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Webinar transcript: Influencing at board level to achieve the right culture
Jodie Johnson 00:03
Hello and welcome to our Praxis42 webinar influencing at board level to achieve the right culture. I’m Jodie marketing executive of Praxis42 and today I’m joined by our expert panellists Jay Vekaria and multi award winning senior professional working within the retail property finance and FM sector, both in the UK and EMBA. He was named the health and safety at work 40 under 40 outstanding professionals 2018 by the International Institute of risk and safety management and was also voted the RoSPA influencer of the year 2020. Adam Clarke MD of consulting at Praxis42. Adam has a background in occupational health and safety for over 15 years, working with his clients to understand their challenges and then support them in understanding their compliance needs. And Mike Stevens CEO and one of the founding directors at Praxis42, Mike has worked in health, safety and compliance for over 35 years. His previous roles include being part of the Occupational Safety and fire department at Mercury communications and Cable and Wireless. Before that, a consultant at ROSPA.
Quick bit of housekeeping for you. Your mic will be muted, but there are buttons at the top of your screen where you can join the chat or ask questions, which will be addressed in the q&a section at the end of the webinar. A recorded version of today’s webinar will be available after the event and a link will be sent to everyone who signed up. We’ve already had some questions in for the q&a. But if you do want to send a question in during the webinar, we will do our best to get to it. Any that we don’t have time to answer today will be answered and will be put up on our resources pages after today’s session. Thank you. I hand over to Jay Adam and Mike. Thank you.
Adam Clarke 01:58
Thank you, Jodie, can we have the next slide please? Excellent. So welcome. Welcome, everybody. Today, we’re going to be talking about implementing board level and achieving culture, which I think is a really interesting topic. And we’re going to cover some things that link heavily into Q HSA, and some that are really to do with the management and leadership. So really wanted to start before we get into influencing, dealing with and I’m sure many of you in the room have been here, when you’ve started a new job, whether that be an internal promotion, return a restructure, or starting at a new company, you may have new responsibilities and access to more senior people than you ever had before. But I want to start off by talking about us ourselves. How do we deal with this new challenge? So let’s start off by talking about a common theme of handling impostor syndrome and, and your inner critic. So we’ve got a new, new new job. How do we deal with all of these challenges that we’re that we’re going to face? Mike, JD, you want to kick off?
Mike Stevens 03:10
Let’s get to Mike. So I have a go first. So yeah, there’s, there’s always that moment where you believe that how is it you’ve ended up being in a in a situation where you’re sitting in front of the person that can influence your career most at that point in time. And I think that is quite a healthy position to be in anyway. We all want to have some level of love motivation and understanding that you know that it’s important that we do our best. So it’s all about that planning and preparation thing. So like anything, I suppose it’s where you draw your strength from to actually go and do things. And that will sometimes be if you’re a practitioner, is your recognition that you understand your topic. But the next part about it is how can you help others understand what you are trying to achieve? And that is the challenge, I suppose and the rest of the session today will be very much about that, in trying to spend time thinking about who is it you’re going to be trying to influence and try and steer the the culture within an organisation so that it includes fire, health, safety, well being and those things which you might be responsible for. So yeah, the this thing about imposter syndrome is one of those things that you get to a certain stage in your life or in your career, and it will be there. And there’ll be those things which you worry about, but that’s healthy. But it goes back to what I’ve just said about it’s about preparation, planning, and thinking about it. So So what do you think, Jay, is that? Have you ever been in that place where you thought, you know, what, how can this be? I’m talking to somebody that’s a global leader. Somebody that’s listening to what I’ve got to say.
Jay Vekaria 05:03
Yeah, I think, thanks, Mike, I think it’s quite normal to have impostor syndrome. And it’s interesting, because I think worrying is, it’s okay, it’s healthy in a certain way. Because when you have access to, let’s say, his strong leadership, or influential people, most practitioners think, oh, what’s in it for me? Or how am I going to get out? What I need out of this discussion? For example, if you go to a board, or you have access to senior management, it’s normally the question about, okay, how can I get approval for something? Or what do I need to get my budget increased, you could almost reverse it. So a good way is, is building relationships. And having access to senior management also means what could I do for them. So it’s really interesting. So when you’re having impostor syndrome, rather than obviously worrying about what you get out of them, it’s also important to questioning what you could provide them. And most senior management actually love that. They love the fact that, you know, there’s good in you that you could reach out into your pocket, and then provide value back. So that’s quite an important element of when you do have access to senior management. It doesn’t it’s not a one way street, it’s actually two way. So it’s give and take.
Adam Clarke 06:16
And I think just to add into that, when you’re starting off a new challenge, you’re going into it with the right mindset really, really helps. You know, when you’re, you’ve looked at that job description, you’ve picked up some responsibilities that you’ve not done before. Well, any any activity that you’ve not done before, is going to require some, it’s going to be some level of discomfort, because you simply haven’t experienced it. But going with the mindset of well, okay, I haven’t done this before, but I’m willing to learn, I’m willing to put the effort in, I’m willing to talk to people, and knowing that, like anything you’ll get, you will get better over time. And having that mindset will really help you spring forward rather than looking at more of a fixed mindset where it’s well, actually, I don’t know if I can do this. Well, you know, until you try, you’ll, you’ll never really know. So moving on, then in terms of marketing yourself. Sorry. Previous slide. Sorry, Jody, in terms of marketing yourself, you got it, you’re accessing these these people now. And As Jay mentioned, we’re going and we’re trying to see how we can help help other people. Now some of that’s going to be at a board level, but some of that is going to be around understanding organisational and and team problems and networking. How? Yeah, how might that help us in terms of developing that culture or understanding where where are our key areas to focus on our
Jay Vekaria 07:38
Yep, so this is a very big, very big thing to all safety professionals out there. It’s basically you taking your SME hat off. And really focusing on your advisory, which I’ve always referred to three hats anyway, one’s your subject matter expertise in the auditor, and then you’ve got your adviser and influencer. And putting on your adviser. What’s really important here now, it’s basically understanding other elements of the business, which will help build those relationships and knowing what operations do knowing what finance do, knowing what HR do. And finding practical solutions that apply to health and safety will always always increase your chance of networking and marketing yourself. And finally, your influence that which is very much about you, your leadership met ways, the values and integrity you have. Because all of that will build into the general mission and vision of a business, which means your cohort, you’re actually working amongst the team of senior managers, rather than just the you show or the safety show. It’s a business show. So you’re all collectively working as one and I think that really, really helps when it comes to influencing that level.
