do and not just tell them, we were going to do it. Because over the years, we have trained our teams lower down and all operations on the traditional safety, and whatever we’ve trained to currently, material, we had to now say, we’ve changed a bit of focus. And it took a while to convince him. And then I realised, the only way to do this is to bring a professional board. And that was to, to engage with Robert went online sessions throughout the COVID. Two years, where he trained our people in in surveys, negations, and IQ listing in communication skills, to dialogue, how to engage, and then like the penny dropped for me a job for them as well. And then I took it after our extra level. And it says, Then go day by, and then we took it up as the board committee to get the vibe. And then we rolled it out now without engageable process in the group. And I think it was a structured approach, we knew we’re not going to convince everybody, we want them really to wait to understand it first, before we could defend what we changed us. But I think having the three icons and the IQ listening to we call it an engagement board was what convinced people because I could see it working, they could see that it was adding value that I’ve not seen before links, investigations, as well as other initiatives. And I mean, we had a serious injury in January, when the employee lost forefinger use and the site of the investigation and they use their IQ listening to and really good job, you know when to review things and like you say I came into fresh eyes. Without looking at the engagement board first. I said, Okay, let me run mine. And then we’ll compare. And there were so much coming out of that, that the normal height, big size whiteboards, we use two of them with the amount of discussion that came out during the review of that incident. And very similar to a lot of the things that they picked up and prove to them that they were handing this tool. Well, that was identify things that we we picked up some things as well. But I always said it’s not about the to its 20% use of the board and it’s 80% engaging. And then you leave that in surveys, the guys think, well, now we can have an action plan that is different to what we will see in the past. We’re not asking you to revise all the risk assessments and procedures and retrain people to focus on additional issues, that involves our culture, within the organisation, and understood the unconscious mind previously would have been well, this guy made a stupid mistake, you know, what’s the behaviour of the person? Or, you know, why was any thinking about it’s common sense. Now people understand there is no such thing as common sense, is the unconscious that led to this incident. Now your outcome of the investigation is totally different. And we’ve seen it being used now, in other investigations across our group have totally different outcomes. And a nice example always uses we had a big project in South Africa over a three month period. And we would once every two weeks, get our team together, go sit in the bush, put engageable in the tree. And actually using Geyserville prices sitting having lunch with all the she guys project and contractors on Monday, and just discussing what’s happening on site and all that trust that people’s unconscious come to the conscious and bring up the points of view and it was fantastic, totally different approach. And that’s convinced that it’s the way to go. And I’ve no doubt it is changing or improving our culture. And one is a caring organisation. And I think this is slotted in very nicely to how we deal with our people in our company.


Nippin Anand  44:31

Fantastic. Thank you. And that’s a that’s a really nice. Is there anything else you would like to say before we end this? Yeah.


Brian Darlington  44:42

I think it’s a lot of safety. People are entrenched in old ways. And you need to make this leap of faith you need to either real concern that a lot of safety people don’t read. We tend we’ve learned the linear process we’ve learned The old Swiss cheese model, we’ve learnt the triangle. And we believe that to actually be, but we should be a safety professionals that are leading our organisations to really read up and understand and learn more, there is a new is a new wave, we are moving away from zero and I have no doubt, in years to come. More and more organisations will make that shift how far they go in this, I’m not sure. But I really encourage all safety people to really put the person back in what we do not use the folks in objects will put the person back in what we do. Bring the understanding the cultural elements into into what we do in a positive way. And then I think will make a difference and rarely consider whether zero home is the language you want to use. And we do not have at home. It’s about communication, engaging supporting care in only one day. Now, if you read safety policies, and you you listen to leaders and organisations, how often do they use the words key support, guidance, you don’t do learning, let’s induction trainings, let’s put the person in for hours and give them as much information as possible. And when they go on site, we’ve ticked the box they’ve done what we have to wonder why we still have injuries. And all he’s a much learning coming in rather than focusing on three major topics that will make a difference on site, rather than just ticking the box started. And I think it’s safety, we’ve got to move away from the deconflict. And let’s do what’s right with add value to our organisation. But at the same time put persons in I think then we will see a change in in their organisation in our industry and safety and health practitioners and leaders as well. Let’s not stop learning. It’s let’s keep going.


