Quirky Things That Work When Trying To Help Others

Quirky things that work when trying to help others

Construction worker thumbs up happy woman portrait

With the current safety theme trending toward HELPING (see Safety as a Helping Profession and I was just trying to help), I thought it timely to republish this post by the late George Robotham who wrote this a few years ago with some input from Robert Long


Regardless of what discipline you work in, the people issues will be the most difficult to manage. Have you ever been in a situation where despite your best efforts, you clash with another person? Do you get caught up in other people’s problems? Do you have difficulty getting others to change their approach? What do you have to do to cope and survive? Helping others clarify and manage their issues also helps them grow and learn. An additional benefit is that in the process of helping others you will grow and learn.


The purpose of this paper is to share my learning on ways to help others in various situations. The main focus is on the workplace but the messages are also relevant in the non-occupational environment.


The main audience is management professionals in a wide range of disciplines but the suggestions are considered applicable to anyone, in any environment, who facilitates learning, leads change, solves problems, supervises others and generally interacts with others.

The number 1 issues (Dr. Robert Long)

  1. Know thyself
  2. Be true to thyself
  3. Know and listen to others
  4. You cannot help others unless you are very clear about self knowledge and motives. If ego gets caught up in helping it will come undone.

The Rotary 4 way test

During peer review of this paper it was suggested the Rotary 4 way test was of relevance.

Of the things we think, say or do-

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

The suggestions

The following techniques are well proven to assist when helping others, they have worked for me, maybe you could give them a try?

1 Problem solving techniques

When I did my Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education) we were introduced to and practiced 15 problem solving techniques. There are books on this you can buy or use Google. Various techniques are available depending on what you are trying to achieve.

One technique I use a lot and find very valuable is force-field analysis.

Force-field analysis (similar to S.W.O.T. analysis) is a simple, yet powerful technique, useful at the beginning of a project to define the nature of the beast you are dealing with. It is particularly useful when seeking to develop new Management Systems or revise old ones.

If you are new to an organisation it is an excellent way to get to know the people and the issues, it is also an excellent way to have others get to know you and get the message across that you are interested in their issues.

To get full value from the sessions it is paramount that a climate of trust is generated .A senior manager stating there will be no recriminations or disciplinary action from issues raised will help.

A group of much more than 15 gets difficult to facilitate .Often a mixture of managers, supervisors and workers is appropriate but be conscious that the presence of senior people may inhibit the workers, if this is the case it is better to have a separate worker session as well.

The process goes something like this-

1 Revise the brainstorming rules

2 Brainstorm an objective or objectives for the Management System.

3 Brainstorm the promoting / facilitating forces acting towards the objective.

4 Brainstorm the constraining / restraining forces acting against the objective.

5 Develop an action plan to boost the facilitating / promoting forces and negate the constraining / restraining forces.

I have a detailed handout on this topic if you are interested. Do it properly and you will find people will “Spill their guts” about a lot of previously unsurfaced issues. Sometimes this has to be treated with sensitivity.

The process sets the scene for moving forward with others. In some cases the process lets people articulate and off load their concerns, they usually feel better for this.

2  Reflective Journal

When I did my Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education) we had to do a reflective journal on the placements we did in company’s doing practical learning work, when I did the assessment to be admitted to Chartered Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia I had to do a reflective journal for 3 months on my work experience, I am involved in an adventure-based training program for “at risk” youth and the young people have to do a reflective journal.  I have maintained a personal reflective journal for the last 8 years.

One of the prime ways adults learn is through critical reflection and the reflective journal is ideally suited to this. To write the journal you describe what happened or what you or others did and then critically reflect on what went well and what opportunities for improvement were presented. This can be a very powerful personal and professional learning tool and help you assist the people you interact with.

3 Appropriate Self-Disclosure

You will find in a new relationship if you reveal a little bit of you (provided it is appropriate) the other party will reveal a little bit of them (provided it is appropriate), if you then reveal a little bit more of you (provided it is appropriate) they will reveal a little bit more of them (provided it is appropriate), and so the cycle goes on. This is very simple, incredibly effective and I use it all the time to build relationships. Of course if you really hang all your dirty washing out it will probably stuff up the process.