Adam Clarke 08:54
And like from your perspective, and working in large organisations where you’re, you’re a function, but to Jay’s point to be effective, you need to have a good understanding of, of other functions, how might people go about working with or understanding or developing those kinds of relationships? And yeah,
Mike Stevens 09:15
I think I’d sort of categorise it as building alliances, that there will be in an organisation lots of people which will have access to the board, and they can help your journey into influencing what they will bring is that they will have some language which they will be using, they’ll have some insight into the people which you will be dealing with. And this all goes into your preparation about how do you approach and how do you help? The what you’re trying to give here to the to the board is the understanding of what is important, what are the priorities and what it is you’re doing so the building those alliances and they can be functions like internal audit, it could be Your compliance, it could be ESG. It could be property facilities, all of those are all part of one of those people, which you’ll be supporting anyway. And being a leader within those leaders, then it helps you in actually influencing in that way, and picking up on those things. And those threads, which are already out there is a really important part of that. So I think this building alliances and working together with others, and what can you bring to them will help you have a status, which sometimes will then help in terms of that hole. Am I an imposter here? Well, if you’re part of the team, then you’re part of the team. And I always reflect on delivering the diploma at prosper. And there’s a guy called Phil Hughes that turned up from quartiles to do a piece about health and safety management, and there was a huge influence on me and others. And he asked a group of them practitioners that were doing the diploma, how many of you are part of management, and this was back in the 80s, and the 20 that are on this diploma course. And nobody put their hand up. And they said, Really, guys, you’ve got a problem here. Because if you don’t feel that you’re part of leadership and part of management, I think you might have a bit of a problem, because they were all thinking they were technicians. And I think that’s the background to where you have this subject matter experts hat, which, which Jay is referring to, but you have to think about you’re part of a management team, leadership team, that that can influence change.
Adam Clarke 11:40
Thanks, Mike. And so alongside being immersed in that environment, and learning as you learning as you go learning from from others, we’ve talked a lot about the technical skills that we have, in terms of then looking at what more preparation can you do yourself? So looking at the non technical skills, so anything to do with leadership management, business, acumen, finance, etc? What would we recommend that people do? Or, or avenues to look at in terms of trying to help themselves along that journey, rather than just kind of developing more technical skills? JD you want take that one? Yeah, it’s,
Jay Vekaria 12:19
yeah, so this is really important. Nothing beats going hands on. So the more you could spend with these other departments, the more you could actively be involved in various projects, understanding commercials, finance, it will help you a lot. In my career, I remember I stepped out of health and safety for a good part of two years to lead loads central operations, where I managed a budget of up to a million pounds or so lead FM contracts across the UK and in London. All of that hands on experience, really added value to and hours discussing certain topic matters or leading certain projects across a multiple range of directors across different SME backgrounds. So going out there and actively getting involved in projects, understanding what the other departments do is really, really good. So that helps build your experience. And then there’s the academic piece. So there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you guys, or anyone out there doing a non finance for finance people or non finance for safety people. It’s there’s a wealth of elearning and LinkedIn modules out there that you could do, we could understand basic commercials. You know, the perfect example is is Chartered Institution management. They do various diplomas, where they teach you various levels of leadership and how to gain a bit more understanding of business and knowing how to do your profit and losses. And your balance sheets is fantastic for you to be able to pitch your next health and safety budget, being able to influence the board in that way. So all of those absolutely help set the agenda for where you’re going to go next. So be hands on, but also get the academic credentials to.
Mike Stevens 14:08
Yeah, I think that’s the point is that I didn’t start off as being a health and safety practitioner, I started off in retail and moved into what was then called personnel. And part of what I’ve learned over the time was that when I moved into health and safety, I had a bedrock of health, not health and safety management, general management. And that was the thing which helped me really get it with health and safety very early on. So because all the models that we’ve got, and what I’m doing now is I’m using what I’ve learned over the years in health and safety about the management systems and the management models, the you know, the management techniques that you learn, and that’s an important part about understanding, you know what you’re expected to do. So think going to a There are areas and looking at, you know, spoke to people on the podcast. And they’ve said that, you know, I’ve gone down into the management development programmes which are running within the big corporates. So that was lose, Harry was talking about that Siemens, and she’s very much into that. And she’s built her her way up now. And then she sees herself as a coach. So she helps in all sorts of different things in the way that she influences. And Sean Davis at the post office was saying that he took it on that he wants to do an MBA. And that’s quite, that’s quite a challenge. But what it does is that it gave him an insight which he could then help with complex organisation like the Royal Mail, you know, it helped him do the right thing. But I’d like to pick up on what Jay said about getting, getting into it. And getting amongst it and being out with people is really important. And because you learn so much from that, because you understand what their issues are. And then you can use those and learn from those and put it into the way that you go about managing and how you become as an individual in influencing others.
Adam Clarke 16:05
Just to add to that, then I think one way to go about this is when you’re dealing with people that you haven’t poorest, ask lots of questions, be curious and you know, call out the fact that this is your first first opportunity of doing this. And I’m looking for looking for some support and looking for some for some answers. And just to build on depending on your your own personal learning style from for me, I’ve always loved listening to lots of different podcasts. And there are lots and lots of different ones out there on everything to do with management, leadership, finance, etc. So go and have a go and have a look. And if it’s you know, driving to the car or commuting in you, it’s amazing how much you can take in in a sort of 30 minute 45 minute podcast. Okay. Next slide, please. And we’ll move on, we’ll move on. So
Jay Vekaria 16:52
it also just wanted to add on that Adam was as mentors, they’re great values, if you could find mentors to help you in your organisation at senior level. They could draw upon experience, and they’re fantastic levels of advice and experiences could really help you excel, your point of understanding senior management and if you find mentors, in non safety roles even better, because that’s jackpot.
