Monday, 27 January 2014

Safety On Site - Breaking Bad?

I have to admit to an addiction. Nothing too exotic or illegal or, I would hope, detrimental to my family’s happiness – but an addiction nevertheless. ‘Breaking Bad’. For those of you already ‘in the know’ (yes, I know, you are the enlightened majority) I realise I have arrived embarrassingly late to this particular party. For those few who have not yet discovered this phenomenon, ‘Breaking Bad’ is an American television drama which has garnered numerous awards and accolades and that recently concluded after its 5th series. The programme follows the (mis)adventures of a Chemistry teacher after his diagnosis with a terminal illness and his subsequent efforts to ensure his family’s financial security for the future. This is no spoiler – as much is revealed in the first episode – and anyway, now that I’m finally at this party, I feel justified in expressing righteous disbelief that anybody is unaware of this. Why I am I telling you this? Well, other than the need to spread the word like some evangelical box set devotee, I’d like to discuss how every single episode brings to mind our work with behaviours and, in particular, Behavioural Safety.
Keystone enjoy a great reputation within this field (I’m assuming we’re still at the aforementioned party so I feel it’s appropriate to blow on any trumpet I happen to chance upon) and I personally take great satisfaction when partnering our clients to help create a safety culture of personal responsibility and accountability. Our methodology remains constant though the approach may vary from client to client. That’s why we have a suite of tools and techniques that we can employ as and when the situation demands:
  • ·       Theatre based group interventions
  • ·       Peer coaching programmes
  • ·       Conference and event presentation
  • ·       The Personal Safety Index diagnostic (developed in partnership with Cranfield University)
  • ·       Bespoke DVD production
  • ·       Process consultancy

The ideal solution for one company is rarely fit for purpose elsewhere, and experience tells us that each unique culture demands a similarly unique programme. There are, however, commonalities; universal truths that repeatedly come to the fore when we and our clients interrogate the challenges. In dangerously simple terms, it can be boiled down to the choices we make and the ‘why’ that leads to those choices… which takes me back to ‘Breaking Bad’. The main crux of the drama hinges on one man’s seemingly uncharacteristic choice when faced with a dilemma. The multi-award-winning star of the series, Bryan Cranston, explains the term ‘Breaking Bad’ as relating to:

Someone who has taken a turn off the path of the straight and narrow, when they've gone wrong. And that could be for that day or for a lifetime.’

Any safety professionals out there recognise the above statement? I’d suggest those of you that do recognise the sentiment will also be able to call to mind individuals that fit both the ‘day’ and ‘lifetime’ badges? Most of us know, or have encountered, the eternal maverick, the saboteur, the rebel – call them what you will. These are the people who continually push the boundaries of acceptability and take some pleasure, or at least satisfaction, in breaking the rules. Similarly, we have all, no doubt, witnessed the one-off rule breaker, the unlucky ‘just this once’ culprit – the ‘I just wanted to finish the job on time’ excusers.  
They are each, and not exclusively, part and package of pretty much every culture my colleagues and I have encountered whilst consulting on behavioural safety - just two of the many types that occur in environments of potential risk. Led by their internal drivers, they make informed choices that ignore or discard the expected norm, that consciously invite heightened risk in an attempt to satisfy a personal motivator. And it’s this theme of informed choice - this invitation of heightened risk to serve a stronger desire – that makes this programme so appealing. In its exploration of the peripheral character’s own life choices – serving, as they do, as amplifiers  and mirrors to the main protagonist’s tragedy – Breaking Bad reminds us of the ongoing challenge of ensuring our people are equipped and empowered to make the right decision for the right reason when it matters. I use the term ‘tragedy’ in the dramatic sense – that which portrays someone’s fall to disaster via a combination of personal failing and an inability to deal with external circumstances. Again, ring any bells when thinking about near misses and accidents in the workplace?

I could go on, not least to discuss the power of empathy both within good television, such as ‘Breaking Bad’, and within robust and effective safety coaching in the workplace. I suppose that’s the link that really stands out for me. It’s the way in which good drama invites us to empathise with troubled characters, conflicted souls and, therefore, offers some sort of catharsis by experiencing what it’s like to be ‘in their shoes’. This is mirrored in Keystone’s belief that an empathetic approach to safety conversations and challenges (at least initially) is at the crux of shifting a culture’s safety climate. Easier said than done, we know. That’s why we always take the time to get the right people at each site properly educated and equipped to initiate this approach. And talking of time, I’m aware my pulse rate is increasing, my fingers are fidgeting and my lips seem uncomfortably dry. It can only mean one thing – I need another hit of ‘Breaking Bad’. I’ll have to drop everything. For those of you that have seen series 4, you can empathise with that, surely?

Blog post by Jo Raishbrook

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

An authentic leader, or stuck in a bubble?

