Sharing Wisdom Is More Than Soft Skills
What I Learnt at the SafeSkills Conference, 2018.
New Zealand’s inaugural SafeSkills Conference presented by SafeGuard and Thomson Reuters is a bold and visionary commitment towards development of non-technical skills among HSRs. Touring Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch over three consecutive days, a presentation team comprised of consultants, academics, coaches and reps, delivered a range of workshops, panel discussions and case studies to more than 200 passionate and enthusiastic participants.
HOP Lab and Southpac International were delighted to be involved in supporting the success of this historic event. Myself as ‘HOP Coach and Senior Consultant’ to provide an introduction to the principles of HOP that coincided with the work of Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres on Conversations Worth Having.
The roadshow will mark HOP|LAB working in conjunction with Southpac International’s at their first New Zealand event.
We were delighted by our warm reception and the willingness of every participant we met to engage in this alternative paradigm.
But we were not alone, the workshops would not have been successful were it not for the assistance and encouragement of the entire presentation team, many of whom were unfamiliar with HOP but quickly found the principles aligned with their own values and experience, and embraced the session and our message.
What This Means For HSR
The provision of safety information is woefully insufficient in New Zealand.
Whilst courses and standards provide elixirs of PINs and other legal defences, they are like any other defensive armament which are merely the “manifestation of a decision that has already been made” (Galloway, 2009, p.60). Meaning that when conflicts arise, Reps must be armed to the challenge!
Such a perspective might appear overly theatrical, even controversial. However, if you examine the content of current Rep training, it is obvious that a lack of diplomacy and non-technical skills training are held within. The provision of knowledge and legal powers alone, leaves HSRs ill-prepared to facilitate change, equipping them with merely a rule book and stick. This is an approach few workers or managers will ever wish to freely engage with.
Ronald Reagan’s approach during rising tensions with the Soviet Union offers an alternative perspective, that “peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means” (Reagan, 2018), emphasising the importance of participation, engagement and consensus through peaceful means of communication; instead of coercion, fear and violence.
Moving Forward With HSR
In our ongoing effort towards safety, there stands a group of dedicated, compassionate, and understanding men and women who give up their time to represent, negotiate and mediate between workers and their respective organisations. Motivated by a sense of moral purpose and compassion for their fellow worker, these elected Health and Safety Representatives form the backbone of effective high performing teams. They provide the type of organisational intelligence that enables all parties to understand and reflect upon their operations.
Upon election these personnel are expected to undertake HSR training, a two day drilling of the legislative requirements stipulated within WHS or HSWA. Equipped with this legal knowledge they return from “bootcamp” to their areas of operation, ready to ‘represent’!
But are they?
Is knowledge of the law enough to be an effective representative?
Or are we mistaking knowledge for wisdom?
We all know that wisdom, as one’s ability to use your knowledge in conjunction with your experiences to make good decisions and judgments and cannot be something that is simply passed on. According to Hesse “wisdom which a wise man tries to pass on to someone always sounds like foolishness” and wisdom “can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be performed with it, but it cannot be expressed in words and taught” (2013, p. 99).