It’s that time of year – time to slow down, to reflect, and to grow. Join me for 2019 in review, and how you might make 2020 a smashing year.
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.
Regular listeners will be familiar with my like of a word, or phrase of the year. For those of you not familiar with this, I suggest you jump back after this and listen to last year’s episode 102, or the one before in episode 74.
The word of phrase of the year is a beacon to guide me, a lighthouse to use as a point of reference in my navigation. It’s not a resolution, it’s not a plan, it’s not a map. And I find it hugely useful.
My word of the year for 2019 was flourish. I mentioned episode 102, which is the one where I fill you in on why I picked this word and what potential I thought it held for me.
So how did I go? I flourished, without a doubt. But flourish wasn’t just about me, it was about helping others flourish too – not a single flower but a bed full of flowers.
So how did I go about the year with flourishing in mind? Well, it started as a reminder that my life is not just about me, in fact, my greatest moments are when I am almost entirely irrelevant to a change, to an impact, to someone else.
In that sense, I am not the flower flourishing but the gardener, carefully helping prepare soil, to sow new seeds of ideas and challenge, to water and fertilise the growth of others.
This podcast is just so central to that work. You, and the people who you generously and openly share the podcast with. Your growth, the calls and messages and emails I receive from you, telling me of your breakthroughs, your challenges, your frustrations and your successes. I’m a happy gardener helping others flourish.
I’ve been able to reach over a thousand individual living breathing individuals in person in 8 cities spread over three countries – in conferences and workshops and learning teams. I flourish in these places too – bring with people in a human, close, and personal way is such a fantastic way to learn, to grow, to connect.
But events can be a flash in the pan, superbly energising and flourishing in the moment, which often fades away quickly. I’ve loved helping people flourish despite these circumstances, by using group coaching and individual coaching to best effect over days, weeks and months so that we get a better rate of return from that event, that conference, that workshop. I will be supercharging this hybrid combo approach to learning in 2020.
Not everything has gone well. I excitedly announced this time last year I would be doing live coaching and case studies to bring a richer, personal podcast to you. You’ve told me that the two live coaching sessions, in episodes 104 with Steffan, and episode 107 with Carmen, were amazing. But that’s it! I’m still keen to offer you live coaching in return for being brave and sharing your challenge with your fellow listeners – maybe that’s too big a barrier? I don’t know. I’m still up for live coaching if you are, the offer is still there if you go to
Many of you will be familiar with the growth accelerator we launched last year, called Safety on Tap Connected. This helped a small but amazing group of people flourish, many of whom have become close colleagues and friends of mine. Unfortunately, the community as a whole did not flourish, and Safety on Tap Connected was closed down. This was a great learning for me, albeit painful, that we can’t force things or people to flourish – we need to nurture it to happen. And sometimes it doesn’t. And that’s ok. I have so much gratitude for the people who were part of the community, who engaged so actively in their own growth, and who believed in me trying something new. Like Michael Jordan is so famously quoted as saying, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”. There is no question that social and experiential learning, which was the basis of Safety on Tap Connected, is still hugely powerful. I’m continually drawing on these in all the work I do, whether that be learning teams, 1:1 or group coaching, group facilitation – whether that be for a risk profile, strategy, senior leadership team or a group of HSR’s. I still think there is massive untapped potential in our own community, not just you and our listener community but health and safety people as a global community – I just don’t know what it is yet.
Two specific things, in particular, have been amazing to my flourishing with others. The first is the safety clutter work I am collaborating on with previous guest and friend of the show David Provan. If you have heard episode 127, not that long ago, you will know the feeling that comes from the conversation we are opening up about safety clutter. It’s like a deep dark secret finally let out, a burden lifting from people’s shoulders. People truly flourish when they can have a fear-free conversation about safety clutter – we all feel it, but now we have language, models, and most importantly methodologies to tackle it. So many people are flourishing around the safety clutter concept and decluttering, which is something I’ll be unpacking more in the new year. I know many of you are interested in the topic so check out episode 127 if you haven’t already, and of course for a free personalised safety clutter scorecard.
The other specific thing where I have seen flourishing in others as if you are pouring the purest strongest fertiliser onto bamboo and it grows in front of your eyes – is learning teams. This is a structured approach to bringing small groups of people together to learn and improve operations. Sounds simple, sounds common-sensical – but it’s not as much as you’d think, and we simply don’t do learning very well. 2019 has been an awesome year from the point of view of a facilitator, enabling learning to happen – the tapping of an untapped resource is jaw-dropping. Not only am I doing this work, but I’ve also realised that there is effectively no evidence base for its application in safety – it’s very well studied in other domains, so I am doing worlds-first research into group learning for safety improvement, to add to the evidence base for our professional practice.