Adam Clarke 17:18
Yeah, no, great. Thanks, Jay. Well, we’ll pick up some more on that later later on. So moving on, then in terms of the organization’s mission, vision and values. So what we’re talking here really is the purpose or the or the why does this organisation or business exist? And it can be a really powerful tool, if you understand it, into looking at your own strategy, and looking at your security objectives, or the way that you go and go about delivering what you need to deliver. So the starting point, then is where do we where do we find it? Where would we often find the organization’s purpose? And how can we get more information about it before we look at how it can be effective for us? Mike, did you wanna take that one?
Mike Stevens 18:07
Yeah, yeah, you can, can be a bit glib about it, you can say it’s on the notice board, you know, you’ll sign you’ll find that there’s a vision mission or values that is on the noticeboard. But if it’s not evident, there will be some intent, there will be a people plan. There’ll be something which in it, we’ll talk about our people and how important our people are, you sometimes have a vision of you know, people at the heart of what we do, they’re the most important thing that we have there a resource which is in critically important to our success. And then once you’ve identified that you then try and figure out what how does wellbeing and how does health and safety fit into that? And in that conversation you have with senior people as well, where does health and safety fit in that we’re just well being fit in that? Because I think that’s you know, that’s a fundamental part of how does somebody feel? Do they feel safe, where they’re sitting today? Or where they’re working today? Do they feel as though they are being looked after? In other words, and they’re looking in a proactive way, about their well being? How do they do that? You know, how do they how does an individual feel, because if that’s your intent, and you can’t get the health and safety piece right, then that’s something which you can start to talk to the senior people about to say, you need to understand that what we’re trying to do here isn’t about trying to say you’re trying to comply with comply with the legislation. This is at the core of how do you start on something which is pretty out there. If it’s a vision, then you have to get the fundamentals right. So I suppose that you know, where do we fit in and all of this is that, you know, we can get those conversations going by saying we are fundamental here so that when there is this prompt, maybe from an HR or a Change Management, or there’s a change organisational change, and they’re looking at improving performance. And those are the things which are about performance indicators and having a performance culture, you need to make sure that the health and safety piece you’re on the bandwagon, you know, you’re on that wagon, you are at the front of it. Because if you are, that’s a great way of influencing the way that decisions will be made and how the culture will be applied within the organisation. So that’s what I how I see it. So yeah, how’s it for you, Jay?
Jay Vekaria 20:34
Very much. So health and safety strategy, what I’ve normally done in my expenses is very much built around the mission and vision of the business. I never let the safety strategy drive the business, if that makes sense. So I don’t want to be in a position where I’m dictating, or kind of saying it’s one direction or from a board, I’ve always looked at what the business proposals and strategies are for next year. So corporate objectives are a perfect example. Even if they’re non safety related, what I tend to do is take certain words, and the language used in mission and vision statements, especially leadership principles, and then build them into the safety strategy. So when you’re talking amongst the table of senior management, when they talk about values and missions, visions, those words anchored into the exactly safety approach. So you know, to reduce accidents, less cause less harm, may not be the exact words that the vision has, it might be, you know, to provide in an efficient, smooth assuring business. So what I’ll do is use the fact of the smooth, and assuring elements of that, and maybe say, to provide an assuring and smooth safety service within the function, and those things really hang quite well. So the language that’s used on the mission and vision statements to be incorporated into the safety strategy, but really utilising the language that’s used, rather than a safe decoratives.
Adam Clarke 21:58
Yeah, I think that’s a really great point. And, you know, just picking up on that, on that language piece there. People notice that, you know, when you’re using those points, and it’s in your own your own documents, and it’s all linking back into this kind of the golden thread, where we’ve got the the mission Division at the top, and it goes through to the values, it goes down to departments down to teams down to individuals, and keeping that message going all the way through is really is really valuable, in that it’s what everybody should be talking about. And it’s moving in the direction that the business or the organisation is moving in. And to and to Mike’s point in terms of, of people, it’s probably the the easiest argument, when we’re perhaps not having as much traction as we’d like with health and safety. Most organisations will have some kind of values around people first. And if you’re not able to do some of the the basic functions that you would expect to safety department to do, or if there’s resourcing issues, kind of pushing that or using that, that back when you’re dealing with senior team saying, Well, you know, we say that we’re, we’re people first but then how can I? This is the situation that I’m in? How can we how can we move that move that on? So there are ways and means of, of using that to influence and try and push the agenda further. So in terms of the senior senior team and having access to them, and what they’re responsible for, when we’re dealing with senior people who have responsibilities, not just in health and safety, they have responsibilities in finance, in tax in data protection, etc. Why should they be interested in understanding their health and safety responsibilities? Because we’ll be pushing that towards them. But other departments will also be fighting for their for their time. So how do we make sure that that our agenda is is understood? And that we have, we have some time available to discuss this regularly. So Jay, can I ask you first?
