Here at Safety on Tap, we spend a lot of time looking forward to new ideas, innovation, and a future-focus. But, as you know, reflecting on our experiences, and making sense of that socially with each other, is one of the most powerful sources of learning right under our noses. Today, my guest reflects on a career of insights, to fuel your growth.
Hey, it’s Andrew, and this is Safety on Tap.
Since you’re listening in, you must be a leader wanting to grow yourself and drastically improve health and safety along the way. Welcome to you, you’re in the right place. If this is your first time listening in, thanks for joining us and well done for trying something different to improve! And of course, welcome back to all of you wonderful regular listeners.
I’m chatting with Russel Skilleter. Career health and safety professional, looking back on a few decades of experiences. I’ll let him tell you the story. Here’s Russel:

You might be wondering why Russel, and how we came to have these discussions. It doesn’t really matter. You see, there are Russel’s, and Rhonda’s, and Jane’s and John are all around us, walking tomes of experience and insight.
It just so happens that Russel is one of the more proactively generous, and reflective people who are more progressed in their careers. But like most things in life, it’s unlikely that your Russel will be obvious to you, that they’ll knock on your door and say ‘Hey, I have a gift for you’. No, that’s pretty unlikely. But what I do know from experience, is that the distance between not having a Russel and having one is very small. What I mean, is that you’ll come up with all the reasons in the world why someone more advanced, senior, experienced, WOULDN’T want to share some reflections with you. Which in my experience is almost always trash talk – the distance between right now and having the insights from someone like Russel, is a single question.
‘Jane, it seems like you would have a wealth of stories and insights which would be useful to someone like me. Could you share some with me sometime?’.
That’s it. Ask. You know who these people are, the vaults of experience. As you’re listening right now I know you’re already thinking about this person or that person. You know who they are. So ask.
With that said, I’m doing something different here’s my shorter and hopefully sharper nineteen takeaways from that chat with Russel:
Takeaway #1: Plans will only get you so far, be open to new experiences and opportunities.
Takeaway #2: Learning is a habit. How do you make learning habitual?
Takeaway #3: Big change happens in big moments, like new legislation, but not just legislation change. How can you leverage big moments for a big change?
Takeaway #4: Novelty is important to evolve with changing times, but don’t forget the basics.
Takeaway #5: Leadership is as important now as it was 40 years ago.
Takeaway #6: Assumptions can be dangerous. Work to the surface and discuss the assumptions made in your organisation.
Takeaway #7: Understand your context. For example, low margin businesses think about investment in different ways to bigger margin businesses.
Takeaway #8: Tough conversations are important to have as a safety leader, no matter how many times you get kicked out of someone’s office.
Takeaway #9: Adapt your approach and work style to suit the situation.
Takeaway #10: Selling anything, an idea, or a product or service, is hard. Don’t approach it by accident, and don’t assume it’s an inherent ability. It is a skill to be developed.
Takeaway #11: People often aren’t buying what you, or they, think they are buying.
Takeaway #12: The way we look at accountability, and blame, affects our behaviour. Uncover the mindsets, and you can improve the behaviour.
Takeaway #13: Be the Father or Mother of something. Russel saw a need for auditing competency. Where do you see a gap right now, why can’t you be the creator of something important?
Takeaway #14: Teaching also involves teacher learning.
Takeaway #15: Information will get you started, but social connections and experiences and reflection will supercharge your learning and in turn your performance.
Takeaway #16: You need to know what success looks like in your situation.
Takeaway #17: Don’t confuse business success, with success in actually improving health and safety.
Takeaway #18: It’s helpful, and arguably more realistic, to not know the whole solution but help your customers get started and figure it out along the way.
Takeaway #19: Don’t take new ideas on face value. Challenge them, discuss them, argue about them respectfully. Everyone benefits from that.
You’ve probably figured out why I shared 19 takeaways. That’s just a summary of what I learned in an hour’s conversation. Imagine what you can learn with your own Russel or Rhonda.
I mentioned the workshops which are being planned for 2020, in Australia, on Marketing Health and Safety Properly, for health and safety professionals. After a very successful pilot in New Zealand earlier this year, we’re taking this change-making program on the road.
If you’re not already, the best way to find out when it will be in a town near you, is to be on our email list, sign up at If you head there you can also grab my handwritten reflection notes, the full transcript of this episode, and even more goodies for the back-catalogue of podcasts.
Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, what’s the one thing you’ll do to take positive, effective or rewarding action, to grow yourself, and drastically improve health and safety along the way? Seeya!