Can a health and safety function totally transform the way that it engages with its organisation, and the organisations people with it? Here’s a case study in exactly that journey of transformation, changing mindsets, changing relationships, changing effectiveness.
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.
Today’s guest recently shared a photo of her lying in the middle of one of the busiest commercial airport runways in Australia. Whilst no planes were flying given Covid-19 disruption, it was an apt visual metaphor for the scope and scale of the operations at Brisbane Airport Corporation. Akin to a small city just within its fences, it is fast-paced, complex, high risk, and diverse. Kersty Christensen is the Head of Health and Safety at Brisbane Airport Corporation and has led this transformation of her function into service to her organisation. We cover the role of expertise, managing perceptions of customers want, and the tension with their needs, how servant leadership has proven to be a compelling mindset for her and her team and lessons she has learned throughout this transformation.
Jam-packed! What I loved about that conversation was just how generous and humble Kersty is. Things aren’t perfect, it’s been a little messy, mistakes have been made. This is the reality of transformation. I worry sometimes that listening to a podcast can covey a sense of a perfect Hollywood version of reality which is never the case. I appreciated Kersty’s openness sharing with us her reality.
Here’s my three takeaways from that chat with Kersty Christensen:
Takeaway #1: The way you conceptualise your relationship with your organisation is critical to your effectiveness. Kersty shifted to servant leadership, and safety as a service. This moved away from safety as a disengaged and feared enforcement function. Are you aware of the mindset you take to your role and relationship with the business? If you are not, I can tell you they can describe it to you. And whilst you may not like what you hear as Kersty did, it gives you a place to adopt a new mindset, and everything flows from there.
Takeaway #2: I have to pause on this idea of service, and serving. I mentioned how uncomfortable this makes people feel. The most impressive leaders in all of history were very clear about who they served and treated their leadership as an act of service. Psychological research has shown that prosocial service intentions and actions boost happiness and mental health. A service mindset is powerful and has nothing to do with the powerlessness of servitude, which many people confuse it with. Serving others makes their life better, and your life better, wherever you do it. It’s a worthy strategy.
Takeaway #3: This takeaway is totally Kersty’s lesson in this transformation: take people with you, especially the people on your team charged with activating the change you are promising to the people you seek to serve. This begins by meeting people where they are at. It means spending time poking at the status quo, and the new vision. It means developing a plan with every person, so they can make their own journey from where they are now, to where the organisation expects them to be.
This episode has been fully transcribed for your reading pleasure, so head over to safetyontap.com/ep151 for your free copy of that, and grab the bonus download of my handwritten reflection notes, along with a personal reflection template for you to make the most learning out of your listening.
You might also be thinking of a colleague or two who would benefit from hearing this conversation. Kersty and I covered a huge amount more ground in our more-podcast conversation, but there is only so much we can put into a single episode. Why not share this episode with your colleagues, and then use it to stimulate some further discussion amongst yourselves? What a great way to use free resources to boost your growth in service of each other.
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!