Jay Vekaria 24:03
Yeah, sure. So for me, and I were talking like in a board board meeting situation. Yeah, yeah. Board. So I think if you’re at board meeting or senior management, leadership meeting, it’s really important that I normally plan it. So there’s two outcomes. I’m either going into ask for something, and that may be a decision made there. And then so the prep work is done pre pack, or I’m going into discuss something and the discussion genuinely is not a decision, but the input of others. And I think that’s really important. So like Adam said, finance, HR. So if it’s this topic about finance, thrown out the loan working, and we need some investment to get some new wonderful apps, rather than just asking for that, because I might need 100,000 pound or so to invest in this app. I’d go in there with it. intention of putting a discussion at first. Now the discussion will involve the discussion of finance. So obviously getting the finance team on board, understanding where the 100 Grand is being spent and so on other discussion would involve possible data protection, or changes to certain HR contracts. So then the people elements involved in that the discussion may involve a lengthy operational process because they may have to adjust the way they do things or the call centre may have to work or react alone working issues, I think that really helps because what you’re doing is you’re not just going in to get something, you’re also going in with the intention of potentially discussing something. And by putting a discus paper out, means everyone has to feed in. And normally, that tends to be a good point of entry and influential her ability when you’re at the board meeting. So, the frame of mind that I’m going in is, if I’m going into discuss something I know, what I’ll probably come away with is a bunch of next steps. Next steps that will involve further meetings to broaden the knowledge, because in board meetings, you may only get 1015 minutes, or in certain cases, two minutes per bullet point, depending on who you work for. If you’re going for an ask, and having done those board meetings, the next meeting I’ll go to is Dennis thing, right? Next steps are complete, met everyone done the influential item. Now the ask is A, B or C, which one are you going to go for? And that’s when the discussion ends. And if they say, right, it’s going to be a or it’s going to be P we’re going to do 50% investment is great. And that’s where we’re at. So I think that’s really important. And when you’re on that level, and getting the most out of the people, because when sitting amongst the peers, group of senior senior managers, they all got a wealth of experience. They’ve all got some great professional judgments. And it’s tapping into them, and being able to get them to add value to your case, rather than you always proposing what you think’s right or wrong from a safety point of view.
Adam Clarke 26:57
Yeah, excellent. And and Mike adding to that, then, what about the the engagement of those senior people before you’re getting to board level so that you’ve got, you are prepared and you have considered other people’s perspectives?
Mike Stevens 27:13
Yeah, I think that’s the recognition that, you know, it’s one of the things about context as well. So where is the business or the organisation? Making sure that it’s the right time, it’s timely, it’s recognising that there are some people in there, which will, by the very nature, the risk takers, and might want to be balancing off? Can I do this? Do I have to do that she’ll take the risk and live with it short term, or longer term, because that’s, that’s the innate, it’s just part of the way they are also, sometimes they’re not there. But then there will be the others, which are the cancer to that which you think aboard will be made up of a group of individuals, and there’ll be those which will then have a risk averse approach to thinking that recognising you’re going in there, and you’re not the only voice, that it’s a bit like the instance I got with somebody and they said, Yeah, really, I know that, you know, I know that I’m responsible for all of this, because, you know, I’m responsible for everything. So don’t tell me about, you know, what it says in the Health and Safety at Work Act, because I got it, you know, do it for all sorts of other things. So just recognise that these guys, you know, in whatever their experiences are, but they want to understand it in the context of where their businesses or the organisation is, at this point in time, in the context of what it is that’s important for them to understand, and whether or not they can make those decisions, because it might be not right now. And I think that’s the point to go away with. Don’t say, if they say no, now, it’s only maybe for now, but don’t think that the doors shut, because sometimes it can come back. And that’s the thing is when you summarise things, that’s about how you keep the door open to come back again, because you know, it’s that thing about what it is that you need to do. And just just one thing to put out there for everybody is that watch out for the benchmark. Because the senior team will probably say, can you benchmark this? Can you look outside, and if you can prep it beforehand, it takes quite a while in my experience. So get your network going, look at what other people are doing, try and get some information together so that when the benchmark question does come, you’ve got something you can give them. And and it’s a good benchmark as well, because sectors is a is quite an interesting factor. You know, there will be sectors which will have a benchmark, which isn’t relevant to what you’re looking at. But you know, and also, organisations sometimes wants to know what others are doing within the sector. So that’s important.
Adam Clarke 29:53
Thanks, Mike. If we move on to the next slide, please. So I think that ties nicely in To the next section, then we’ve touched on it already. But in terms of understanding what the appetite is for health and safety, you know, Mike, you both mentioned they’re the makeup of the board, and some will be risk takers, and some, some won’t be in terms of when you’re trying to push the agendas forward. Timing is important. And also understanding where that organisation is, in terms of their health and safety culture. Yeah, is it? Is it already very mature, and they’re already very good systems and processes in place and, and people are bought in? Or actually is it? Is it quite immature? And depending on where the organisation is, really should determine how you actually go about your your strategy? And what do you do? What do you do first? So question on that is, are you how do you understand where, where that is within an organisation? And also, where does commonly buy quality, health safety etc, sit within the organisation? Because certainly my experience, it’s a often gets passed from from department to department. So, Jay, where does it sit in your organisation?
Jay Vekaria 31:06
Okay, so we actually sit under an element of Corporate Services, which is under the CFO, which is quite interesting, because obviously, the CFO being the person, that’s what the hands on the purse tree. So it’s almost you can do reverse psychology and avoiding influence in a different way. But we’ve historically, it’s been within corporate services or central functions. And with regards to Adam, what you said about maturity, and where we are, it’s very much evolving everyday. So so to me, it’s all about engagement going out there, understanding the board, understanding exactly who you’re engaging with your partners to get a full 360 view. And then you could decide at where you are on that maturity curve, or solver, that to me, I’m not a big fan of the maturity curve. And maybe that’s because of my personality or my adoption of it. I’ve always believed in that, look, safety does not generate revenue. It’s not a sales department, therefore, the How can I make that into a sales department? Or what can I do? And therefore it’s my it’s my leadership principle to add value. So it’s great, you’ve had a good health and safety month four, you’ve had a bad day. But what’s next? What are you going to be doing when you sit on the board to generate value? How can I add value to make the operations team work more efficiently? How can I add value to try and save money for the financial board? Or how can I add value to help improve the brand or the business? And I think by continuously thinking like that, by staying out of that comfort zone and evolving, you’ve always got something to bring to the board. So yes, in terms of maturity, it’s very much driven by the sector you work in. So if you’re in a railway or construction, they’ll have certain criteria as to me. But I have noticed when you pitch an idea, or try put a cultural piece forward very much. So Mike said the first question is, well, what are competitors? Or what’s the sector do? That’s one thing, or we’ve already invested in this? The next question that tends to come out? So what are you asking for what’s next? So if you could be ahead of that curve, and drive that forward? That’s a great read in your case.