There's a lot of talk in business circles right now about authentic leadership. Despite its increasing popularity for over a decade, it's easy to misunderstand what it's all about. I've heard people in many different workplaces justifying unhelpful behaviours or inappropriate management styles by saying, "I'm just being me - I'm being authentic."

The issue I have with this is that authentic leadership isn't, and never has been, about being 'stuck' in our current ways of being and doing, unable or unwilling to step outside our own bubbles of experience to ask what others might be thinking or feeling. On the contrary, it's about a journey towards being your best self. That's your best self at work and home, because an authentic leader knows they can't separate into two different people.

So what is this journey? Kevin Kruse, a leadership and employee engagement specialist, links authentic leadership to:

·         Being self-aware and genuine.
·         Being mission driven and focused on results.
·         Leading with the heart and not with the mind. (Remember, great results have always been about connections with people.)
·         Focusing on the long term.

It sounds great, doesn't it? But how many managers do you know who do all that - or even some of it? I know it's possible because I've met some authentic leaders in my time. They're not perfect, but they definitely meet Kruse's criteria and they're definitely on a journey towards their best self. That's the good news, that just trying to take the journey means you're already succeeding as an authentic leader. And there's no doubt that - for the people I've met - it's having a positive impact on them, the people around them and the results they're getting.

From an HR and L&D perspective, however, authentic leadership can pose something of a challenge. Just how do you grow the authentic leaders that your business tells you are needed when it's a lifelong journey, highly personal to the individual and something that needs to evolve organically, making it difficult to plan or predict? Fortunately, there is an answer. In my experience, authentic leadership always starts from a common point of self-awareness. Self-awareness CAN be planned for and developed, and by doing that part well you're equipping your people with the tools they need to get started on the longer, self-driven journey towards authentic leadership.

Of course, positioning is key. Becoming more self-aware can be quite uncomfortable. Employees need to know the why as well as the what, feel supported as well as challenged, and empowered to do something with their findings rather than just filing away the results under the mental label of "interesting but not a priority for action".

What kind of self-awareness activities can you consider introducing at work? At Keystone, we've found all of the following useful at various times and with different clients:

·         Diagnostic and psychometric tools.
·         360° feedback.
·         1-2-1 coaching.
·         Line manager involvement/progress and review conversations.
·         Workshops centred on the theme of "understanding myself and interactions with others".
·         Workplace coaching and mentoring.
·         Work-based projects with stakeholder/team feedback.
·         Various personal development and reflective learning tools.

Give people this kind of input with the right positioning and contextualisation and, whether they're a team leader, middle manager, shop floor worker or member of the board, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the outcomes for your organisation.

Some businesses fear giving people this development because they anticipate a time of turbulence as employees start to have open and honest two-way dialogue, stop sweeping things under the carpet, take ownership of addressing issues and speak more truthfully. But part of becoming a more authentic leader is learning to have adult-to-adult interactions, understanding one's own feelings and the impact of these on your behaviours with others and being able to hold effective conversations with others in all circumstances, so the solution is built in to the development process. In fact, it should lead to healthy debate, collaborative behaviours and peaceful conflict resolution. And let's face it - wouldn't we all like to see more of that at work?

Blog post by Esther Patrick MInstLM, MIfL, MAAMET, AMAICTP works for Keystone as a leadership, management and talent development consultant and business coach. Her book Management: The Essential Guide was published in summer 2013.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Using actors in training

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We get asked a lot about our use of actors in drama-based learning. Many people grasp the possibilities straight away, but occasionally we hear people say, “Oh, but our delegates hate role play,” or, “Well, it sounds like a nice extra but I’m not sure it’s essential.”

The first thing to clear up is that it’s definitely not essential. Lots of our organisational and people development work is interactive, experiential, enormously enjoyable and gets great results, without ever using an actor. So no, you don’t have to go down the drama-based route.

That said, why do we sometimes recommend it as the best option in a particular situation? Firstly, we’ve all experienced the power of watching actors on television, perhaps in our favourite soap or drama. We associate with them, get absorbed in their lives and problems and wish we could give them our advice! This makes acting a powerful development tool. It quickly catches delegates’ attention, engages them and gets them talking about real issues in a real way.

Now, we’d agree that very few delegates like role-play. It often sends the most confident people into nervous wrecks! That's why we tend to use a technique called ‘forum theatre’. In our forum theatre workshops the delegates become directors, only taking the spotlight if they feel confident to do so. The actor works with the facilitator and delegates to act out scripted scenarios, which match your delegates’ culture, language and key challenges. Delegates can pause the action at any point, giving advice and re-directing the behaviour and language of the participants until a positive outcome is reached.

