Thought Leadership

The human factor. Thoughts and observations.

The life-blood of any organisation is its people; the success of every system, in every organisation is determined by human factors. We are seeking a deep understanding of these human factors; these are some of our thoughts and observations.

People, Power, Progress: Establishing a Sustainable Safety Culture in Organisations

People, Power, Progress: Establishing a Sustainable Safety Culture in Organisations

Trust and Value are core needs in any group. Despite this managers often motivate through fear, thus leading to rebellion- how do you cope as an organisation? 

Because safety and security is so intrinsic within the human psyche and is high on most organisations’ priority list, when people begin to trust the message and feel like a valued part of the whole, other boats rise.

Dr. Paul Cummins (MSc, MBA – MD SeaChange, Ltd.)

The Psychological Basis

Through inherent psychological processes and life experiences we are all fundamentally conditioned to behave according to our underlying attitudes, values and beliefs. Like an ice-berg, our visible behaviours are clear for all to see (although not often clear enough to ourselves), but beneath the water, our motivations are continuously in operation driving our visible behaviour. So the starting point in any sustainable behaviour change is to focus on human motivation. The vast majority of people are motivated by trust and value as core needs in any group, and most desire to behave according to expectations and norms. The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is a psychological macro-theory of human motivation, emotion, and personality in social contexts and speculates a natural tendency toward psychological growth, physical health, and social wellness that is supported by satisfaction of the basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness (Williams et al., 2011).  The need for autonomy is to feel self-determining in ones actions rather than feeling controlled or obliged to act (Ingledew et al., 2004). Despite this scientific fact, leaders and managers tend to motivate people through fear rather than trust or value. Most organisations are under pressure to produce and perform and tend to rely on policing safety in an autocratic manner. It doesn’t help that the safety message has become consumed by legislation, documentation, box-ticking compliance and impractical controls. From an organizational leadership perspective, once the forceful fear inducing influence and/or the stick and carrot incentivisation influence stops or wears thin, employees and followers in general are likely to rebel in an opposite direction to the organisation in order to assert their independence. To protect against this from happening while maintaining the traditional forms of organizational influence according to classic leadership and economic theory, the organisation must then expend considerable resources not only in order to secure compliance, but, over time, to then maintain that compliance (Haslam, Reicher and Platow, 2011). There is an easier route that makes much more sense, and that is to attempt to inspire someone to want to move in a specific course so that they will continue to perform or behave accordingly even without the leader present.

“In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life.”

Albert Bandura


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