Adam Clarke 33:22
And I think in terms of you mentioned this earlier, Jay, in terms of the language and the way you approach things can really, really help and, and Mike touched on it earlier, it’s, you know, when we come back to health and safety, we all know about the moral, legal and financial and, you know, when you’re going after something you can it’s Which one do you pick, first, going with the legal side of it, and really, you know, saying to people, what you This is under this particular act, and this is what can happen if we don’t do this doesn’t tend to land very, very well. It’s and you know, from Jay there, when you’re saying about if you’ve got the CFO who’s who’s ultimately responsible, which of those is going to work better in influencing that, that person, it might be a combination of finance and, and moral, but it’s thinking about the way you’re going, going about it, here’s where we need to go, here’s where it fits into the current strategy. So for example, if the, if the organisation is going through a really strong growth cycle, what are the things that they haven’t at function are gonna need to do or be ahead of to help support that growth? So we’ve got lots of new starters coming in, you know, how’s the induction process work? How do we make sure that people are working in an agile environment like they are now? How do they get how they get on boarded? Well, how do we make sure that the basics are done well, like your workstation setup and risk assessments, all those kind of things? How do those how do those fit in how they’re how they’re a seamless process?
Jay Vekaria 34:44
Yeah, so that’s a really interesting point you’ve raised there and I think the pain could be shared probably with across everyone on this this call. There’s that it’s, it’s whether you want to do the sprint or the marathon. And there’s going to be times where as a practice Shouldn’t you have to go into the sprint, where you have to do short bursts of things where like you said, if there’s a business club, or suddenly onboarding loads of people, or there’s a bigger piece, but the main thing is, is to be an enabler. And the minute you put a blocker, as difficult as it can be that you’re raising these blockers, or you’re pitching them, and that has a ripple effect across the board, because, like I said, collectively, believe it or not, although everyone’s from such a different department as such different backgrounds, collectively, you got to work to the end goal. If there’s one blocker, you do stand out quite a lot. So be mindful of how you approach that. So always be be an enabler, try pitch, everything you do as an enabling function to be able to do the sprint or the marathon. And I’ve noticed that throughout my experience, that if you’re not an enabler, you will really struggle to maintain that position, or have that voice on the board. And I know, it’s really difficult to say, but I’m sure Mike might agreement this. It could be anything from tendering to business growth, or even business shut down. But if you’re not part of that collective element, or you’ve been seen as a potential blocker, it’s a real uphill struggle.
Mike Stevens 36:14
Yeah, it isn’t. It’s about how much you want to be involved in the business is it’s if you sit in your area of, of function or responsibility and you don’t look outside it, it becomes that you miss out on so much stuff, and you’re not on the right at the beginning of the forefront federal. I’d like to just add to all of that, Jay, is this thing about, you know, what, what are the influences here, so I suppose the experience in consulting that we’ve had is that there’s various why we get engaged, and talk to senior people. And some of it can be that they’ve had, they’ve moved from being a PLC to being funded by private equity. And then you see that there is a different approach, because private equity is expecting this level of governance, and then you come to the fore, because there could be that there is some support in the private equity, because they want to see that governance. So your ESG is in place. And, and that’s that area. So I think, you know, we had a couple of examples of that we had and where we’ve seen private equity, or there’s been an organisational change, for some reason, because it was evident that the way the the organisation was being managed wasn’t actually as it should be. And there was a change at the board. In the past experiences, having rapid changes avoid is really, really quite difficult. Because you think you’ve got it all set up, you think, you know, all the individuals and the influences, and then all of a sudden, they’re all gone. And you just gotta get back on your horse. And, you know, give it a good old go again, because you’ve got to get back and get back into the, into the plate and how you do that. And how quickly you can get in there is always a measure, and to answer where where did where does health and safety often bit if there’s a, you’re trying to influence where you should be. My career has pretty much been that we’ve been in HR. So the HR function has been predominantly with the function, but I’ve seen it in legal counsel, under facilities operational. And some of those have got some instant, you know, some benefits and, you know, and it can be difficult to operate in those areas where it’s more operational than it is about policy and setting. Setting the tone really. So yeah, that’s, that’s for me. So
Jay Vekaria 38:38
sorry, on what Mike said to and I think one thing I just want to echo from you, the guys on the call is is you also have to be a level of a disrupter. Because obviously, you’ve still got your subject matter expertise. And, and as much as you are trying to be an enabler, there will become times where you’ve got to stand your ground as a professional and a health and safety professional and you have the moral legal duties and stuff like that, but how you pitch that and present that is very much down to your your values and your integrity and how you go about doing that. But that’s really important too, because you don’t want that to be watered down as much as you try. Because you know, at the end of the day, you are a subject matter expert, you are responsible and accountable for health and safety. Therefore, your input is just as important as everyone else on that table.
Mike Stevens 39:32
Yeah, no good point, actually, Jay and I brought it up in one of the podcasts. And it was that having that approach, which is a little bit less like it used to be, which is like banging the desk, because I know this stuff, and it says it here in that’s the section that’s the regulation, that’s whatever it is. So the idea then is about how do you do that in a way where what I’ve sort of Taken from those people I’ve been talking to recently on the podcast is that they they move into coach coaching mode, or they start telling a story. Or in this instance, what would happen, and then ask us those to focus on what the consequences could be. So they move from being that enforcer to being a coach, which then allows those things to become evidence and your rights, you have to at some point, you know, say this is this is it, and I suppose we’ve come out of COVID and had our place and our time, we’ve been on the spotlight, which has been nice. But obviously, it also it’s been a measure of how did we do as practitioners to try and help in a very, very difficult situation, to take organisations to where they needed to get to, and they look to us to act in that way. So that’s a good point.
