What does a iPad, a 2B pencil, WISYWIG, and a microphone have in common? And how is that helpful for you as a leader?

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.

 This episode is made possible by our mission of enabling better learning that improves performance in your organisation.

We all know that we need to use our safety activities to learn how to improve, right? Risk assessments are proactive ways to engage your people in imagining possible future scenarios, investigations are meant to teach us about lessons from past incidents, and safety committees are designed to provide workers the voice to give their expert input to the way work is managed safely.

But how many of us have risk assessments which struggle to really engage people, investigations which keep saying the same things and not much is changing, or Committee’s which are frankly, sh*tty?

We teach people how to help their organisations to learn intentionally, which means risk workshops that have people volunteering to participate, responses to incidents which generate real learning and improvement beyond the same old corrective actions, and employee consultation which people rave about.

All of these things suffer the same problems, and have the same four steps you can follow to generate learning. I’ve created a short video describing these four problems and four steps you can take to fix them. If you want to see the video, visit 

All leaders are wizards. 

Wizards with awe inspiring potential to create change. I’m going to use the word wizard here which I have it on good authority is a gender neutral term for a sorcerer. 

And yet it seems that some leaders are merely leaders, and others seem like they use magic. 

We all had a steep learning curve of virtual connection during 2020.  Most of us forced to connect with each other, to meet and communicate and get stuff done behind a computer and video camera. 

It wasn’t a painful change for me, having been practising virtual communication for a number of years with things like coaching and workshops.  If anything it helped me having more people realise firstly what is possible with virtual stuff, and secondly quickly recognising that a crappy normal meeting gets even crappier when virtual.  Thus the flip side, having effective and engaging and useful virtual communication meant my work got lots of people’s attention for the right reasons. 

One of the things I do is I communicate visually.  Coaching and learning can involve some pretty heavy concepts and even theory, which is hard to digest.  I’m inspired by Simon Bowen and his genius model concept, which is to take something complex and simplify it for the purpose of communication. 

My simple models (imagine venn diagrams, triangles representing three concepts, a simple tree diagram or a wagon wheel with a number of spokes), they are dangerous on their own.  They are not intended or appropriate out of context like a pithy social media meme.  I use these as aids during a complex and slow coaching conversation or teaching dialogue to great effect. 

So I draw and talk and ask and draw and listen and draw and discuss.  And virtually, the easiest way to do this is to connect an iPad to the videoconference, and draw live. 
I can do a cracking insightful and useful free webinar, say for example on the biggest challenges and opportunities with learning teams, for people who say they really want to implement learning teams, and I get heaps of questions about how I managed to connect my iPad to the video and draw on it. 

Should you use a 2B pencil?

Seth Godin tells this story about Stephen King, one of the most beloved, famous, and bestselling authors ever. 

Seth says King often goes to writer’s conferences. After he talks for a little bit he says, “Any questions?”

Inevitably, someone raises their hand and says something like, “Mr. King, you are one of the most beloved, famous, and bestselling authors ever. What kind of pencil do you use to write your books?”

Funnily enough, if you do a web search for Stephen King pencil, you’ll find some amazingly in-depth reddit discussions about this very subject.  And not only pencils, the Stephen King fanbase are enamoured with his pad and paper type as well.

What’s so surprising about this? Seth says it’s almost as if knowing what kind of pencil Stephen King uses will help them be more like Stephen King. 

It won’t.  And it never has. 


There are two words which are an inevitable part of your future, which you may or may not have heard of. 

 One, is automation.  The other, is WYSIWYG. 

Automation is familiar.  At the simplest level, your coffee maker or kettle knows when the water is the right temperature, so stops heating it.  No human required to turn off the gas.  Amazing. 

Automation is defined in many different ways, but the simplest one I use is this: automation is what replaces a human to make something happen. 

Automation is used when your CEO wants to send an memo to everyone in your company.  It’s used when overdue actions in your incident database are automagically sent via email to the recalcitrant action owner. 
A while back I helped a vibrant company, and a vibrant health and safety leader plan the implementation of their enterprise health and safety software. 
So I ask what the plan is, and the start of the conversation goes like this: let’s review our non-digital safety procedures and systems so they can be migrated (yes that’s a technical term) over to the new software.  The basic idea is that the software will make happen what the procedures and policies say, the steps, who is accountable, what happens first then next, etc. 
That would have been a disaster. I am a coach.  But a coach who has plenty of experience designing and testing and implementing health and safety systems.  The first question is, what is possible here, and now, with this software? That takes you down an entirely different value chain. 