There is a biblical reference to not keeping your lamp under a basket, and this is another one I want to bring you more insight into in 2020 – it’s phenomenal. Stay tuned to learn more.
Personally, I knew I wanted my health to flourish, not just be ok, which I made amazing progress in. My fitness is improving, I’m dealing with niggling health challenges which I’ve deprioritised for too long, I’m sleeping more and better, I’m a humble but passionate karate student alongside three of my kids, I’m drinking less and I am mentally more resilient. I know that to continue to flourish, not merely be alive, not merely survive, not merely to grow incrementally, but to truly flourish – I know what I need to keep doing.
I’m enjoying the challenge of connecting across the entire agriculture sector on the importance and opportunities surrounding health and safety, and part of my flourishing in this space is how awesomely humble I am about the complexity of the context and the people involved. When it comes to my ikigai (which is a concept you can hear more about in episode 59), this one is very strong in the category of ‘what the world needs’.
So flourish I did, which happened in part because of how others flourish around me. Thank you for being part of that.
So what about 2020? I’ve spent a lot of time, alone and with others, reflecting and getting feedback to work out what 2020 should look and feel like.
One thing I am guilty of, against my own advice, is trying to do too much and not being clear on which of the few things will make the greatest impact. This is the crux of the Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule, which I reflected on in episode 98. Too many distractions, too many things I say yes to which means by default I say no to something else, often at my own detriment. Some tough realisations I can tell you.
So my phrase for this coming year, for 2020, is Ruthless Gentleman. This might sound like an oxymoron, like two words that shouldn’t go together. What this means to me is this.
You’ve probably heard a quote like “be ruthless with ideas and gentle with people”, or “be ruthless with the past”.
Bringing these two concepts together, I realised I nailed both my problem and solution all in one. I don’t respect my own time enough, which makes it hard a) for me to get the most out of my limited time, and b) means others might not respect my time either. Being clear, organised, and disciplined is difficult for me, it is effortful. So, it is this effort, this work, which I will lean into. My commitment to myself is firstly, to be ruthless with time.
The gentleman bit, is the antithesis to this. This is the being gentle with people part of that earlier quote. I love people, I love you, I love the clients I work with. We are better together, and I am certainly at the top of my game when I am playing with others. So this part isn’t as much new, as it is a reminder to be clear about priorities – ruthless with time, gentleman with people.
One further layer to my year as Ruthless Gentleman is the subtleties of supporting other people to grow. Being nice isn’t enough. Sometimes, we need a little pain, a little discomfort, a little bad news to stimulate our growth. It’s a bit like parenting – being a nice parent, or a helicopter parent is not the best thing for them. Growth happens even though the grower might not like what’s stimulating the growth. This is an ever-present truth in coaching, which is my core passion.
Another perspective on this idea that a gentleman is not always nice, and might be seen as ruthless, was uncovered by my friend and peer-mentor Andy White, who by the way you’ll hear on the podcast in a few weeks time. Andy pointed out the pitfalls of the ‘helping’ narrative, the story that surrounds helping, helpers, and bring helped. I am here to help. You need help. Help is on the way. Don’t help me. That didn’t help. Helping has an undertone of hierarchy, that the helper is higher, better, than the person being helped. It also conveys a sense of pushiness – presumptuous offers of help. I know that the helping narrative is a huge part of our mindset in safety. We defend it, it’s our ethical badge of honour. I’m not sure that the helping narrative is, well, that helpful. So for me, a gentleman is not always helpful, but instead adopts a narrative of humility, of curiosity, of genuine care.
So the Ruthless Gentleman guides me in 2020. For those of you for whom this concept is new, let me be clear – I’m not sharing this with you to consider yourself or try – in fact, please do not.
This episode is about reflection – a real-life, tangible experience of my reflections, what drives me, and how I prepare for a new year. By all means, take away the principles I’ve discussed. I encourage you to do your own reflection, to seek feedback from the people you trust and serve, to inform your mindset and approach to 2020.
The name of this episode is Reflect. Reflection is a powerful way for you to tap into your own learning. Think about it like the reflection in a mirror – hold it up, what do you see? You see you, you see the people who’ve been around you all year, you see over your shoulder what’s happened this past year. These are all amazing sources of learning for you. So, reflect.
If you want some help to do this, my best directions are to episodes 3 and 23, both with Tim Allred, both great resources for reflection. And Episode 62 is called ‘You Are Your Own Best Teacher’, which will be helpful also.
I wish you and the people you love a safe and happy Christmas if you celebrate that and for everyone an enjoyable break. I can’t wait to see you in 2020, I’ve got plenty in store for you, but you’ll have to tune in after new years to hear more.
As always, I can’t tell you how much gratitude I have for you listening and being part of this community. 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!


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