Switching Off Complacency

Let’s start by asking yourself whether complacency shows up anywhere in your life? In your work? At home? In the car? Does it affect your health? Your wealth? Relationships?

Why is that? The bulk of these will be important to you yet we let complacency dictate how much energy we put into them. The answers may be uncomfortable to think about but should come as no real surprise. Most people are complacent in many aspects of their life. It’s part of being human. It’s what we do.

What is complacency? Simply put, it’s when we become accustomed to doing things in a certain way or tasks flowing a certain way and we grow oblivious to the issues that may be ever present around them. Those issues have many guises depending on what area of life they relate to, but when we look at workplace safety this often relates to hazards and risks.

What triggers it? Routine and habits mainly. Not having to think. Experience. Knowledge. Confidence. Comfort. We disengage our mind, our focus, and our brain. It’s not our fault, strictly speaking. It’s how we are wired. Our brain uses a lot of energy to think rationally and logically, to take in information, to focus for long periods, and to control how we react or respond to the environment we operate in. To cope, the brain switches off when it can, and where it can. It looks for shortcuts. It conserves energy. Quite smart really but it can be dangerous. Like a bug in the system.

What can we do about it? Awareness is an obvious place to start. Create awareness. Talk about it with others. Especially when things are feeling and looking the same. A bit like groundhog day. Same people doing the same things every day with the same outcomes. People going through the motions. Leaders going through the motions. Putting energy into motion disrupts this. Energy into motion is ‘e-motion’.

Putting the right emotion into our mindset, thinking, feeling and actions will interrupt complacency. Stories and experiences which focus on the ‘why’ instead of just rules and procedures which focus on the ‘what and how’. Creating new habits. Breaking routine. Talking. Listening. Getting interested in what could go wrong. They all re-engage the brain and reduce the opportunities for complacency to show up.

When we get too comfortable, complacency shows up. Being safe for a prolonged period of time creates a level of comfort. So, getting back to the first question. Where is complacency showing up?

Talk to us to find out more about what you can do. Put your energy into motion.

Influencing like Clarence

My family have been watching a few movies over the holiday season and I was particularly keen to see, for about the 100th time, one of my most favourite movies ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. An oldie but a goodie!

Now, I won’t give away too much of the plot etc. but there is a scene where George is at the bridge contemplating ending it all and Clarence Odbody is sent down as his guardian angel to save him. What got me thinking was the strategies that Clarence implemented.

He knew George was one of the most caring people on the planet. So, Clarence instantly told George that he was jumping in first as he knew that George would feel compelled to save him. Which George duly did. Secondly, he listened to George and used the language that George used to create a powerfully emotional ‘pain’ that drove George to ultimately beg to live.

Clarence the angel is an intriguing character who influenced George through care, listening, engagement, honesty, patience and humour.

One of the key aspects to influencing others in making the right decision is to create the pain points by listening to them, asking the right questions, and allowing them to experience and work it through to a solution.

The Neuroscience of 2 Degree Shifts

2° (Two degree) shifts are based on the principles of neuroscience. We understand our brains are comprised of billions of specialised cells called neurons and that neurons are connected by neural pathways. We learn new behaviours by forming new neural pathways in response to associations we make every day from sensory data (values, attitudes, beliefs). The more we consciously practise a new response or behaviour, the stronger the pathway becomes and the easier a behaviour or altered response becomes.

Similarly, our brain can also delete neural pathways and unlearn associations that we consciously decide no longer serve us. Following a process with consistent effort, we can positively alter the way our brains work resulting in significant changes in our safety behaviour.

We need to keep updating our brains to reduce the ‘bugs in the system’ – much like an update software on your computer. 2° shifts allow individuals to actively work toward building a safer culture and be personally accountable for changes in their own behaviour with the support of each other.

By empowering individuals to practise these new behaviours in a safe, stimulating and realistic environment the change becomes sustainable because it aligns to the improved safety culture. The power to transform the safety culture of an organisation comes when a collective group of individuals all make their own 2° shifts to improve safety and sustain those shifts.

What’s your next 2° shift?

The Sad Story of Safety Cultures and Rubik’s Cubes

My son, Cooper, recently took on my challenge of completing the Rubik’s Cube puzzle. This was something I have never achieved myself despite spending many many hours when I was younger (and again recently) to get beyond completing only 1 side!