Adam Clarke 40:50
Thanks, Jay. Thanks, Mike, if we can move on to the next slide, please. So I think just picking up Mike from where you left off, then in terms of COVID, I think we all recognise that COVID pushed us the industry forward, gave us a really big voice, and we were called upon, especially in the in the early stages to come up with how we’re gonna, how are we gonna help find a solution and the way and the way forward in this? And now, you know, we, we are, we’ve come out the other side, and unfortunately, you know, people forget very quick to forget. And if we’re not careful, we’ll go, we’ll go back into that box that that we went that we went into. So we’ve talked so far about the mission, the vision setting strategy, looking at some objectives, I’d like to kind of now move into the governance piece, how do we then make sure that we’re delivering what we’ve what we’ve said, how do we deal with these sort of hiccups as the business can can and does change? And but also, how can we use our sort of health and safety principles to help us you know, especially thinking about kind of the Plan, Do Check Act model there? How do we make sure that that message is constantly being communicated? So, Jay, do you want to think about them first?
Jay Vekaria 42:06
Yeah, look, the first thing that comes to my mind on this is, don’t be afraid to celebrate success. In our job, or in our nature, it’s always to think worst case scenario. But be proud. So if you’ve had a good month, if you’ve accomplished a lot of your goals, progress updates, it’s okay to celebrate success and to sometimes shout and scream about it. Because we’re a department that’s always genuinely attending to say there’s been an accident, or there’s, there’s a non compliance. So if you have a great audit, or an external, be willing to celebrate that success, but make that success applicable to your stakeholders, really, really applicable not just to your department, but well done operations, you really engaged in solar, that’s one real, real great selling technique that works very much on the board. The other element is is like how Adam touched on your governance processes. There is times and places where you go to board meetings where you can really prepare very, very, very much in advance, but loads of bullet points. But there’s only two bullet points that actually discussed. So and they’re the critical ones. So make sure what you really need to get across, simplify it and make sure it’s the item of discussion. That’s a good way of really communicating and preparing. And it’s back to what I finally said, it’s always think of what you want out of that meeting or that board. Are you there to discuss something, therefore put the meat behind the bones, put as much as you can, and then go to the wider audience for that engagement? Because that will help you? And then, or are you going in there to ask for something. And if you’re going to ask for something, give them three options. Either they go all in, they meet you in the middle, or they do nothing. Ideally, you want them to meet you in the middle. That way, both your stakeholders are happy, and you’ve got away with something. So that’s the main thing that I could say about this in terms of good practice and techniques and celebrate success, because it’s good to do. Yeah,
Adam Clarke 44:00
really, really get behind that. And I think, you know, often we when we look at celebrating success, we use it, it’s when things are finished, you know, we often don’t look at the milestones that go in between, you know, if you’re gonna go and touch on what Jade mentioned earlier about loan working system, yeah, from from concept to rollout, there’s a huge number of milestones that need to be need to be gone in there. So talk about them as they go along, you know, provide, do a simple progress update. And then like Jay said, doesn’t have to be, you know, chapter and verse, it’s a well, we’ve done you know, there’s 1010 key deliverables here and hey, we’ve we’ve done 50% of them great, great stuff, we’re on time, we’re on budget, something as simple as that can be particularly effective. And really like your point about operations, you know, we’re often there to support operations, you know, understand their their pain and if it’s things like you’re asking them to, you know, take some time out to do some training, you know, really understand what they need out of that training and then you know, Really thank them for for, for putting that together. And then looking at the outcomes that it’s had, you know, post post training delivery it was that was that really was that really effective? You know? Did you really engage with it? And if not, we know what were the things that we could try and get better for, for the next time? Because there’s lots of lots of different ways that you can that you can do that. Mike, anything to add?
Mike Stevens 45:22
Yeah, just I think it’s great that we recognise those successes. And it’s, as Jay says, it’s difficult to identify them often. And it brings me back to probably what board members will want to have. So is about what are those leading indicators and lagging indicators that they probably would work to in terms of understanding how can they measure something? So recognising that using those lagging indicators, the ones we know we’ve had incidents, ill health, and those, those those factors, which have happened, you know, you’re basically keeping counts, whereas looking at it in terms of those, the leading indicators, what is it that you set out to do? And did you do those is about giving them some feedback and recognition at that, that’s what’s happened. The other point I just like to make is consider the board as a board of directors, but also the individual directors, and how do you work on them? Because individually, how do you support them in what they need to do and where they are in their careers? Because the beauty of health and safety from my point of view is that I’m doing a lot in cybersecurity at the moment. And that just seems to be how does that come about? But it’s the basic principles of health and safety. So you know, what you can do is you can just use those principles to help somebody else to just see how he’s compliance. How do you go about and if they’re in their career? You know, not all of these board members are going to be like, they’ve done it for years and years and years that could be new in and how do you help them get to the next place? Because that gives you massive influence in in asserting yourself within a board of directors, but treat them as individuals as well. Don’t do it as a board meeting necessarily. Keep it going outside of the board meeting, and how do you keep them engaged in your conversation?
Jay Vekaria 47:15
Yeah, 100% agree with Mike on that one, we come from a set of skills, that has the advantage of foreseeing risk, measuring, calculating, implementing controls, then going back to the plan, do check back. And then going back to also doing foreseeable risks. Now, if you’re an accountant, they’d love to have that set to foresee what’s coming up in your budget tracking that manage that looking at the gearing ratios, how can I put effective controls in. So it’s the basic principles of risk management that we do day in and day out. And when there’s an incident and when we go to root cause analysis? Operations. I love that if it was a non incident, but it was a system error. So you’ve got a mindset of some amazing skills of safety professionals and applied in the correct areas, that you’re the strongest ally that these departments could have.
Adam Clarke 48:10
Absolutely. I love to hear. Yeah, I love that. And especially when it comes to I think the things going back to systems, the amount of times when I’m dealing with sort of it based issues where go down that route working on, something hasn’t gone, right? Well, okay, we can fix that one thing. But then let’s ask some questions. Well, how many other situations do we have like this? What’s caused it really drill down further. And that’s where, you know, as Jay said, a number of times throughout this session, you start to add value and people, you can change perceptions, people will look at you in a different way of actually well, okay. It’s not just health and safety, this person kind of has a really good understanding of what’s going on here. And actually, when I’ve got a problem, maybe they’ll offer me a different perspective. And that’s another way of you kind of networking and building those, building those relationships to to really help your credibility and to push your message on. So as we’re coming close to the end of time here last last piece on this question, then is the business case the proposal, you know, getting to the point where you’ve done all of that work to get you the the two minutes that you’ve got to try and push that push that forward? Yeah, preparation, we’ve talked about preparation is key. If that’s not something that you’ve done before, where’s your where’s your starting point? How do you how do you kind of go about doing that when it’s when it’s not? Not something that you’re used to?