Nippin Anand  46:57

And I think you’re right, the baton on reading is very important. No one should stop reading at all thinking that they’ve learned everything. That’s every time you read something, you learn something new. And besides reading, I think the other thing is to put that reading into some sort of practice, because reading alone will will will not solve your problems. It’s to actually practice what you have learned even in small little experiments. I think that’s that’s key to learning and growing.


Brian Darlington  47:30

So my final comment to you is is the more quote, leadership is time and a simple cup of coffee, give the person the time, listen to them suspend, suspend on authority. And I think you build a trusting organisation that leads you along this, this journey as well.


Nippin Anand  47:52

When I first heard that mantra, leadership is a is its time and as simple as a cup of coffee. I mean, on a lighter note, I would say if you don’t drink coffee, yeah, that’s fine. You can drink tea, or you can have a glass of juice or water. But I think the the central premise of what you’re saying is that in those relaxed moments, when you sit with someone, you make you resonate with their unconscious, and they tell you something that you probably were not expecting or not didn’t even imagine would come. And the key is that do not disregard that information because it does not fit into your checklist or template or agenda. Try and ask yourself, Why was I given that information, even though I did not ask for it. And that is that is the beginning point to to build trust, but also to learn something that you probably never dreamt off.


Brian Darlington  48:56

Now it is learning to me. Yeah, I’ll give you a final example. So I and I was on a on a on a big project in in Sweden. And there I noticed the plane having a slings into the inside of the smokestack, quite a high smokestack and also is on the city’s a person inside just measuring the boulder. And I waited when the buzzer came out. It was a lady and she was in her 50s spent the day they work inside. She was hot and sweaty and I let her finish her packing up and sold herself and then I approached him and said How was your day? Can you step through your day, introduce yourself and say now it’s been a long day, but he’s actually finished now. She’s been there for the week. And she’s now looking forward to going home to a family. And there was that that gift she gave me my family and I said so your family or their close bio. So now that actually four or 500 kilometres and I said Are you okay to drive you know, it’s now later afternoon you’ve been working on that? And she said yes, I I’m okay. It’s not my place to say she’s not she’s, she’s one of our contract. But I say to would you like to have a cup of coffee before you. And I invited her to the boardroom in the sides office. And she packed up and she joined me and we had a cup of coffee together. And we just had a chat. And when she was leaving, I gave her another one as a takeaway, your car washes driving. And she turns around sees me, in all my years of working on construction sites. This is the first time a leader has invited me from the company just to have a cup of coffee. And that’s where this mentor developed was. At first, our momentum was leadership is a simple cup of coffee. And Rob long said, Well, why didn’t you add the word time? Leadership is time and a simple cup of coffee, whether it’s a cup of coffee with a cup of tea, or colouring, you know, or even just to chat, that cup of coffee is that link between the high and the Dow and it really resonates with people at site level. And all we do. And that’s my challenge to leaders. Give your people the time.


Nippin Anand  51:09

You know, what’s interesting from what you said is that we have time to fill in, you know, endless amount of meaningless paperwork, even we know it’s meaningless. It’s not going to change anything, but we don’t have time to listen, when when you ask people to listen to such things. They say, we will get overwhelmed, we will get overwhelmed because we not be able to control that the first fear is what if I find something that I’m not able to control? The second fear is I will get overwhelmed with so much information. And I think if you dig a little bit deeper, it is. It is. I think it’s that is that fear of confronting something that that you do not have an answer to. And it’s mostly


Brian Darlington  51:57

it’s mostly self create. Yeah. And we don’t have the answers to everything. So there’s nothing wrong in saying what I’ve done. I cannot answer your question that I will get back to I’ll get somebody to come and talk to you about the game.


