Let people think for themselves

Let people think for themselves

Young engineer with pensive face and security helmet It was very interesting and expected but just a little sad to see some of the responses to two of our recent posts: You Don’t Believe in Common Sense? and What is safety. It seems that many Safety Professionals see it as their role or, in fact, god given right to modify and control the behaviour of individuals through expensive engineering controls, convoluted systems and procedures or punishments for non-compliance.

One person on LinkedIn, a PhD and Safety Trainer said:

Sense requires the brain to process those things. Unfortunately today the art of the brain processing anything is becoming a non-existent skill…… But many don’t process the danger and get bit. It is the Safety Mgr’s. job to make employees process and select the right common sense.” 

The prompt and sensible response to this was:

That is due to non-critical thinking, as I have told many people, do not let public school get in the way of your education. We humans are a visual people and we learn by watching and processing information that we find relevant many times based on an emotional response.
Irrespective of individuality we each feel an inherent need to belong to something that is bigger than us, we are hard wired for it. A common value or belief that is tied to an emotional reaction that we believe.
I agree with Dave, it is not the safety manager’s position to make employees process and select the right common sense, that position is responsible for providing a safe work place. It is shared knowledge of what and what is not safe based on the blood spilled to understand what is. Remember the world re-populates completely every 110 years.
Organisations need to actively work to keep their rationality of “why” in balance. Clarity, Discipline and Consistency, trust is only maintained when the values and beliefs of the organisation are actively administered. The guiding and founding principles of “why it was founded” “why” the company exists and “what” it believes. Without that, it’s just another job filled with people going through the motions.

Joe Moore recently an article on his Blog which I think is great, simple advice to save you some grief and encourage people to think: (se it here: Answer a Question with a Question)

Just because someone asks you a question does not mean you have to answer it. It’s fine to answer a question with a question. Let’s face it – most of the questions your employees ask you are questions to which they know, or could figure out, the answers themselves. When you answer one of these questions, you are meddling.

You are meddling with employee energy and development. Look at it this way – every time you solve a problem for your employees that they could solve for themselves – you are robbing them of the opportunity to learn something, to feel progress, and to feel a little bit more alive.

Sometimes – many times – it is more helpful to answer a question with an open question and listen to the answers. When the person stops talking, you might feel their answer is finished – just pause – they will probably come up with another answer or idea.

Questions like:

  • What are you thinking?
  • How do you see it?
  • What if?
  • How would you get this done?
  • What’s a good reason for doing that?
  • What do you think you’ll do?
  • What do you think will happen?

This challenge asks you to move away from concentrating on having answers and asks you instead to focus on asking a question or two.

Build life into the day-to-day at work by building in lots of opportunities for employees to solve problems and find answers to the majority of their questions – themselves.

Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below