Family doctor visits usually have one of two purposes: either you are having a routine check-up to make sure that everything is okay with your health (preventive care) or you have an illness and your doctor wants to find the cause (diagnostic care). We can use health care as a metaphor to consider the approaches that we take when having a safety conversation.
A doctor who is diagnosing an illness or disease relies upon a series of questions and tests. If she suspects heart disease, for example, she may inquire about the patient’s smoking, eating, and exercise habits. She will also want to understand the patient’s family health history. These provide clues that may support her initial diagnosis, which can be confirmed with further testing.
Using this analogy, many supervisors and managers focus on providing diagnostic services when it comes to safety. After someone has an injury, they ask a series of diagnostic questions, aimed at determining why the injury occurred.
What were the factors that may have contributed to the injury?
“Raise your hand if you believe that you are pretty good at multitasking”.
When I present this challenge to a group, typically about half of the people in the room respond by lifting their arms in the air. Then we have a discussion about what multitasking is and why NO ONE has this “skill.” We also use a simple exercise that demonstrates what is really happening with our brains when we attempt to take on two cognitive tasks at the same time (more about this exercise later).
Dave Crenshaw has blogged and written extensively about multitasking. His premise is that this phenomenon simply does not exist. In fact, he calls it a myth.
If you are one of those persons who raised your hand, perhaps you are thinking, “I’ve been juggling many things for a long time and I think I’ve been pretty successful in doing so. What do you mean there is no such thing as multitasking?”
Is there an undiscussable topic that is preventing your team from working well together or is causing you to avoid working on the things that matter most? Then you may have an elephant in the room.
An elephant in the room is an obvious truth or condition that is being ignored or not addressed, or a risk nobody wants to discuss. Everyone knows these elephants exist – but we try to avoid them or refer to them obliquely. They are often discussed privately either before or after meetings. Our fear is that if we talk about these elephants, they will come to life and trample us. The problem is that unless and until we are free to identify and discuss these sensitive topics openly, they never go away.
When was the last time that you or someone on your team proposed a crazy, unique, absurd, outlandish, or otherwise unconventional idea? Has this ever happened? What kind of reception did the innovative idea (and the person who proposed it) receive?
William Barnett, Professor of Business Leadership, Strategy, and Organizations at Stanford, discussed this topic as part of a recent webinar. He described a “thought experiment” that helps us to consider what happens when someone comes up with a novel idea. This concept aligns with the notion of how the fear of failure can influence whether innovative ideas are surfaced.
Barnett asked the hypothetical question, “When you have a good idea, does everybody have to agree with that idea for it to be correct?” (Most people would say, “No”).
Barnett then asked, “When we have an innovative idea, what is often the first thing we do? We ask others, ‘What do you think?’ “If the people we ask don’t like our innovative idea, what do we do then? We often ask someone else. Basically, we are looking for affirmation that the idea that we have is a good one.”
Imagine that your group or organization had just reached a milestone of achievement that was noteworthy. Perhaps it was a new productivity target or quality performance or safety record. The management team has decided that they should recognize everyone for their efforts and a celebration is planned. What could possibly be the down side of that?
Unfortunately, some celebrations ring hollow – even to those who are the recipients of the accolades or recognition. Why? Perhaps you have heard some people gossiping in muted tones as they await the lunch that is being served to them to acknowledge their achievement. For these employees, there is no connection between anything that they did and the outcome.
“Sure, it’s great to get a free lunch/pizza/whatever. But I don’t really have a clue about what we did differently to get to this performance level.”