A simple guide to coaching in health and safety
As time goes by, role titles like ‘Health & Safety Officer’ are slowly disappearing and being replaced with ‘Business Partner’ and ‘Coach’ to reflect the shift of ownership for health and safety to everyone in a business rather than the H&S function alone.
At Acre Frameworks, coaching is a critical competency we look at when supporting H&S professionals with their non-technical development as it is a catalyst for sustainable behaviour change. Relying heavily on telling others what to do and dictating what good behaviour looks like based on legislation no longer cuts it. The age of the ‘H&S Coach’ has begun!
But where to start to embrace a coaching approach? Continuing from where we left off last week, discussing the keys to influencing in health and safety, Acre Frameworks Advisory Panel member, Steve Howells, Group HSSE Director at GVC Holdings (Ladbrokes Coral), shares his insight on where to focus your time developing and practicing coaching skills:
Coaching starts with relationship building
In your own words, what are the prerequisites for building meaningful relationships?
“Of course, the person you are looking to build the relationship with must like you. You won’t move forward in any meaningful relationship without this basic prerequisite. There are ways to make yourself more likable; go out of your way to be friendly and helpful.
“They must respect you professionally. They must respect how you undertake your work; specifically, are you competent? They respect your personal values, respect how you behave and role model, and most importantly, in my view, how you treat others and how others treat you. Are you viewed as professional? Are you trustworthy and reliable? Are you the best at what you do? Work hard at getting them to respect you – let them know you’ve got their back! I always offer something before I ask for something. I call this getting some credit in the bank before making a withdrawal.
“Be Authentic – This is simple. Be who you are and accept others as they are. It’s easy to be false, but it’s not a great way to start a relationship, and you will always tend to get found out.
“Share some vulnerability, but be careful here – This is best shared with a select few rather than more publicly. Use your judgment. Showing vulnerability is part of being authentic. It’s not something I’ve seen offered readily by H&S professionals. Who knows everything? I certainly don’t, and I tell people that. But I do know where to go (my colleagues, my team, my industry peers) to get the information I need.
“Finally, it’s about maintaining the relationship, even when the business relationship is no longer as important as it once was. Longevity is key – once the business benefit disappears, if you don’t ‘find time,’ the relationship fades”.
The key skills required to become an effective coach
What coaching skills do you apply when you look to guide and support senior business leaders to make decisions?
‘Coaches have to watch for what they don’t want to see and listen to what they don’t want to hear’. – John Madden
“I can’t take a lot of credit for this, as I’m not about reinventing the wheel, but what I’ve taken from great coaches, and through personal development is:
“#1 – Ask great questions (lots of them) – Great questions lead to great answers, and great answers lead to a greater understanding of the person and what they know, but more importantly, what they don’t know. This frames the activity for my coaching practice. As a leader, it is critical that I develop strong relationships with my peers.
“#2 – Guide the conversation – Strong communication skills and an understanding of emotional intelligence come to the fore. I guide (or lead) the conversation both by asking open questions and listening, not by directing or supplying a solution (that’s mentoring). Leadership around HSW grows most when the leader arrives at the answers themselves.
“#3 – Be positive – I always try to maintain a positive outlook on life and work, even when the going gets tough. A positive attitude helps me and the person I’m coaching foster positive change.
“#4 – Listen – When I coach senior leaders, I look to encourage and empower, listening out for cues that will identify any areas for improvement. It’s important as we’ve mentioned previously to build strong relationships that allow big conversations that lead to improved performance.
“#5 – Coach ‘live’ – Coaching is best undertaken when opportunities arise ‘in the moment’. When a leader comes to me with an HSW question, I always use the opportunity to coach them to a successful conclusion. That said, when a question just needs an answer, just answer! Most people learn best by doing, so I tend to coach as I go!”
Steve Howlls is an HSE Professional with many years operational experience within a diverse range of industries, including manufacturing, construction, aviation and retail. He is currently the Group Health, Safety, Security & Environment Director at GVC Holdings, a FTSE 100 company. Steve has a confident, versatile approach to HSE and a passion, natural flair and ambition for continual improvement across the discipline. He is successful in change and performance improvement being a (Lean Sigma Black Belt/PRINCE 2 Practitioner.
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