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The Safety View: Using Storytelling  as a Leadership tool

By Tamara Parris
Published: October 10, 2020 | Last updated: October 27, 2020 07:13:15
Key Takeaways

Join as we discuss how to leverage storytelling in our leadership and management practices.

Our host Tamara Parris will lead our discussion about how to leverage storytelling in our leadership and management practices on this episode of the Safety View. During this episode we have Andy Barker joining as our guest to share his insights and knowledge about storytelling for organizational leadership.


As requested the chat from the session:

Lisa Lande: Tamara and Andy, you made me realize how important it is that coherence exists between organizational and individual purpose. A common story. Ah, maybe common values set a common theme in the story plot.

Gary Wong: To me, coherence doesn’t mean alignment, common values. Diversity is important and that it’s included in coherence

Micheal Allocco: Careful concerning using stories some may be true some may not be true… Especially when accident information is applied….

Lisa Lande: I’m in agreement with you Gary.

Paul Daly: People first, safety second!?

Lisa Lande: Safety is first to our human existence, so maybe people and safety have to walk hand in hand? Paul, meaning our emotional and physical safety are core to our ability to survive.

Gary Wong: I believe in company Principles but not necessarily company Values. Principles are universal and timeless. Values can be changed and often are when the senior leadership changes.

Paul Daly: Priorities change, values change, can principles also change?


Lisa Lande: Hmmm…are principles immutable?

Gary Wong: Paul: In my thinking, principles don’t change. My background is Stephen Covey’s Principle-centered Leadership paradigm.

Lisa Lande: Yes, immutable. I’m with you Gary.

Gary Wong: Principles are natural laws. The law of gravity is a physical principle. A leader can’t decide to dismiss it.

Lisa Lande: And values in contrast, can shift over time, experience, perspectives…stories.

Gary Wong: Organizations learn by looking at the patterns that stories form. Patterns can then point us to the system constraints (eg., safety policies, standards, rules) that cause people to behave the way they do.

Paul Daly: Joe Estey suggests that a principle without a practice is like a scale for checking your weight... it can provide info but no meaningful method for employing what to do with the number.

Lisa Lande: The current constraints future benefits/changes that link to our values.

Micheal Allocco: Complex understanding is required… I was providing the Titanic example… The Capt made appropriate decisions based upon known knowledge… There was an actually unknown common cause associated with cold effects on the steel of the time, which by passed all redundancy concerning compartment water integrity… Allowing the gross failure to occur… Systemic risk..

Lisa Lande: Nice Mike. Integrity is a principle.

Gary Wong: Stories that once were believed to be true and research shows they are wrong…we rebrand them as myths.

Micheal Allocco: Yep

Gary Wong: The challenge is stopping the passing down of myths from Master to Apprentice

Paul Daly: Sometimes it’s first story v second story - most will remember the first story only (Steven Shorrock articulates well on this...)

Gary Wong: Paul: Second story is an important concept. Dekker writes about it in healthcare

Paul Daly:

Lisa Lande: I didn’t know about second story. I’ll check it out. Thanks Gary and thanks Paul

Micheal Allocco: My job is to create stories that equate to risks… Designing accidents in order to prevent them.. Creating bad stories..

Gary Wong: Andy’s story is the premise behind Israel's 10th Man strategy. Most helpful stories are the “I got a bad feeling about this.” They identify a pending risk that requires immediate attention.

Lisa Lande: Sensitivity to subtle cues…deep and broad awareness complemented by competence

Micheal Allocco: Human error associated with mankind any decision that can adversely effect the system, throughout the life cycle…

Paul Daly: Words create worlds... often quoted in our community and very true.

Lisa Lande: That was just quoted at the Paradigm webinar today with Joe Estey

Micheal Allocco: Knowledge bias concerning what to do with safety… When you can not define what is a safe system how can you do good work in safety?