Nippin Anand  52:12

More than Yes, yes. Yes. Wonderful. And, Brian, before we go, I know you have written two wonderful books. I’ve read the first one, I’m still I’ve read bits and pieces of the second book, which is humanising leadership.


Brian Darlington  52:30

So where can people find you if they wanted to contact you? Could you tell us a little bit about that? Yeah, I’m on LinkedIn. So you can find me on LinkedIn, you can, they can also order the book through Australia. So they go to www dot human dimensions.com. They can find it there on again, send me an email or Brian at spore spr.com.au. And they can order the book through the wonderful, I will put those links in the description of the podcast.


Nippin Anand  53:12

And, and, yeah, thank you very much for for giving me your invaluable time. I’m very grateful to you for that. Thank you for the opportunity to share the stories. Well, that was quite a discussion, isn’t it? I hope you enjoyed it. And I would love to hear your thoughts, but just two key points. For example, you may have heard Brian talking about engagement bones. In this podcast. Let me tell you, this is one of the most powerful tools of social psychology of risk. I practice it myself and we call it IQ, intelligent cues, becoming intelligent about cues as people speak as we have conversations. And also because we are visual creatures makes we see things visually, it actually helps us understand how people make decisions and how to surface their unconscious mind. And it’s why is that important because unconscious mind is the place from where we all make all our decisions. And if we don’t even our methods and methodologies don’t take into account the unconscious mind then obviously we are only scratching the surface when we could talk about human factors and and safety culture. If there was such a thing, you will find the link to Brian’s book and his contact details on my website under his podcast novellus dot solutions. If you go to the knowledge space you will find his podcast and and the description but or the details or the link for both books. I personally I have been practising social psychology of risk for some years now. And I must say it takes a little while to come to terms With sport because it is a journey. It is a journey, but it is a journey worth embarking upon. It’s a transdisciplinary approach that brings cognitive science, neuroscience, social science, psychology and anthropology together. And it really helps us understand how human beings make decisions as social beings, as be as as creatures who are influenced by the environment, by the people around them. And it offers some very practical grounded methods and approaches to make us both risk aware and culturally intelligent. Now, if you’re interested to know more about spar, we obviously have a very exciting event coming up. Dr. Rob long is coming to London. He lives in Canberra in Austria, Australia, sorry. And he’s the mastermind behind the sport, he has written a dozen books. And he’s very well known for his work in the Risk and Safety world. If you want to learn more about it, you are more than welcome to join us. And it is your only opportunity to meet Rob because he’s not going to come back to Europe, unless you want to fly back to fly to Australia, or the event takes place from 24th to 28th of October. And it is it is packed with a lot of practical tools and exercises, including a semiotic walk, that would absolutely blow your mind. It will change the way you view the world and you view yourself. The details of the event are available on my website. Again, developers dot solutions, slash events, you can check out for yourself. The last date for booking the event is 24th of September. So please let us know if you’d be interested to attend. That’s really all from for me. I hope you have a wonderful day and the week ahead, take care and keep learning. See you Bye bye. I am Nippin, the founder of Novellus. And you will listening to my podcast embracing differences. If I’ve made you think I have achieved my purpose, and I would love to hear your thoughts, especially if you don’t agree with me. There is no better way to learn than understanding and embracing our differences. If you do so in a respectful manner. My work is mainly focused on helping leaders becoming a little bit less sure about themselves a bit more curious, and organisations achieve cultural transformation. We at Novellus facilitate a series of leadership and cultural programmes both online and in person on a weekly basis. If you want to learn more about my work, please visit our website novellus.solutions. If you enjoy this podcast and you want to learn more about our work at novellas you can also write to me at Nippin.Anand@novellus.solutions. Thank you for wanting to learn more than you knew yesterday. I wish you all the best.

Brain’s books can be found here:

Humanising Leadership in Risk Shifting Focus From Objects To Persons

It Works! A New Approach to Risk and Safety

Brian’s email: brian@spor.com.au