4 Reflective Listening

This is a very powerful technique to get to the core beliefs of those around you. Someone says something, you may say “If I understand you properly you think x” ,this gives the other party the opportunity to expand on their view or “Correct me if I am wrong but I think you are saying y” Repeat the cycle a few times with different expansions and you will find you really understand where the other person is coming from. When you understand them you have a better ability to help them.

5 The formula

There will be times others do things that annoy you, often they will have what they think are good reasons for what they are doing and they will have no idea they are annoying you. A good formula for these situations is to express your feelings as follows-

“When you A, I feel B, because C, and I would like you to do D, because E”

The only person who knows how you feel is you and most people will not know how you feel and  many will be happy to adjust their behaviour accordingly. If this does not happen at least you have the basis for ongoing discussion.

6 Interactive learning facilitation

When I attend professional presentations it never ceases to amaze me how many presenters use lecture style presentations or a talk at the audience approach. You have to be an exceptionally good presenter for this approach to hold an audience’s attention for over 10 minutes. Much has been written on the advantages of interactive approaches to facilitating learning. Practical exercises, role plays, case studies, group discussions etc. are amongst the many interactive approaches that are more effective.

The articles How To Give An Unforgettable Presentation and Adult Learning Principles And Process under Learning. Helping others learn can be a very satisfying experience.

7 Find yourself a mentor

Brisbane based OHS consultant, Geoff McDonald has been my OHS mentor for many years. He has great technical OHS skills, is widely read on a wide range of topics, challenges the status quo and is a critical thinker. Geoff challenges my thinking and makes me work hard. Finding yourself a good mentor can help you. Acting as a mentor for others has significant rewards.


I suggest you read up on these techniques, it can make your life much easier and rewarding!

George Robotham

George Robotham

George was a Legend in the Safety World who passed away in Sept 2013 but left us with a great legacy
George Robotham
I have worked in OHS for most of my working life, many years in the mining industry including over 10 years in a corporate OHS role with BHP. Since leaving the mining industry I have worked in a variety of safety roles with a variety of employers, large & small, in a variety of industries. I was associated with my first workplace fatality at age 21, the girl involved was young, intelligent, vivacious and friendly. Such a waste! I was the first on the scene and tried to comfort her and tend to her injuries. She said to me “George, please do not let me die” We put her on the aerial ambulance to Rockhampton base hospital where she died the next day. I do not mind telling you that knocked me around for awhile. Since then I have helped my employers cope with the aftermath of 12 fatalities and 2 other life-altering events. The section "Why do Occupational Health & Safety" provides further detail but in summary, poor safety is simply very expensive and also has a massive humanitarian cost. My qualifications include a certificate I.V. in Workplace Training and Assessment, a Diploma in Frontline Management, a Diploma in Training & Assessment Systems, a Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education) , a Grad. Cert. in Management of Organisational Change and a Graduate Diploma in Occupational Hazard Management. I am currently studying towards a Masters in Business Leadership. Up until recently I had been a Chartered Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia for 10 years and a member for about 30 years. My interest is in non-traditional methods of driving organisational change in OHS and I have what I believe is a healthy dis-respect for many common approaches to OHS Management and OHS Training. I hold what I believe is a well-founded perception that many of the things safety people and management do in safety are “displacement activities” (Displacement activities are things we do, things we put a lot of energy into, but which when we examine them closely there is no valid reason for doing them). My managerial and leadership roles in OHS have exposed me to a range of management techniques that are relevant to Business Improvement. In particular I am a strong supporter of continuous improvement and quality management approaches to business. I believe leadership is the often forgotten key to excellence in most aspects of life. I hold the Australian Defence Medal and am a J.P.(Qualified). I have many fond memories of my time playing Rugby Union when I was a young bloke.

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