Coached to succeed

OLYMPIC athletes do it, psychologists do it, teachers do it and now manufacturers are doing it to improve their workplace performance.

OLYMPIC athletes do it, psychologists do it, teachers do it and now manufacturers are doing it to improve their workplace performance.

Coaching is increasing being used in companies and businesses worldwide with research showing it has a significant impact on both individual and organisation performance, with some amazing results.

A leap of faith into high reliability leadership coaching by plastics manufacturer Basell Australia, part of Lyondell Basell, a multi national petro chemical company, recently propelled the company to Hall of Fame status, an achievement all the more remarkable considering the company’s past challenges.

Not long after the Longford Gas explosion in September 1998, which caused the death of two workers and halted gas supplies to Victoria and parts of South Australia and New South Wales, the resulting introduction of stringent new safety regulations meant that the company’s Geelong site needed to innovate or face the possibility of closure.

Eight years later the company has been inducted to the Victorian 2008 Manufacturing Hall of Fame and has won the Plastics and Chemicals Industry National Sustainability Award and a National Safety Award.

In the process, it has also completed a four stage $150M expansion and technical upgrade while maintaining production.

The company’s site manager, David Stannard, attributes these results to the combined approach of leadership coaching and the team contribution of the Geelong site team.

“We have developed a high reliability cultural mindset that looks at every aspect of what we do and what makes it into a reliable system,” Stannard explained.

“We make observations about our performance and use them as opportunities for daily improvement.”

The company used leadership coach, Sue Gregory from Healthy Outlook to provide the assistance needed to create a safety culture or what Gregory refers to a High Reliability Organisation (HRO).

Gregory explained to Safety First after she was initially asked to assess the business and review the company’s strategies for improving safety, her first step was to explain the concept of creating a HRO to management and gain commitment for a long term approach as opposed to a band-aid intervention.

“A long term HRO plan involving representatives from all aspects of the workforce, gave a sense of direction.

“Work groups were then created to fashion action plans that focussed on compliance, worker safety, process safety reliability and environment.”

“Once the initial plan was developed, personal coaching with the leader focussed on continuing to move towards HRO thinking,” Gregory said.

“The process was then driven from within the organisation, supported by executive coaching to develop of facilitative leadership skills, strategic thinking skills that helped to combine combined health, safety and environment with business objectives.”

And the results speak for themselves. The company now runs for eight or nine weeks without a stoppage and has experienced a 60% reduction in raw materials losses and is holding total fixed costs at 2002 level.

Unit costs have fallen by half and production has doubled to 130,000 tonnes, reaching a turnover of $250 million but the company says they are still constantly improving and overcoming challenges.

Tips for creating a safer workplace

• Gain commitment from all aspects of your organisation by involving others in creating a HRO strategy.

• Break the strategy down in to bite size, day by day pieces with smaller achievable goals.

• Measure it so people can look back and see where they have come from. People forget; they cannot always see the change and need to be reminded.

• Think of safety as part of core business – not as a stand alone system

• As a leader ‘listen’ – don’t always impose your view. Avoid being the expert and empower people to solve issues.

• Be flexible – use situational leadership to enable in the people in the best position to come up with the solution

• Recognise that creating a high reliability culture means placing people first. They will support you to get the bottom line outcomes.

Healthy Outlook 0419119744.