The New Rules of Safety
The New Rules of Safety: They are not human resources!
During a meeting with his career hero, Professor Andrew Sharman explores the difference between management and leadership and why trust is a hard-won but essential ingredient in achieving organisational goals.
Some months ago I had a career highlight. A man whose work I’ve admired for more than two decades invited me for tea. I left my home in Switzerland, flew from Geneva to London Heathrow and navigated the capital city via trains and tubes to finally reach a leafy suburb – and a rather long walk up a steep hill under the blaze of a hot sun. A smartly-dressed Octogenarian was waiting for me with a relaxed smile, a warm welcome to his home and a cold drink. This was how I met Charles Handy.
Over the years Handy, the author of more books than I have fingers and toes, has been described as a management guru, social philosopher, and a reluctant capitalist. Without doubt, the man is a legend, and my (well-thumbed and dog-eared) copy of his book Understanding Organisations remains tucked in the top of my bookcase – and it’s as relevant today as it was when first published back in 1976.
Over the following three hours, Charles kindly allowed me to ransack his brain with all sorts of questions and even as it fell dark outside we were so engrossed in conversation that I didn’t want to leave.
Fast-forward to today, when, during a conversation with a prospective client – keen to have my support on a global culture change program – the voice at the end of the phone said “Look, at the end of the day, they are human resources, and we need to use them in whatever way works best for us.” Alarm bells went off in my head, steam started coming out of my ears, and I politely found a way to suggest there wasn’t quite the ‘right fit’ and put down the phone.
In my teaching sessions at an international business school near Paris I often ask participants (all senior leaders from global blue chip corporations) what the difference between leadership and management is. It surprises me every time that many of these execs don’t seem to know and struggle to draw definitions for either. So here’s what I offer them: management is about process, leadership is about people.
This revelation came from my discussions with Charles which centred on allowing people to give their best, releasing them from the constraints that they usually operate under, or at least helping them understand why those constraints are necessary. I can recall asking him how this could be done. His advice was typical Handy: “Stop being a manager. Try to be a teacher. Develop your people. The best leaders are the people who discover things in people they didn’t know they had and allowed them to think differently and behave differently.”
And as I revise my notes from the call with that prospective new client today, I hear Charles’ dulcet tones in my ears: “Treat people like things and they behave like things. They’ll only do what they have to do in order to keep their side of the contract.” I only wish the leader at the end of the phone could’ve heard them too.
The New Rule of Safety #27: They are not human resources!
As Charles Handy reminds us, work needs to be organised, things should be managed, but people can only be encouraged, inspired, and led.
The best leaders give folks the freedom to show what they can do. Yes, it sounds simple, but it’s not easy to get people to know what’s the right thing to do, and to trust them to do it.
Read more of Andrew’s New Rules of Safety, here.
Professor Andrew Sharman is a consultant to leaders at Apple, BMW, Burberry, IKEA, Heineken, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, Tata, and more, and the co-creator of the world’s only IOSH certificate in Behavioural Safety Leadership, find out more here. Email [email protected] and quote SHP25 to get 25% off your course.
In From Accidents to Zero – the world’s best-selling book on safety culture – Sharman shares more than 80 questions that help leaders drive strategic safety improvement, improve culture and enable excellence. Get your copy of the book with an exclusive 25% discount by using the code SHP25 at www.fromaccidentstozero.com.
Sleep and Fatigue: Director’s Briefing
Fatigue is common amongst the population, but particularly among those working abnormal hours, and can arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns. It is also related to workload, in that workers are more easily fatigued if their work is machine-paced, complex or monotonous.
This free director’s briefing contains:
- Key points;
- Recommendations for employers;
- Case law;
- Legal duties.