Can anyone be a mentor? Six things a good mentor needs

mentor1991 was the year DI Jane Tennison first hit our screens in Prime Suspect, fighting sexism and crime in equal measure. It was also the year I joined the West Yorkshire Police on the leadership fasttrack and got my first formal mentor, a previous graduate entrant.

My first – and last – mentoring meeting was just long enough for him to tell me that as he didn’t think women had a place either on the force or the fast-track he wouldn’t be wasting his time on me.

The force’s rationale was sound – this was exactly the kind of situation that cries out for mentoring; a significant and challenging step into the unknown. But it was also why the effect on my confidence and motivation was particularly devastating. A previous graduate entrant may have the ‘context-specific expertise and knowledge’ that the European Mentoring and Coaching Council* identifies as being necessary for effective mentoring, but it takes more than that to be a mentor.

My experience in the police came to mind recently when I read an Institute of Leadership and Management report into mentoring, one finding of which was that while 76% of managers saw themselves as acting as mentors, only 24% of the millennials they ‘mentored’ agreed.**

In addition, according to the TUC, while mentoring is expected to play a large part in maximising the potential of apprentices, ‘despite the increasing recognition of the value of mentoring there is a lack of clarity over what is meant by mentoring and how it differs from the support typically offered by the apprentice’s line manager, training provider and/or assessor.’*** This suggests a perception, skills and knowledge gap which it might be timely to address, given that the government is looking to have 3m people in apprenticeships by 2020.

For an organisation to get the most out of mentoring, a number of things need to be in place. Both mentors and mentees need to understand the process, the roles and the way that people face challenges, progress and learn. Some level of formality in choice, training and monitoring the mentoring programme also gives the organisation oversight of the process and its level of success.

As well as this, mentors need to:

1.   Have a ‘growth’ rather than a ‘fixed’ mindset – Dweck’s work on mindset and feedback is a valuable resource

2.   Understand diversity, in particular the prejudices that can influence how we open up or limit opportunities for people depending on gender, race, age etc

3.   Have the skills – listening, feedback, coaching – that will best enable the mentee to integrate learning and develop their thinking. David Clutterbuck states that the ability to build rapport is crucial to mentoring in a way that it is not in coaching – the relationship is key

4.   Be exemplary in their behaviours. Mentors act as role models not just in behaviours but in attitudes – to customers, colleagues, management and suppliers. They provide a far more powerful induction into the culture of an organisation than any formal induction process

5.   Understand how different generations in the workplace view their career, learning, team work and feedback. There are significant differences between Boomers, Traditionalists, Generation Xers, Yers and Millennials. Being aware can help all parties get more from the relationship

6.   Most importantly, get a kick out of seeing people develop and grow

The origins of mentoring are said to lie in Homer’s story of Odysseus, the King of Ithaca. Odysseus asks his faithful, wise and trusted friend Mentor to take care of his son, Telemachus, while Odysseus is away – watching over him and guiding him through his transition from boy to man. On that basis of the origins of mentoring my real mentoring came from my tutor constable who I shadowed during my first weeks on the job. He loved policing and was an exemplary officer, but most importantly he liked seeing people develop and grow in the job. His values, enthusiasm and the way he did the job shaped both my approach to policing and to mentoring.

Mentoring is an important organisational learning process and knowledge management tool, and ideas such as reverse mentoring – a younger person mentoring an older one in areas like technology and social trends – increases its scope and value. At a time when businesses are rightly investing so much in apprenticeships, it’s never been more important to get mentoring right.

Do the mentors in your organisation have what it takes? Are you sure they are communicating and role modelling what’s important in your organisation? If not, contact Beehive/b.SAFE at We provide both ILM accredited and bespoke mentoring and coaching training, and have provided mentor and mentee training most recently for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s SME Mentoring Scheme, The National Skills Academy Nuclear, and The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s Research Fellows’ Mentoring programme.

