Identifying risk with genuine intent

What I love most about my job is the opportunity to meet with and hear the stories of many different people, in a range of roles, across various industries. Talking with ‘the people’ is also crucial to achieving great outcomes for my clients.

The first phase of a client project involves a fast but deep culture immersion. To ensure the project objectives are achieved I need to understand as much as I can about the business and its culture from the beginning.  It’s not uncommon for a business to commence a project believing that X is their biggest risk, to later learn it’s actually Y.  So, how do we find the ‘Y’ risks?  Oftentimes they are hidden in the silence of the individual workers.

Simply, it involves engaging with a cross section of the organisation.  Showing genuine interest in a person’s job, including the stuff they enjoy as well as their day to day frustrations can really give some great insight to what the core operational risks are.

Action with genuine intent is the most effective way to understand the culture of the business and identify significant operational risks.  Simply, the workers hold the key to this knowledge base. It kills me when I hear meetings that involve ‘does anyone have any safety problems to report’.  It’s not very inviting is it?! These meetings are a great way to get people feeling uncomfortable by putting them on the spot and placing awkward pressure on them to speak up when they may not necessarily feel comfortable to do so. I’m yet to hear how this approach alone is super successful in identifying operational risk.

What your people are open to however, is conversations with genuine intent. Feedback expert Georgia Murch suggests that there is a two-ingredient formula to successful communication. In her article Content and Intent is all you need, Georgia explains that content is the easy bit, however if the intent is not from a good place then we have ‘damaging’ conversations which therefore damage relationships and trust and respect.

Oftentimes a business will see risk management as a compliance exercise, a burden to their ‘operations’.  If the intent for safety conversations is compliance only, the workforce will sniff this out quickly and unlikely to offer risk insight.

A fraudulent intent, however carefully concealed at the outset, will generally, in the end, betray itself
— Livy

A contractor recently shared with me that they were a tad annoyed with their contracting firm.  The contractor explained that the contracting firm had placed her on secondment for a long-term contract with a client.  In the 18 months she had been on secondment she had not had contact or engagement from them.  She then received an email from the contracting firm asking her to complete an online survey regarding work health and safety.  A couple of weeks later she received a follow up email warning that if she did not complete the safety survey she would not be paid. The contractor expressed that it was very clear the contracting firms approach was compliance based.  She commented that if they ‘really cared’ about her health and safety, they would have been in regular contact, at least via telephone.

In this case the contractor felt the intent was not coming from a good place, as a result there was no trust in the contracting firm and she did not provide genuine feedback.

Are you identifying risk with genuine intent?