But you know what the most enormous opportunity was with this project? We’ve already talked about automation, right.  Take the workload off humans so the humans can do higher value work.  This software would do all that. 
The biggest opportunity was with something called WYSIWYG.  It’s an acronym which stands for What You See Is What You Get. 
Long story short, this enables the system admin to tell the system to do whatever you want it to, in whatever order you like, at specific times, sending specific kinds of information to different places, including all kinds of checks and balances and notifications. 
You drag and drop blocks and arrows and conditions into a flowchart which say things like: if this incident is rated blue, send it here and ask for three more fields of info, wait and then send an email with a pop of confetti.  If it’s rated orange, do something else.  If the person reporting this has a middle name which starts with a G, then ask them to check it before submitting because we should never believe that anyone’s parents would seriously give them a middle name which starts with a G.  (yes, you guessed it, that’s me). 

Literally this is what is possible.  Which makes our job hard.  Because it’s easy to say, ‘well boss, this system does categorise incidents according to 5 levels and it does present them in something that looks like a bastardised Heinrich Triangle….but boss that’s how it came out of the box’. 

When you can build whatever you want, you’re on the hook.  You better make it efficient, make it clever, make it user friendly and most of all you better not hide behind the software, because you’ve told it what to do. The best bit is that the magician who cuts the lady in half, can still put her back together. 

Just a tin can?

As a podcaster, the most common question I get asked is about my microphone.  And it usually goes something like this:

“I am thinking of starting a podcast, and I want it to be really successful.  Your podcast sounds great, what microphone do you use?”

A podcast….an effective podcast, a successful podcast, a podcast of value…..has virtually nothing to do with the microphone.  As long as you have something that picks up the sound, and yes it’s possible to create a home made microphone from a kids electronics kit which will work, it won’t deliver Dolby quality sound but it will work, then you have the technical capability to do a podcast. 

A podcast is about an audience.  A community of people who listen because it makes them better.  It’s about a message. A clear and consistent message, a foundation which is repeated over and over again.  It’s about a change that we seek to make.  And diversity.  And new ideas.  And entertainment wrapped in something deeper and more substantial.  And a podcast is about service to an audience who invest their precious time in listening. 

Start a podcast tomorrow, click record on the memo app on your phone and you have a podcast.    The gear doesn’t matter, it’s the other things, the invisible things, the difficult things, which will make the difference. 

The Wizard or the wand?

 Earlier I said that all leaders are wizards.  But only some seem like they have some kind of magic. 

And so, at the wave of the proverbial magic wand, we become entranced with the thing that seems to make the magic happen.  The wands are many and varied: inspiring words, decisive strategy, software or procedures or learning teams.  Or a way of doing a particular kind of work.  Or a system or a project.  They are all wands.

For me, the wands are scribbles on an iPad and a microphone for a podcast. 

But every wand needs a wizard.  And that’s where the magic of change comes from. 

So next time you are reflecting on your own leadership, or you meet a magical leader, think about the questions you ask.  Think about what you can learn, what is really happening here.  The magic comes from the wizard not the wand. 
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!

PS. Whenever you’re ready… here are 4 ways I can help you improve learning in your organisation, to improve health and safety performance:

1. Learn about the four steps for health and safety professionals to implement effective learning teams – click here

2. Want to join a webinar in which I take you through some of the most important lessons learned from implementing learning team? – click here

3. If you are ready to try learning teams in your organisation, join our learning teams implementation case study group (a step by step approach which guarantees you planning and actually doing an awesome learning team) – just answer a couple of questions at the bottom of this webpage and I’ll get you all the details

4. If you are already underway with learning teams or other learning practices but stuck on the more advanced challenges like learning strategy, data analysis & reporting, system integration, managing regulators and other stakeholder expectations….and want help, simply fill out the questions below but make sure you include the word ADVANCED and I’ll get you all the details.

Here’s your FREE reflection worksheet from this episode.

And here’s your FREE download of the full transcript of this episode.

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