*European Mentoring and Coaching Council International Mentoring Survey 2015

** ‘Workforce 2020 – Managing Millennials’, Institute of Leadership and Management

*** ‘The Role of Mentoring in Supporting Apprenticeships’, Andy Hirst, Christina Short and Sini Rinne of Cambridge Policy Consultants, Research paper 20, April 2014


A quiet revolution in safety – ISO 45001

I introduced our latest b.SAFE@Brathay Safety Culture Event (held at Brathay Hall in Cumbria on Sept 15th) by saying that there is a quiet revolution taking place in the field of health and safety with the advent of ISO 45001. Expected to be published in the first half of 2018, ISO 45001 is the new international safety standard that will replace the current OHSAS 18001. The new standard is designed to change the position of EHS from one of being ‘bolted on’ to the business to it being ‘built-in’ to organisational systems. This shift in focus represents a real opportunity for cultural change.

A look at some of the key differences between the two standards might help to explain why. ISO 45001 includes:

  • Understanding the cultural context of the organisation and what drives it
  • Recognising the needs and expectations of stakeholders – neither of these two have an equivalent in OHSAS 18001
  • Changing focus from ‘management’ to ‘leadership’ and from ‘ensuring’ to ‘engaging’
  • Increasing worker participation, engagement and consultation
  • Moving from procedure and records to ‘documented information’
  • Considering the objective and result of communication, not just who, when and what *

These changes have the potential to be what is known in the field of organisational development (OD) as ‘second order changes’ – change that can transform organisations.

First and Second Order Change

Not all change that takes place in organisations is the same. A useful way of thinking about the differences is as First and Second Order Changes


First order change is evolutionary – incremental, linear, doing more or less of what’s already done, making minor changes and adjustments that enable things to be done better or faster and not really changing anything fundamental about the beliefs, values or ways of working of the organisation. It’s adaptive and incremental – an example might be refining existing processes and procedures, or finding new ways to collect or report data, or reminding people about correct PPE. It’s about regaining balance – the homeostasis of the system.

Second order change is revolutionary – it’s not about doing the same thing faster or better but doing something different. It’s transformational not incremental, requiring unlearning and relearning, and it both enables and requires people to think, feel and behave differently to how they did before. Second order change includes cultural change and an example might be, well, any of the differences between OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001. Understanding and embedding EHS as part of the wider organisational and stakeholder system; a shift in focus and style from management to leadership; engagement and participation rather than policing; and accountability for the effectiveness of internal and external communications.

 The role of Organisational Development in EHS

Most behaviour change initiatives fail because the type of change required is misdiagnosed. Most culture change initiatives fail because the wider implications of the changes required aren’t fully understood or accommodated. Organisational development is a field which includes:

  • Managing planned change, in a flexible manner that can be revised as new information is gathered.
  • The creation and the subsequent reinforcement of change by institutionalising change.
  • Applying changes in the strategy, structure, and/or processes of an entire system, such as an organisation, a single plant of a multi-plant firm, a department or work group, or individual role or job.
  • Improving organisational effectiveness by:
    • helping members of the organisation to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to solve problems by involving them in the change process, and
    • by promoting high performance including financial returns, high quality products and services, high productivity, continuous improvement and a high quality of working life. CIPD OD Factsheet

As an OD consultancy Beehive is perfectly placed to help organisations make the changes to mindsets, skills and tools needed to transition to ISO 45001. If you have certification to OHSAS 18001 you will have a window of three years to migrate to ISO 45001 to maintain the validity of certification (see NQA Information re 45001). And because ISO 45001 represents an opportunity for cultural rather than simply procedural change, the sooner the change begins the more likely you are to gain the greatest benefits.

This is the first of a series of articles in which I’ll consider each of the differences between the two standards from an organisational development perspective. The next article will be ‘Safety SySTERMS – what drives culture’.