This means learning becomes non-threatening and delegates find they can learn just as if they were playing the actor’s role but without the pressure. Our scenarios allow delegates to recognise character traits and behaviours – either positive or less helpful – that they may share with the characters. Through testing out different interactions the delegates experience for themselves what exactly works. Relevant models and techniques are then explored with the facilitator to highlight key learning moments.

Other techniques we use are stealth (an actor ‘plant’ in the audience gets the day off to an impactful start!), talking heads (the actor, in character, reveals their perspective on something), real play (improvised forum theatre), hot seating (delegates question the actor, in character, to explore their opinions and actions) and many more.

So when we’re asked about drama-based learning, you’ll often hear us say: “We use drama as just one of our many training tools because it gets the best results in certain circumstances.” Subjects such as leadership, communication skills, managing conflict, equality and diversity, negotiation, sales, customer care, behavioural safety and managing appraisals are among the subjects ideally suited to using an actor – should you want to.

Why not watch a video of one of our training sessions on behavioural safety?

And here’s some delegate feedback about their experience:

Why not contact us for a chat about your people development needs?

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Sustainable leadership and management development

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It's nearly that time of year. We're waiting for the latest Good Practice Learning Trends Index to come out in just a month or so, and we're eagerly predicting the results.

The last report showed leadership development remaining a high priority for organisations across the UK - the highest priority for 58% of you in March, and 57% of you in July. Given the increasingly complex environments in which our leaders operate, that's no surprise. In fact, we've just posted on our Latest News page about the challenges of leading and managing in ambiguous, complex or matrix environments.

However, management performance took a huge step forwards to jump into second place. From March to July it went from 18% to 38%, overtaking all sorts of hot issues in the process such as talent management and retention, performance management and change management.

So, is management performance going to hold its place? Will leadership development keep its lead? Whatever you predict, these subjects are likely to remain a key focus for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, we think there are some easy wins to get the most value from your investment in developing your people. 

Firstly, we're not surprised that these are the two L&D priorities of the moment. The last quarter has seen especially tough trading conditions. A strong foundation of leadership and management skills is key to meeting your organisation's objectives and getting the most out of all your people.

But as always, this development needs to show results quickly and prove to be sustainable. We've all had the experience of going to courses in the past, enjoying the training, and then back at work two weeks later we're doing the same things we've always done. Now, you can't afford to have that happen!

We suggest using a range of methods to make sure the learning is remembered after the training, applied outside the learning room and delivers business benefits. Alongside facilitated learning, you could also consider using (in no particular order) peer teaching and coaching, action learning groups, cross-functional project work, social media, mobile learning and ongoing mobile support, specific workplace and on-the-job development challenges, mentoring or being mentored and cascade of learning to others.

Any of these can make a big difference to what your people take back to work with them and how well they use what they've learnt to the benefit of your organisation. We're always happy to have a no-obligation chat with you about how you can get the very best outcome from your people development.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Managing your talent

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The CIPD annual survey report 2011 into Learning and Talent Development was issued back in March and it had some interesting findings. Here at Keystone, we’re passionate about talent management as a means of supporting delivery of your organisational strategy – to say nothing of giving you a unique competitive advantage. Imagine our disappointment, then, to read that: “Only half of organisations with talent management activities rate them as effective and only a very small minority (3%) rate them as very effective.”
The good news? That means quite a few organisations, potentially your competitors, are failing to make the most of a golden opportunity. But because we’ve been banging the talent management drum for a while now, many of our clients have robust and successful talent management programmes in place to support them. So for a change, we thought we’d take a light hearted look at how you could join your competitors in the talent management doldrums.

7 easy steps to make your talent management programme become a damp squib:

1. Don’t under any circumstances align your talent management programme to the organisation’s strategy or organisational development needs.
2. If you can, manage it exclusively within HR or L&D. Discourage board or SMT involvement. Senior champions are definitely a no-go.
3. You really don’t need agreed strategies, outcomes and ROI measures. A talent management programme will magically deliver the results you want.
4. These days, who has the time to do consultation and research with managers, focus groups and so on? Set the programme up and any important feedback will most likely get back to you as it goes along.
5. Only focus the programme on your high fliers. You’ve always got performance management to deal with the underperformers, and everyone else will be fine with an occasional training course and their annual review.
6. Don’t design a series of planned talent management activities. Besides, you followed steps 1-5 as instructed, so you’re not sure what would best create value for the organisation anyway.
7. Make sure you’re too busy to do regular strategic reviews for the programme. If it starts to fizzle out, accept it wasn’t the right thing for your organisation at this time.

Ok, we wouldn’t really suggest any of that, but it’s surprising how often we hear of organisations doing one or more of these points. How does your organisation’s talent management programme measure up? How effective would you describe it as being? If you think there’s room for improvement (or you’ve got examples of best practice – we love to hear about those!) then why not contact us for a chat?

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2011) Annual Survey Report: Learning and Talent Development [online], CIPD. Available from: [accessed March 2011]