Lisa Lande: Yes Mike. The interesting thing to consider for me, is how individual variations in our own internal “safe system” factors in

Gary Wong: Rosa: We search for “signature” stories in organizations that get passed on. Often they are negative like: “Don’t do what Bill did!” It becomes a trigger to remind people of what not to do. Fairy tales and fables end with a message of survival - Don’t each the poison apple, etc.

Lisa Lande: Morals. Different or the same as principles, or values?

Gary Wong: I see morals as mere messages. They can be misleading. Aesop example: “Might makes right.”

Lisa Lande: Yes

Rosa Carrillo: Gary: yes. Appreciative Inquiry collects “success stories.

Lisa Lande: Yes

Gary Wong: We can also learn a lot from stories about failure!

Lisa Lande: Yes

Rosa Carrillo: Failure is the most frequent teacher!

Lisa Lande: We benefit from doing both directions of learning

Gary Wong: So let’s collect both!

Lisa Lande: Yes

Gary Wong:

Micheal Allocco: I always start any effort by defining what is a safe system… I expect all have seen my rants on this… What are your objectives? We need to look at all the laments of the system. We need to be unbiased and allow humans to be human… So what are our options. We need to understand human-system links. We all seem to try to fix the human. We are not easily fixed.

Lisa Lande: Legacy stories!

Gary Wong: Yes, legacy stories!

Gary Wong: One more reason for storytelling….How can a leader lead the troops to a new normalcy if you don't have a map? Stories can generate maps.



Each one-hour session is hosted by an expert or stakeholder in safety performance. And each session invites all attendees to participate, listen, and learn from each other and through conversation and shared experiences. Collectively, we explore the human system’s impact on safety and performance - relationally, psychologically, and socially.

After a brief introduction to the topic and sharing of relevant research, the floor will be open for group conversation. We invite ALL to share their thoughts, and will openly embrace - actually encourage - different perspectives. We really want to hear from all, from those who can share measurable, scientific concepts, those who have knowledge gained from experience, and those who intend to learn and understand more.

Group Rules of Conduct:

  • Build each other up to encourage and grow our ideas. Our group goal is to learn, share and expand our views.

  • If you disagree, first repeat what you heard and get acknowledgement that you understand what others have tried to propose.

  • Use "I think", "feel", "have discovered" during respectful rebuttals of others opinions and ideas.

  • Be prepared to agree, to disagree as views will be different.from our own and we want to nurture others.

Regular Hosts of the Safety View are:

Rosa Carrillo author of The Relationship Factor in Safety Leadership, safety leadership consultant, MS in Organizational development.

Lisa Lande, Ph.D., Principal Consultant at Petricher Consulting, LLC, licensed psychologist, human and organizational factors; safety, culture and leadership coach and consultant.

Tamara Parris, Community Development, Bachelors of Social Work, Occupational Health and Safety, and Emergency Management.

Please share out the below details on Social with your network! It all happens every 1st Thursday of the month at 11 a.m. EST, 4 p.m. GM Register Now

Our Guest

Andrew Barker is the General Manager Group HSE at the Rezayat Group. Andy is a values driven, people person with high levels of emotional intelligence and a life learner who continually looks for opportunities to be a better person.

From a business perspective, his first significant HSE role in the late 90s, He led culture change that eradicated accidents, Europe wide, by helping people see how their actions and decisions affected others. In subsequent roles, He has learned what works, and what doesn't and today he is very proud to say that he can consistently demonstrated how to help people make good decisions, linking company values to individual job descriptions, working on trust across organisations and demonstrating how dignity, respect and credibility are the foundations for sustainable HSE performance.

Email: [email protected]



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Written by Tamara Parris

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Tamara Parris is the VP of Community and Business Development at Safeopedia, and owner of EHS Professionals Group on LinkedIn. Her passion is working with other EHS Professionals to collaborate in thought leadership, networking and connecting our industry peers to resources that will increase profitability and safety practices within their workplaces. Tamara has been in the Health and Safety field for over 20 years, her industry experiences include the Construction sector, CCTV and Security, and Commercial Retail industries.

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