As part of our ongoing roundtable series, hosted by HSE Recruitment Network, we welcomed Karen J Hewitt who we were honoured to have leading the discussion – based around the power of questions.
Karen J. Hewitt has twelve years’ experience engaging employees at all levels in Safety and Wellbeing. She is Director of Leaderlike, providing guidance to companies on leadership and engagement, especially for Health and Safety. In addition to this, she is an Amazon best-selling author for her books; “Employee Confidence - the new rules of Engagement” and “People Power – Transform your Business in the Era of Safety and Wellbeing.
The interactive session opened with Karen stating how imperative it is to ask the right questions, as in safety this can saves lives. Change in business is inevitable, and the transformation of business is constant which of course safety is a huge part of. A challenge many are facing within safety is managing multiple stakeholders with competing objectives and agendas, different sites and locations, and (dependent on company size) even international locations which can lead to the challenge of navigating cultural differences.
This opening led Karen to ask, how can we unite and influence people toward our way of safety without impacting the relationship?
Using seven varying scenarios and tips Karen outlined the following to help engage others in safety and ultimately ask the right questions.
Start a conversation
As simplistic as this may sound the power of language is hugely influential, open questions is the key to creating a dialogue as opposed to closed questions with “yes/no” answers.
Find unknown risks
In safety risk identification and management is imperative so Karen suggested the following questions to find unknown risks;
“What is the thing you’re most concerned about?” “if you could change one thing in safety what would it be?” “what would happen if…
Karen suggested that giving a scenario based “what if” question is a fantastic tool to challenge the employees thought process and get them to uncover their own unknown risks within safety.
Empower teams to up their game
For this section, Karen discussed the T-GROW model, a coaching model from John Whitmore. The T-Grow model is based on the following questions:
TELL me (your biggest challenge?)
GOAL (what does success look like for you?)
REALITY (in terms of achieving this vision where are you at so far?)
OPTIONS (what’s available right now?)
WAY FORWARD (what are the next steps?)
This coaching method is an incredible way to open up the conversation and have others talk you through their challenges followed by their ideal solution – imperative when trying to improve safety and culture and encourage employee engagement.
How do you eliminate resistance?
Limiting beliefs need to be challenged, statements such as “we’ve always done it this way” are often heard by safety professionals.
Resistance to change is not a new challenge, but Karen suggested that the way in which to help overcome this is to challenge the employee’s perception of reality by reversing their statement to an open question. For example, “what would happen we did it in “x” way?”
Within the wider roundtable discussion some safety professionals mentioned costs to be a blocker at times, and the suggestion was given of again using open questions such as “what is really at stake here?” and “what does success look like regardless of investment”, “What difference would you expect to see from your investment”.
Find a common purpose
A common purpose helps unite people that may have different objectives. Often people may agree on the bigger picture but disagree with the steps that it will take to be achieved. By using open and clear communication and scenario-based questions alongside negotiation techniques such as “how can we achieve this together?”, “what would you do differently to reach that goal?” a solution can be found.
Be a Jiminy Cricket (conscious)
Karen reminded us of the film adaptation of Pinnochio where he had a cricket to guide him as his conscious – and told us that this idea can be applied in safety. A subtle nudge is very effective, such as posing questions like “how do you think that went?” and “who would you look up to in safety, what would they do?” “ what do you feel is the right thing to do?”. These questions tap into the ethical side of safety enabling people to self analyse, and using emotive language can prompt a reaction also.
Get people to move to action
To conclude the questioning process Karen discussed influencing action through questioning. Barking orders is extremely likely to sour relationships and not get the best out of employees, or the best solution. Instead using questions such as “what is in your power to achieve this?” allows the individual or team to not seek external excuses or blockers to action and instead focus on the next steps and how they can impact the goal.
In all scenarios and questions mentioned in the session, the key takeaways were to use open questions and unite people in a partnership by using language that refers to a collective such as “we”, as opposed to “you”. In summary, when you ask the right, open questions you are valuing the input of others, causing enhanced self-awareness, a quick analysis of different safety situations, and positioning yourself as both an influential and credible safety professional.
A huge thank you to all of our round-table participants who were involved in this session and Karen for leading the discussion.
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