Click here for more information about b.SAFE

Click here for more information about Brathay Trust

To be informed of the date of our next Safety Culture Event at Brathay (Feb 2018 date TBC) please email

Click here to find out more about our Transforming Safety Behaviours Workshops

*The NQA ISO 45001 Health and Safety Briefing outlines the key differences between the two standards. The differences outlined above relate to points:

  • 4.1 – Understanding your organisation and its context – what drives your culture? 
  • 4.2 – Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties – engaging with stakeholders
  • 5.1 – Leadership and commitment – changing from ‘management’ to ‘leadership’, and from ‘ensuring’ to ‘engaging’
  • 5.2 & 5.4 – OH&S policy & Participation and consultation – increasing (or introducing?) worker participation and engagement
  • 7.2 & 7.5 – Competence & Documented information – a move from ‘procedure’ to ‘documented evidence’
  • 7.4 – Information and communication – considering not just the who, what and when of communication but the objective and the result of it


What can we learn about behavioural safety from America’s love of firearms?

Guns only keep you safe if you have the mindset and skills required to use them most effectively. At Beehive we’ve adopted the model of Mindset + Skills + Tools as the most effective way of transforming safety behaviours – introducing tools along with the mindset and skills necessary for them to be most effective.

15793761-Illustration-of-shooting-turkey-Stock-Vector-gunOn a recent visit to Florida I made enquiries about learning to shoot a handgun. Not from any homicidal tendencies you understand, but because it’s something you can’t do over here. As I looked into it (during which I became more and more worried by how easy and cheap it was – free ladies days at the range, anyone? – and the lack of anything resembling checks or training!) I came across a video from an ex-marine who now trains civilians to use guns. It set me thinking about safety.

The video included footage from the dashcam of an armed policeman who’d been shot dead by a driver he’d stopped for a routine check. The video stated that after a recent mass shooting, sales of guns had increased because people were scared and believed that possessing a gun would keep them safe – if in danger they just pull it out and shoot. This, the ex-marine explained, is not the case for a number of reasons:

  • Having a gun can increase the danger, as an attacker could then feel justified in shooting first, or could take the gun off you to use against you
  • Even if you can hit the heart and head of your target every time on the range – most targets in the shooting ranges are person-shaped (!) – it does not help you in an attack situation – on average there is a three second window in which to act, and adrenaline means you forget everything in the terror of the moment
  • You may become over confident, taking greater risks because you feel safer
  • That the gun is just a tool and like any tool requires two things for it to be of use – the right mindset and the right skills.

By mindset he meant being clear about why you have a gun, the potential and limitations of it, how and when it should be used and how and when it shouldn’t. By skills he meant not just being able to point and shoot but being able to do so in the kind of situations you’d bought the gun for ie in the heat of the moment. This he described as being ‘combat’ not just ‘target’ ready, and his company was all about providing combat-ready training.

It occurred to me that safety management systems, regulations, processes and procedures can sometimes be viewed a little bit like having a gun. The fact that they are there leads people to believe that they’re safe – all they have to do is follow them, they may not think beyond them, they may take greater risks because of them, they may not be able to think beyond them in an emergency. In fact it’s not the systems, processes and procedures that keep people safe; they’re just the tools, and often blunt ones at that – no safety manual covers every possible situation and it’s the unforeseen ones that usually create the biggest problems, and if procedures aren’t fit for purpose they actually encourage the violations they’re there to reduce. It’s having the right mindset :

  • trustworthy
  • committed to the spirit not just slavish compliance to the letter of regulations
  • recognising that safety is created not by the processes but by the people who use them
  • being aware of both the importance and limitations of regulations etc
  • being accountable for your own behaviours and role in keeping people safe

– that makes the difference. And having the right skills:

  • ‘soft power’ skills that empower, build relationships and generate the required commitment
  • clarity of thought and power of communication
  • decision making
  • the ability to give (and receive) feedback constructively and hold self and others to account
  • leadership

that increases the efficacy of any system or process, even making up for imperfections.

At Beehive we’ve adopted the model of Mindset + Skills + Tools as the most effective way of transforming safety behaviours – introducing tools along with the mindset and skills necessary for them to be most effective. It’s why in our three-day ‘Transforming Safety Behaviours’ workshops we combine our one day ‘Human Performance Fundamentals’ – an introduction to human performance principles, models and tools – with a one-day ‘Coaching for Safety’ workshop – developing the non-directive mindset and skills required for one-to-one coaching – and either a ‘Team Coaching’ or ‘Mentoring Apprentices’ workshop – that increases the effectiveness, reach and power not just of human performance tools, but any safety management system, process or procedure.