There is a certain logical process to follow apparently (it can all be found on YouTube) but there is still a level of belief and skill to solving it on your own. He is now able to complete it in under 2 minutes which, for a 10-year-old, I think is impressive (although I am biased!!).

Cooper was in the office with me during one of the all too frequent pupil-free days that seem to occur these days (yeah don’t get me started). One of our team challenged him to complete 4 in 10 minutes. We have a lot of cubes lying around that we use in some of our programs in case you were wondering!

It got me thinking about all the cubes that never fulfil their destiny….to be solved! I know it’s kinda weird to think like that but surely I’m not the only one that has random thoughts about stuff? Anyway, back to my thought! How many cubes get bought only to never be solved and then cast aside in a cupboard as some sort of symbol of failure that should be hidden away! How sad!

How much cost, time, and enthusiastic energy would have gone into it? And how much frustration, irritation and stress did it cause without ever realising the feeling of success?

If only we could stick to the logical part of the process (the one we know works, right?). Too often, we start with the best of intention and then gradually drift back into instinct, old habits, or other ‘problems’ that come along and distract us.

How many safety culture initiatives end up the way of the unsolved Rubik’s cube? Never achieving their destiny…. success. And for many of the same reasons I’ve just mentioned.

What if we could understand the process of creating that success? What if we could unpack every step and know what it takes to cause the right results? Just like the process of solving the cube…. a blueprint to success.

Just as my son has done with the Rubik’s Cube, I’m so glad to be part of the success that we achieve with the organisations we partner with on creating safer cultures. We have the blueprint! We know it works!

How did Cooper get on with the ‘4 Cubes in 10 minutes’ challenge? Done in just over 11 minutes! Success or failure? I suppose it will depend on how you view that particular result.

What I do know is that 4 more Rubik’s Cubes have just fulfilled their destiny. That has to be a success, even if it is a weird one!

What were they thinking? – The Emotional Brain in Safety

Following an incident, you’ll often hear people say, “what were they thinking?”. This comment implies that the individual was consciously thinking and making logical choices. Based on neuroscience, we know that the majority of behaviour is driven by the emotional brain and not the logical brain. For this reason, we need to understand the brain and how it works.

Our brains are wired to survive and conserve energy. Decision making is either primarily a function of the logical brain, known as the Pre-Fontal Cortex (PFC), or the emotional brain known as the Limbic System. Conscious thinking consumes high levels of energy and the brain will, where possible, instinctively switch from ‘conscious thinking’ (PFC) to ‘automatic thinking’ (Limbic).

For example, in safety, a new task often requires a high level of thinking and the engagement of our PFC. Also, there is a healthy level of fear associated with doing the tasks which means we consciously scan for risks. Over time however, we get comfortable, feel safe and reduce our level of conscious thinking. The task is now executed mainly driven by the habitual part of our brain. In safety, this leads to complacency and normalisation of deviations.

Also, certain emotional states such as irritation, distraction, pressure and fatigue override logical and conscious choice. When these are present, the logical brain shuts down and behaviour is driven by the emotional, often reactive part of the brain.

The majority of behaviour is not logical. It is a function of how the brain works and emotional responses.

Rather than automatically judge behaviour, we need to understand how the brain works, what role the emotional brain plays and develop strategies with the brain in mind to ensure safe operations and a culture of healthy fear.

Jump Starting

Jump Starting

So, I’ve got some spare time. Well, technically, it’s not really spare time but more like time that has just been reallocated to me without notice.

I’m stuck at my sons football training session. Stuck? Yep thanks to a flat battery.

As it was raining, upon arrival outside the training ground, I decided to stay in the comfort of the car and do a bit of an inside clean out from the glove box and various other nooks and crannies where rubbish tends to accumulate. A long overdue job that I was pleased to have done (especially without being directed to by my better half!). Making excellent use of the time you may say.

I even found a stray lolly still in its wrapper which I happily chewed on as I completed my chore. With the windows starting to fog up I ran the fan for 15 minutes.

Little did I suspect that my good intentions were about to be repaid to me by way of the flat battery. And to put the icing on top of this particular cake I cracked a tooth on the lolly!!!!

