Safety Leadership – Learning from incidents

One of the greatest opportunities leaders have to practice their leadership skills is before, during and after an incident. Let me explain further.

Before the incident

Planning for your response to an incident can and should be planned. Another word for this is running drills. Purposeful practice that builds routines and scripts into your system 1 thinking is the objective with running drills. Remember the brain is a muscle and repetition creates muscle memory. Plan out what you want to do during an incident. Write it down and then practice it. Either physically, by moving around and actually doing the response or mentally, visualising what you will do. The brain research shows us there is little difference in effectiveness between the two approaches. The point is to purposefully practice frequently.

During the incident

Observe your emotional state for starters. People follow leaders that are calm and confident during a crisis. That means not acting emotionally. Not being in the emotional part of your brain. Be pre-frontal cortex. The easiest way to do that is to ask yourself questions

Using open questions can be beneficial in developing others but during an incident, closed questions convey the sense of urgency often required. Directions creating prompt action (if prompt actions are necessary) is often the most effective way to deal with the situation. This is the only time when closed questions can be more powerful than open questions.

However, in the heat of the moment when your brain is more likely to be in the emotional centres and the time when logical and rational thought is needed but not possible. Getting front of mind is critical. Hence asking ourself a the question is very very important.

After the incident

This is the best time for leaders to develop skills using the OPEN framework and make a powerful impact on leadership development. Using the OPEN framework creates positive outcomes from often negative situations, including:

  • Seeking knowledge and information from others gives them status and significance
  • Creates buy-in for solutions
  • Strengthens the connectedness and a share sense of purpose
  • Provides growth opportunities to learn and develop new skills
  • Variety to the persons daily routines.

These are a few positive outcomes that can come from an incident and being planned in response. Leadership is not something that is turned on or off depending on the situation. When you are a leader it is on always. Learning to use those situations in life to work on leadership skills will advance you and your much much quicker.

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