I never did learn to shoot on my holiday. The ex-marine had no space available while I was there and his was the only company that offered the kind of training I felt confident in – the only person who really sounded like he knew what he was doing. But I will when I next go stateside. So if when I see you I say I’m packing, it may not be for a holiday……!

The next three-day ‘b.SAFE Transforming Safety Behaviours’ workshop will be held at the Brathay Trust in Cumbria (@BrathayPD).

Nov 15th 2017 – ‘Human Performance Fundamentals’ – This meets the Nuclear Industry Standard but is relevant to any supervisor or site/quality/safety manager/engineer working in a safety critical environment

Nov 16th 2017 – ‘Coaching for Safety’ – endorsed by the National Skills Academy Nuclear (NSAN) but relevant to any supervisor or site/quality/safety manager/engineer working in a safety critical environment

Nov 17th 2017 – ‘Mentoring Apprentices’ – endorsed by the National Skills Academy Nuclear (NSAN) but relevant to any apprentice, supervisor or site/quality/safety manager/engineer working in a safety critical environment

Each day stands alone but the three days are designed to build on and develop the understanding and applicability of the days before. For more information or for a place on our free safety culture seminar on Sept 15th contact me on

The role of well-being in reducing risk

Take a look at these two lists. Do you recognise either of them? Can you see any relationship between the two?wellbeing v error trap without headings

List One comprises the factors that impact most positively on workplace well-being, based on the New Economics Foundation (NEF) 2014 literature review. List Two comprises the Dirty Dozen Error Traps, a list of the factors that most contribute to errors and accidents taken from human factors literature. And the relationship between the two lists?

The more there is of list one, the less there will be of list two. If someone is in good health and has a healthy work/life balance, the error trap of fatigue is likely to be reduced. If role expectations are realistic and a person has more control over their work the error traps of time pressure and resource allocation, for example, may well be reduced. Certain management styles, particularly a coaching style which is both engaging and collaborative, are conducive to good teamwork, good communications and positive social norms. Development opportunities could reduce complacency, lack of knowledge or lack of assertiveness – but only if it is the right kind of development. And fairness and job security make a big contribution to stress reduction.

Put simply, improving the well-being of workers is an important way of reducing the likelihood of errors and accidents at work. But giving this the priority it deserves requires a widening of how we think about health and safety.

Take a look at these two definitions of safety:

‘The condition of being protected against physical, social, spiritual, financial, political, emotional, occupational, psychological, educational or other types or consequences of failure, damage, error, accidents, harm or any other event which could be considered non-desirable.’

‘The control of recognised hazards to achieve an acceptable level of risk.’

The first definition is a wide and all-encompassing definition of safety which includes protection against a range of hazards and risks, only one of which is physical, and incorporates the well-being factors in list one. The second I would argue is more aligned to how health and safety is often perceived and practised – focused more on physical health and physical hazards and risks than on any other kind. The result can be that all the emphasis is on reducing risk through compliance, regulation, process and physical defences, and not enough on the wider factors that impact on accidents and errors such as improving workplace well-being.

Of course, compliance, regulation, process and physical defences etc are vital and have resulted in the massive reductions in accidents seen over the last few decades, but they are not the whole story. The next step change in reducing error and accidents requires recognition that:

  • low workplace well-being is an error precondition and therefore requires measurement and action
  • low workplace well-being is a cultural factor and improving it requires systemic change 
  • spending money on improving workplace well-being makes good business sense

To experience a new approach to safety education join us at our free safety culture seminar ‘Change the conversation, change the culture’ on Sept 15th 2017 at Brathay Trust in Ambleside – for more details go to our b.SAFE Webpagew  or email .

For more information on workplace well-being see the NEF’s report at  NEF Wellbeing at Work

Is it time to consider ‘soft’ skills when assessing someone as SQEP* for a job?

* ‘Suitably Qualified and Experienced Person’

A couple of weeks ago I gave a presentation to the North Wales IOSH branch on behavioural safety and safety culture. There were 70 people – their biggest turnout in four years.