So, I have some spare time whilst I wait for the man in the van to come and provide a jump start.

It got me wondering (well there was nothing else to do for an hour) about life and how much time we spend waiting for a jump start to get us going in the right direction.

How low is your battery? The one we take for granted until it runs so low it shuts down.

What can we start doing to differently to cause different and better outcomes?

Final thought is that the old me would have have got really uptight and stressed about the battery and the tooth. But I know enough now to realise that it gets me nowhere and puts me in an even worse headspace. And being like that doesn’t jump start anyone, does it?

Drive to the Conditions

We hear this saying quite a lot. “Slow down and drive to the conditions.”

Over the last few weeks we have had our active storm season of dark thunderous clouds, pelting rain and high winds to contend with. I’ve noticed, on my regular highway drive to and from the office, that the weather reports on the radio are always urging people to drive to the conditions. Problem is, I don’t think many drivers I observe know what that really means for them.

I should make it clear that I’m not perfect by a long way. There are moments when I’m not driving to the conditions. Sometimes I need a prompt such as a voice on the radio or observing someone doing the same as me to make me realise.

How often do you find yourself not ‘driving’ to the conditions that are present in you? Many of us tend to ignore those conditions, just like we do when we are behind the wheel.

Ok, swap rain for stress. Or heavy clouds for pressure. Maybe heat for fatigue, wind for distraction, and darkness for irritation. You get it, right?

When we experience any of those conditions, what do we do? Slow down or speed up? Take a break or push through? Take notice or ignore the signs? Do we even know they are there? What risks (both physically and mentally) are we exposing ourselves to in that moment? Are we placing others in harms’ way through our actions?

In the moment, our brain is convincing us that it “won’t happen to me” or “I can handle it”. How you respond in that moment goes a long way to determining whether you experience an unpleasant outcome or not.

It may not happen this time or the next time and so on. In fact, every time it doesn’t happen (and you experience a positive outcome) your brain has coded it is a pleasant experience and we are all drawn to pleasure. But it does happen out there in the real world and it happens to people just like you and me. Sadly, we see or hear about it every day.

So, when you next notice the conditions make the conscious decision to drive to those conditions….at least until the storm passes. In life, at work….and behind the wheel.

Top 5 Safety Leadership Behaviours

Do your leaders have the skills required to lead a high performance safety culture? What behaviours differentiate high performing companies from low performing? We recently completed a global study of 15,000 people who participated in our Safety Leadership ScorecardTM since 2003. We compared the top 10% and bottom 10% and here’s what we discovered about what the best performing leaders consistently do:

  1. Practice what they preach
  2. Treat people fairly
  3. Will admit when they make a mistake
  4. Always puts safety before production when the two are in conflict
  5. Will spend time with me to help me do my job safely

I can handle this….

Yesterday, I read an article in the Dutch newspaper about traffic related fatalities in Holland. In 2015, there were 621 traffic related fatalities compared to 570 in 2014 (+9%) and it was suggested that the use of mobile phones including texting and using other applications whilst driving has contributed strongly to the increase.

In Australia, during the 12 months ending October 2016, there were 1,271 road deaths. This is a 5.2 per cent increase compared to the total for the 12-month period ending October 2015. Similarly, there is a suspicion that the use of mobile phones contributed to the increase.

Picking up the phone seems an automatic behavior the moment we have a spare minute. In fact, we are looking at our phone 220 times a day on average. It happens when we are waiting for the bus, walking from A to B or standing at the counter in the supermarket. It almost feels that we can’t be with “doing nothing” anymore.

Of much more concern is the fact that this habitual behaviour continues when we are driving short or long distances and go on autopilot. For most of us, the temptation to use the phone whilst driving is incredibly strong. Despite regulations and our cognitive understanding that phone use in the car compromises our safety, our brain keeps convincing us that it is OK based on our previous experiences. Interestingly, we are much more worried about getting a fine than killing ourselves or others.

Our judgement is very different though when we imagine our children or loved ones texting whilst driving. It feels very unsafe and scares us to death. Think about that for a minute. Is there really such a big difference?

Are you willing to turn off your phone or put it in the glove box when driving? I think we owe it to ourselves, our children and others….