Jay Vekaria 49:36
I think this is a different webinar in itself, because I think to prepare business case could be really, really detailed. And but it’s back to what I’ve said it’s, the question is, is do you want to discuss something with them about the business case, or do you want them to approve a business case? So it’s going into looking at the market looking at what competitors do, dude, no, you You’ll have the buy in of your stakeholders prior to presenting that business case, and then pitching it. So all of that is preparation. But I do certainly think it’s a complete separate webinar on that one, because it goes on. And there’s simple techniques they could apply. But it’s all about the situation that has been presented.
Adam Clarke 50:20
Yeah, thanks, Jay, I totally agree with you, we should spend some time going into detail on that one. Next slide, please. So last last topic, we’re going to we’re going to cover before we, before we finish up and recognise we could have spoken today for a very long time, Jay touched touched on this earlier in terms of the importance of trusted mentorship and, and how mentors can be really important in shaping your, your career. We touched on the fact that it’s important to have a mentor in your discipline. So having somebody experience in the world of QA HSE, but also somebody who’s there, who’s got that business, business experience, business acumen that can look and help you. So for example, the last subject we just mentioned there around a bit of business case, you’ve got someone who’s, who’s been there and done that and can spare you spare you a little bit of time, a sounding board is, is really helpful. So, Jay, starting with you, then how has having both having a mentor and mentoring people helped you in your career?
Jay Vekaria 51:22
Yeah, a lot. I still use my mentors, all the time, I’m normally ringing them up, left, and said, bless them, a lot of them have now retired, but I’m still calling them up. It’s really important. If you’ve got a network of trusted people, that’s the first thing. But having a good mentor, both in safety and non safety can be very critical to your own career development. I’m thankful that I’ve got two mentors who still teach me everything there is about safety. They will almost my first line managers and I’m always chewing up experiences from them. I’ve had the advantage of being a mentor to a group of mentees. So I’m hoping I could draw on that experience. So that’s really good. And that tends to be the younger generation of practitioners coming in the market. But it’s it’s critical. So if you can find a mentor, please go out there. If you can find someone that’s non safety related. When you’re at senior level, it’s fantastic. When you’re operational level, it’s always good to have that, that level along the lines of subject matter expertise. And when you get higher, I’ve noticed that the perception of safety completely changes. So yeah. So it’s really good to have a non safety professional mentality.
Adam Clarke 52:36
And how do you find the role of the mentor and kind of holding you accountable?
Jay Vekaria 52:41
So yeah, that’s, that’s interesting. So when I mentor my mentees, they have to do a B CDs. So every time I have a meeting, it’s like, What have you achieved? What have been the benefits of your achievement? meaning to you not to the business, because it’s about the person? What concerns do you have and what are you doing next to evaluate concerns. And based on that what they’re doing is, I’m holding accountable by those ABCDEs. But most importantly, they’ve got to tap into my experience, to find out what works for them. Because ultimately, I’m not a coach, I’m a mentor, a coach will guide them to the answers and mentors to draw upon their experience.
Mike Stevens 53:20
I just think it’s such a special thing to have as being seen to be a mentor. And it’s that recognition of what Jays just said is there’s a difference between being a coach. And there’s a difference between being a mentor, and putting that responsibility on the individual to say, you’re not going to spoon feed them here in terms of being the mentor, you need to come to your mentor with those things, which you have some sort of view about, and then to get that either confirmed or to have it not confirmed in terms of you know, I think you’re way off here. And these are the consequences. So you can move into being a mentor and coach sometimes, but if it’s about being a mentor, it’s recognising that’s what you are. And recognise it’s a privilege to be seen to be a mentor. And in that comes the trust, which will arise out of it. The manifestation of what we’re trying to do with the the webinars that we do, and the podcasts we do isn’t, isn’t necessarily about being mentors, but it’s a similar sort of thing. And I think that’s just a new way of doing it. And, you know, we’re happy to act as being mentors. And, you know, it’s a great thing to be able to do.
Adam Clarke 54:39
Yeah, excellent. And I think yes, very, very important to recognise that the mentors are not your own personal Google. You are, you’re there to discuss the problems and the issues that you’ve you’ve got but expecting that you’ve done the research, you’ve thought about possible solutions, and you’ve got an opportunity to use somebody like a sounding board there. And some of the time you’ll get Yep, that sounds that’s how That’s great. And other times you’ll get different a different perspective which will, which will challenge your thinking and really help you develop and grow. So, you know, like Jay and Mike, I couldn’t encourage anybody more to try and seek out. Seek out those those different mentors. But again, sometimes different mentor for different different time in your career. Okay, so we’ve got five minutes to go. And there’s loads and loads of questions to her to go through. So I’m not gonna have a lot of time to do all of them live. Jodie can I pass over to you.
Jodie Johnson 55:34
Yes, thank you, Adam. And thank you, everybody. Yet, we’re just going to answer a couple of questions before we run out of time. And the first one we’re going to look at is, if you are not too used to working with high scale executives, do you have any tips on how to adapt when working with
them? Yeah, I just saw that question. It’s an awesome question. Actually. I’m really pleased someone asked that question. Yeah, simple. That high scale executive, they’re still human. You’re realistic person. They’re humans, they have feelings, they have agendas just as much as you do. Treat them as equals, that’s drawing from my experience, I’ve noticed, if you suddenly put them on a pedestal, you notice that you’re not getting what you want. Whereas if you treat them as much as an equal, and be very approachable and adaptable to them and yourself by not losing yourself, then you will get a win win. I’ve noticed that I’ve I don’t really put anyone else on a pedestal, I think we’re all treated equally, we all have feelings, we all have the same items. We all have busy days, their families, we have families. So if you share a lot of those similar experiences, so by being a realist to them, you will realise that it will work very well in your favour.
