An Essential Skill for Safety Professionals–Reading Other People

by George Robotham on January 5, 2013

in George Robotham

An Essential Skill for Safety Professionals – Reading Other People

Article by George Robotham

Basic principles

The greatest motivator is not money. It is the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, to contribute and be recognised.

Be tough on the task but gentle on yourself & others.

People judge you by what they see you doing not by what you say you are doing

Learn the context, culture and past before trying to make changes. Unless a crisis situation is apparent realise effective change requires a lot of effort and time.

It is often the relationships you build not your technical skills that determines success, network for success.

Communicate your expectations

Do the things that give the biggest bang for your buck

As a leader it is more important to be respected than liked

Catch people doing good and make a fuss of them, routinely thank people for their efforts.

Reading other people

There is no doubt the most difficult issues one has to deal with in any job are the people ones. You have to understand the people you interact with to get them to join you on the safety journey. ”Reading” others is a skill that must be developed.

I put posts on several Linkedin OHS forums and hs-canada asking people how they respond to this challenge.

Comments were-

Genuine consultation is the key. Get out in the work environment and interact with the workers.

One respondent said he had developed an asshole focus and when most people said an initiative was good he did not react to the assholes. This meant he could work with the assholes but did not trust them

People do not trust those they have caught lying to them. If you want to be a bulldust artist you have to be incredibly good at it and have an exceptional memory

You have to establish What Is In It For Me from the perspective of those you are trying to influence

The skills of Appropriate Self-Disclosure and Reflective Listening are important (Look them up on the internet) Give a bit of yourself and many will reciprocate

Requires a knowledge of psychology that is lacking in the safety sector, skills development in observation and listening are important

Listening to people is sometimes not done well

I make sure non-verbal communication lines up with verbal communication

Getting out in the ground level with the workers helps to build relationships and respect

Reading up on and applying personality type indicator models can be useful

Reading up on different personality types will help

Observing people without spying on them is beneficial

Check out how people interact with others and how people react to them

See if there is resonance or dissonance between their statements and their actions. Good old rapport building and relationship building is a good technique, work towards common ground

Use face to face communication whenever possible

Beware of people who engage in impression management

Thoughtful use of humour can help to break down barriers

Be genuinely interested in the thoughts of others

Celebrate success

Show an interest in the real world not just theory

Try not to be too complex

Give and make it clear you expect feedback

Use active listening and questioning

The formula

There will be times others do things that annoy you, often they will have what they think are good reasons for what they are doing and they will have no idea they are annoying you. A good formula for these situations is to express your feelings as follows-

“When you A, I feel B, because C, and I would like you to do D, because E”

The only person who knows how you feel is you and most people will not know how you feel and many will be happy to adjust their behaviour accordingly. If this does not happen at least you have the basis for ongoing discussion.


Reading other people can enhance your and their effectiveness. Some study of psychological interpersonal relations material is recommended .People Skills by Bolton is of value.

George can be contacted on, he welcomes debate on the above (it would be indeed a boring world if everybody agreed with George)

George Robotham, Cert. IV T.A.E.,. Dip. Training & Assessment Systems, Diploma in Frontline Management, Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education), (Queensland University of Technology), Graduate Certificate in Management of Organisational Change, (Charles Sturt University), Graduate Diploma of Occupational Hazard Management), (Ballarat University), Accredited Workplace Health & Safety Officer (Queensland),Justice of the Peace (Queensland), Australian Defence Medal, Brisbane, Australia,,,07-38021516, 0421860574, My passion is the reduction of permanently life altering (Class 1 ) personal damage

  • Jamie Richardson

    I enjoyed reading this perception of ‘how to motivate people’, however, whilst articles to refer to are indeed useful, I still stand by the application of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is indeed important how to ‘read’ people, because if you can, you will be able to understand what floats their boat, flicks their switch and of course what ultimately will motivate them. That is the tricky part for beginners.
    Everyone is different; motivation is about what they aspire to in life, what drives people. Discover what they want out of life and you will find their ‘go’ button.
    Whilst not as simple as it sounds, I find that this approach, not alone but with other understanding, particularly as referred to by the previous posts, work well individually and in combination to motivate.
    Put that together with the right consultative approach in both verbal and non-verbal communication and you have a winner.
    This is a good post and would be pleased to hear and learn more from George and Mike.

    Best regards,


  • Mike Nendick

    I recommend having a look at PCM (Process Communication Model) to help better understand your own and others preferred communication channels and how to better interact in a practical and positive way with those around you. PCM helps you ‘read’ people’s behaviour quickly for what it means in terms of effective communication and motivating by understanding their psychological needs.

    It is one of the few psychological behaviour models that I have looked at closely that works in practice in safety critical situations with strong safety improvement implications.

    I agree with many of the comments and observations above.

    regards Mike

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