The Blog - Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, working together is success

I remember my early days as a young 19 year old copper in North London. As a probationary Constable, you were given an experienced older ‘parent’ Constable to guide you through the rigours of learning the role

I doubt there will be many who read this who remember PC George Dixon, a fictional Policeman from the BBC programme Dixon of Dock Green. My parent constable was identical, very experienced, not far off retirement, respected by peers and villains alike. He told me; “You’ve got to learn to communicate son, develop the gift of the gab, go out there and talk to people and listen, develop rapport, you never know when you might need their help”Probably the best advice I was ever given. These few words have been invaluable throughout a working career spanning nearly four decades.

Andy Halliday

Human Factors Coach

So much working success and failure revolves around communication, good and bad. It’s always been a controllable skill. Whether policing the streets of London or in the cauldron of an Olympic Games, it’s a quality that is linked directly to better team performance.

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, working together is success” As I reflect on my work on high performing teams, I am reminded of the poignancy of Henry Ford’s quote. The working environment remains a complex place, despite technological progress and the radical change we’ve seen in the digital World.

Where is the link between the advice of my parent Constable and Henry Ford? 

Talk to people and listen, develop rapport and then working together will be easy………. 

The FBI and negotiators around the World have successfully used a five step strategy to develop relationships.

Active listening, Empathy, Rapport, Influence, Behavioural change.

Whilst the vision of this strategy probably paints a picture of a besieged villain, (and it is used to negotiate a peaceful outcome in siege and hostage situations) if we work on this strategy when we develop any relationship in the workplace, we won’t go too far wrong.

Active listening is a skill in itself. The acronym SOLER is a reminder, Square – face the talker as square as possible Open– Keep an open body position, don’t fold arms or legs, it’s deemed defensive, Lean – a slight leaning position towards the speaker shows eagerness to learn more, Eyes – very important to maintain eye contact, it encourages the speaker to keep talking. Relaxed – A relaxed posture gives a feeling of authenticity, otherwise the communication can seem artificial.

This is a great start, it works! Good steps towards empathy and rapport.

A strong communication skillset will have positive impact on relationships.

These days, briefing and debriefing, the giving and receiving of feedback, speaking up, listening, sharing ideas, all important qualities in a respectful workplace. The communication theme is part of a bigger message on interpersonal skills.   

Since my early working days, there has been one vital element that stands out and continues to influence the ability to collaborate.

The answer is ergonomics. Simply, human factors, it’s about our relationships and the way we treat each other in the workplace. 

That may sound surprising in a world where we have seen so much dramatic technological and digital change across the last few decades. 

We can have the best kit and all the technical and digital support in the World, but a successful workplace is about relationships. Relationships grow from communication. Good relationships underpin a strong culture.

This has been perfectly illustrated in my career as a Metropolitan Police officer, managing the England and Great Britain Men’s Hockey team and more recently, working as a coach with Cleartrack Performance. Throughout the last few decades, the pace of progress in technology and IT has been immense in all roles. But does it all contribute healthily to a working skillset? Has communication become too easy? With everyone in reach from our fingertips, do we neglect our talking and listening skills?

In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about ‘the law of least effort’. Energy is precious and the brain is wired to preserve it whenever possible. It is human nature to follow the law of least effort. When faced with two options, people will naturally gravitate to the method that demands least effort. 

We see it in the workplace, in communication and in our daily lives, it’s a barrier to the development of our Human factors.

Whether on a Specialist Police team fighting terrorism,preparing athletes for the Tokyo Olympic Games, or coaching with Cleartrack, relationships and human factors hold the key to success, the path of least resistance is simply not an option.

During my police career, I spent the last 18 years working as a Specialist Firearms Officer, both in the UK and around the globe. We worked hard to develop our working relationships with empowerment, a speak up culture, mutual respect and a growth mindset. All opinions were aired and treated equally, the result was psychological safety and trust. A ‘we’ rather than ‘me’ culture developed and the team thrived in a high pressure environment.

It all begin with active listening!

The impact on collaboration, team development and growth ispalpable, none more so than in the quest for safer highways.   

At Cleartrack Performance, we see the development of Human Factors as a lynchpin in the effort to build a climate of psychological safety.

The highways are a tough place to work, breaking down barriers in communication, speaking up and empowering our colleagues will make it a happier, safer place.

From young Police Officer to wily old sage, those words of advice still ring true……………

Andy Halliday. 

Human Factors Coach

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