Adam Clarke 56:46
Yeah, and I think you took the words out of my mouth, bear in terms of don’t put them on a on a pedestal. And also recognising that they got to where they got, they probably had a discipline that they were stronger, they were stronger in, but now they’re responsible for looking at the bigger picture and looking across the breadth of the organisation. And you know, your subject matter, your subject matter expert, and most of them or want to draw on your, your knowledge and experience. Don’t think that they’re going to know more than more than you do. And like Jason is forming, forming a rapport with them. And you know, they will have they have different different agendas. Their time might be might be limited. But you know, yeah, they’re ultimately they are human as we are. Mike,
Jodie Johnson 57:33
Thank you. And we’ll just try and fit in one more. What part does audit play in influencing the board and developing the right culture?
Jay Vekaria 57:48
It depends very much on the sector you work in, I’ll start with that first. Audit, it’s quite a powerful thing, in high risk environments, but generally just a headache in low risk environments. So just bear that in mind. So yeah, if it’s railway, nuclear audit, so the bills and indoor, so it’s very powerful influence. And it can be used to earn a lot of leverage, believe it or not, if it’s not seen as a blocker but seen as an enabler to try sell them, the audit outcomes. So that’s really important. If you’re in a low risk environment, and when I gave the analogy of saying it’s like a headache, then sell it as your mot or your daily check. You know, this audits just here, we get we’re not in a super risk environment, but it’s important to us. But most of all, it’s important that the brand, always remember that the business value and the brand. So if their mission statement, as the words assuring or smooth, or you know anything that to do with customer service, you can always enhance that by saying, Well, this is the audit to make sure you’re living in dream living and breathing that her mission statement. So you can find ways and techniques to sell it. And that will help you influence it.
Mike Stevens 58:59
Yeah, just like to overlay on that is this audit doesn’t have to be a great big spadeful of digging as much as you can to try and find something, you can actually say, oh can take a slice. And this is where you want to engage the board is like what do you really want to know, I think you probably need to know this now, you know, so we’ve come post COVID. Now, what do you want to know now? So you can do a little slice through the things that you want to look at, rather than doing that the whole thing. And that’s something that we’ve used in the past where you’re doing a survey necessarily, or you’re doing a sample or there’s various types of audits, it doesn’t have to be the full bore, you know, the 45,001, whatever. So, I think that’s something to consider.
Adam Clarke 59:43
And just a final thought on that one. I think it’s important just to remember that audits need to evolve over time. You know, they need to they need to change as as the organisation changes and sometimes it just needs to refresh because if it’s something that you’re doing, you know, so often it becomes a bit of a chore and people are involved get bored with it, then you to look at it make sure that the why you’re doing it is there’s always current.
Jay Vekaria 1:00:11
Now say the importance of an external audit and internal audit to that makes a big difference, like Mike touched on. external audits are great for your brand. You know that the accreditations are there for tendering business perfect. Internal audits, yep, they’re not the most sexiest thing to sell. But they work. They’re yours. They’re your temperature checks. And unfortunately, the good thing about an internal audit is is you could hold those stakeholders to super accountability. And that’s when you will spend a lot of time influencing the board to make sure that they’re fully aware of that.
Mike Stevens 1:00:47
Right. There’s been some great engagement. I’ve just been watching all of the questions coming up. It’s a bit like we just want to jump in and say something but yeah, thanks, everybody for engaging.
Jodie Johnson 1:00:57
Yeah, lovely. Thank you, everybody for joining us today. We’ll post all of the questions and answers on our resources page. And a link to these and a recording of the webinar will go out to everyone that signed up. If you still got a question submit please email it to solutions at practice 40 two.com. Keep an eye out for our upcoming mailers for the next webinar in the series. Thank you for everybody to join in. Particularly Jay, thanks for your time. It’s always great to have you. Thanks so much. Thank you, everyone.
As health and safety professionals progress through their career they will inevitably need to interact with the most senior people in the organisation, typically the board of directors. When approaching the board, it is important to be well-prepared and to communicate effectively.
This webinar will focus on:
- Building relationships and means to accessing senior management.
- Hints, tips and approaches from real life experiences.
- Understanding the business context that senior management are operating in and finding the ‘why’ fire, health and safety aligns with strategy and planning.
- Good practice techniques when approaching a board including progress updates, effective communication, and preparation.
- Driving culture with the board (ripple effect from senior management).
- Incorporating business mission, vision and values throughout your messaging and proposals.
- The importance of trusted mentorship.
Jay Vekaria | Director of HSE and Risk Management | Visa
Jay is a highly qualified, well experienced senior professional working within the retail, property , finance and FM sector both in the UK & EMEA.
He is a multi award-winning safety professional, named in the Health and Safety at Work 40 Under 40 Outstanding Professionals 2018 by the International Institute of Risk & Safety Management. Jay was also voted the RoSPA Influencer of the Year 2020.
Adam Clarke | Managing Director (Consulting) | Praxis42
Adam began his career in Occupational Health and Safety as an apprentice and is now leading a successful consultancy. Adam’s wealth of knowledge and experience comes from working across a diverse range of industries, and he continues to seek new ways to improve health and wellbeing, empowering ownership of risk and utilising technology to make compliance easy.
Mike Stevens | CEO | Praxis42
Mike, a Chartered Safety Practitioner, is CEO and one of the founding Directors of Praxis42. He has worked in health, safety and compliance for over 30 years, his previous roles include being part of the Occupational, Health, Safety and Fire department at Mercury Communications and Cable Wireless and before that a consultant at RoSPA.
Mike has worked with clients across many sectors including facilities, construction and retail, supporting and understanding their challenges and then working to create and deliver solutions to support and improve the management of risk and compliance in their workplace.