As part of the presentation I showed the following slide and said, ‘OK, these were the answers, so what was the question?’


The response was immediate – ‘the attributes of a good manager’, which is true. The actual question was ‘What makes a good supervisor/site manager?’ and I asked it of fitters, supervisors and site managers as part of research I undertook with Bangor University and Alstom Power Services (see my first blog ‘Do we need a new approach to safety education?’). Further discussion showed that there was wide recognition that these attributes in supervisors and managers helped to reduce error and error pre-cursors and supported other behavioural safety elements such as open reporting, questioning attitude, stop the line and human performance. So far, so good.

However, when I asked, ‘So how many of you and your organisations actually recruit or train for these attributes in your engineers, supervisors, QHSE managers or site managers?’, the answer was – none. That’s quite an incongruence – while it is widely recognised that these attributes play a significant role in creating a safe working environment, this recognition was not reflected in recruitment or training practices.

In 2011 The Work Foundation published a report entitled ‘Good Work and Our Times’ in which it emphasised the role of first-line management in communicating culture in an organisation. Supervisors and managers are the people who create the day to day experience of the employees working for your organisation, who set the behavioural examples, who create the climate in which safety is carried out, who have the awesome responsibility of setting people to work in dangerous environments. They are the people who put into practice the organisation’s culture on the front line. Yet how many of them understand that this is a  crucial part of their role? And how many of them are suitably qualified and experienced to do this, equipped with the knowledge of human behaviour and motivation, team behaviours, communication skills and with the emotional resilience, to fulfil this role?

Beehive designed and delivered a behavioural safety programme based on the research results for Alstom Power Services which resulted in changes to behaviours in first line supervision and management. Those changes had a significant effect on results, but the effects were further reaching. Once the behaviours became embedded it became apparent that the agency fitters used did not have the behaviours that Alstom now required. The drive and initiative of QHSE manager Mick Edwards, who was at the forefront of the behaviour change project, led to us working with the agencies -introducing the behavioural model, explaining the need for a different approach to recruitment, and giving guidance on how to interview for behaviours. In short, introducing a whole new perspective on what being SQEP – suitably qualified and experienced for a role – meant.

It is far cheaper to recruit people with the right attitudes and behaviours than it is to change the behaviours and attitudes of people already in role. This extends to recruiting people who are open to learning and change. But first these attributes and behaviours have to be taken seriously by the organisation in relation to risk and safety. They have to become part of the organisation’s criteria for recruitment, and those recruiting have to understand why and how to interview for behaviours and attitudes, as well as technical or operational qualifications and experience. Which leads to the question – is it time for ‘soft’ SQEP?

Download a pdf of Beehive’s ‘Top 5 tips for Behavioural Interviewing’ here behavioural-interviewing-doc 

For more information on ‘Good Work and Our Times’ please go to

PPE – psychologically protected environment?

Think of a time when you saw a deviation from a safety or quality procedure and challenged it. Now think of a time when you saw a deviation from safety or quality procedure – perhaps you even joined in – and you didn’t challenge it. What were the factors that led to you acting differently in one situation than the other? 

The chances are that among the reasons will be fear, and not fear of the physical risk that the procedure was designed to reduce. It’s more likely to be fear of, for example, standing out, looking stupid, being seen as a hypocrite or ‘one of them’, losing face or job, being a nuisance, or thought ‘soft’. This kind of fear is evidence of a risk that influences behaviour far more than physical risk but is rarely given the same attention. This is psychological risk.

Psychological risk has its basis in our need to belong which is one of the strongest drivers in human existence. Basically, we want to be part of a group and to fit in, and psychological risk refers to anything that threatens that belonging or our status in the group. Different groups have different ‘norms’ – unspoken rules and power structures that govern what a typical member of that group does or doesn’t think/feel/say/act. If to do/say/think something different might lead to any of the things mentioned above, then there’s a psychological risk.

These unspoken rules can be particularly strong where:

  • Individuals work in an unusual, dangerous or remote environment and/or are not under the same kind of scrutiny as normal – site workers, soldiers, police and night shifts are good examples
  • There is little or weak leadership so norms and behaviours are set by the loudest voice, not the most informed

In these situations – in a ‘canteen culture’ or when things get tribal – the psychological risk of being different is higher. We’re more likely to conform to what’s expected than challenge it, even if our physical safety may be compromised.

When we tell people they need to have a questioning attitude, be open about mistakes, challenge, and ‘stop the line’- even to make suggestions or come up with ideas for improvement – we’re asking them to take a risk which can seem much greater in the moment than any physical risks involved.  To stand up and stand out like this requires:

  • individuals with maturity, confidence and emotional resilience
  • an environment which feels psychologically safe
  • management who respond to challenge constructively
  • leadership which is more potent than other group members….

but these things don’t happen by chance.  A lot of time and money is spent on PPE, procedure,  and regulations  – and rightly so – to mitigate against physical risk. We also need to think about the psychological risks, however, and how we mitigate against them.

People need to feel psychologically safe if we really want all the good things like challenge and open reporting – if we want to get the best from people full stop. Perhaps, therefore, we need to think of a different kind of PPE. Not personal protective equipment but a psychologically protected environment.

(Issues of risk and safety have a strong relationship to ethics. Check out our associate blog to see how the herd instinct can influence behaviour)




Do we need a new approach to safety education?

Good listener, communicator, empathetic, ‘psychologist’, compassionate, approachable, motivation of self and others, consistency, team builder, leadership and resilience. No, not the job description of a social worker or primary school teacher. But answers to the question ‘What makes a good supervisor/site manager?’, asked of Alstom field service engineers at their annual conference, as part of research into safety culture I conducted with Bangor University in 2013.

The answers were a surprise, but were consistent with the answers from fitters and engineers when they were asked the same question out on site. It wasn’t that domain knowledge, role experience or commercial awareness counted for nothing. It was that these were not what differentiated an indifferent or bad supervisor/site manager from a good one. It was the ‘soft’ skills that made the difference.

So what? you may ask. What does it matter if your supervisor is a ‘good’ one? Man up! Get over it and get on with the job!

But it does matter, it matters to safety. Shunichi Tanaka, head of the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority commented when operatives at Fukushima were sprayed with contaminated water in 2014, “Mistakes are often linked to morale. People don’t usually make silly careless mistakes when they’re motivated and work in a positive environment.” Dr James Reason states that “A pretty good safety management system with 100% buy-in is better than a perfect system with 0% commitment’.  Morale, motivation, positive environment, buy-in – all created through ‘soft’ skills, all playing a vital role in error avoidance, even making up for imperfections in the system. A key question is, however, does safety education reflect this?

I’d suggest not, and in two ways. One is that the focus is still on ‘hard’ skills, a reflection perhaps of a prevailing attitude that health and safety is only about rules and regulations, procedure, compliance, restriction, hard measures and absence of negatives. But health and safety has a profoundly human focus and if organisations want to get beyond where rules and regulations, process and procedure will take them they need to change their perception of what constitutes safety training to include personal development and those all important ‘soft’ skills.

The other is that the training methods used in safety education can lack imagination.  An organisation’s safety culture is created in the training room as much as anywhere else. If people groan at the thought of safety training that association is likely to pervade people’s attitude to safety out on site. If we want people to be interested in safety, to see it as engaging and relevant to their role, to be proactive about it, then safety education has to be interesting, engaging, relevant, and active too. Empathy isn’t learned through PowerPoint.

We may assume that people already have the interpersonal and communication skills they need to work safely out on site, or that they will learn them on the job. A look at the prevalence of communication issues as a root cause or contributory factor in event reports suggests that this confidence is misplaced. As a participant at our recent safety culture seminar asked, ‘Which of us here has ever been taught how to have a proper conversation?’.  Safety education needs a rethink and refocus.

Beehive is running a safety culture seminar in partnership with the Brathay Trust in Ambleside, Cumbria on Feb 24th 2017. The event is free though places are limited. Bed, dinner and breakfast are available for the night of 23rd Feb at Brathay on the edge of Lake Windermere at a cost of £80 per night. For more details or to book a place please contact Sara on or 01492 550 960.