Life and Death Conversations

My thanks to Louisa Mead and the team at Thames Valley Health and Safety Group (TVHSG) for a thoroughly entertaining afternoon at the lovely venue Easthampstead Park Conference Centre, Bracknell

TVHSG is the meeting place for everyone interested in health and safety at work – in the Thames Valley, and has grown to 80 members.


Today was TVHSG AGM, which was attended by the The Mayor of Slough, the AGM was followed by a nice lunch and then a thoroughly enjoyable, lively and engaging drama presentation from Dramanon 

Dramanon are a leading provider of drama based learning and corporate training in the UK. The company has been in operation since 1995 running training programmes for many Police and Fire services, Councils and NHS Trusts within the public sector alongside professional companies, law firms, retailers, construction and pharmaceutical companies within the private sector.

Dramanon is at the forefront of providing drama based learning and provide a combination of professional facilitators, trainers & actors, taking interactive training to a new level for any company or organisation seeking to improve their performance.

Today’s Dramanon presentation reminded me of training I had received some years ago which was all about those crucial conversations we have in life and in the workplace.

The book crucial conversations is a New York Times business bestseller that’s transformed organizations and changed the way millions of people communicate. They trade under the brand VitalSmarts an innovator in corporate training and organizational development who can teach organizations how to:

  • Dialogue safely about any topic
  • Achieve 360° accountability
  • Remove organizational behavioral barriers
  • Increase employee engagement through self-directed change

For me the distinctions of Crucial Conversations were brought to life in a very entertaining way by the team at Dramanon this afternoon.

The Dramanon team was led by Bob Horwell who set the scene by using the sinking of the Titanic as a metaphor to explain the dangers of assumption (His iceberg drawing that looks like a shark comment made me laugh out loud)


Assumption defined as ‘A Decision made or taken with little or no knowledge when information is missing people (literally) fall down ‘assumptions kill and maim people every year’ and a more subtle kind of death ensues through the dynamics in relationships where ego and fear stops people challenging the characters in a hierarchy – i.e. ‘you have worked here 10 years and you don’t know that!’

Using an hilarious analogy framed in a question of ‘which two people would you want to be rescued with from the Titanic’ Bob had the audience asking open questions to eradicate assumptions and reach new decisions by having the courage to find out more with open questions.

My mind linked the distinctions back to Agreement Three from The Four Agreements: Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (Toltec Wisdom)

Agreement 3: Don’t make assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Then followed an entertaining role play called a site safety challenge where Bob played a construction site boss (referred to as GOD) Rod Silvers the construction site supervisor and Martin Austin who played a taxi cab driver on his first day on the construction site; fresh from health and safety induction training. The team who are trained actors gave us a unique experience through their role play and audience participation and got us all really thinking about culture, communication, behaviour, accountability and responsibility in the workplace


The scenario can apply equally to any workplace setting and we put ourselves into the shoes of the players

Bob made a thought provoking suggestion ‘How prepared are you to look at yourself and say where can I change where can I grow and progress, progress not perfection.’

This was an excellent training on Communication that had us all want to take part, laugh and learn though the identification with the characters and ‘hold the mirror’ up to our own conversations and experiences. Had me thinking about how everyone has a responsibility for workplace safety irrespective of where they are in the company hierarchy.

Dramanon web site has a series of videos to reinforce behavioural safety.

stand up

It always amazes me how I can read something that resonates with me and then attend an event that reminds me of the same thing that I recently read! (we get what we focus on) for example I recently shared that I always look forward to Seth Godin’s blog and posted the one titled ‘lead up’ which for me sums up today perfectly.

Here is the full blog from Seth…

Lead up

What you were trained to do: wait for a good, generous, munificent, tasteful, smart boss or client to tell you what to do.

If that doesn’t happen, blame the system, blame the boss, blame the client. If the work is lousy, it’s the client’s fault. If the boss doesn’t see or understand your insight, that’s his fault. You are here to serve, and if they don’t get it, well, that’s too bad for all concerned.

What you might consider: Lead up. (Thanks to Pat Tierney for the phrase).

A great designer gets great clients because she deserves them. One of the ways that she became a great designer was by leading her clients to make good decisions, to have better taste, to understand her insight and have the guts to back it. That doesn’t happen randomly. It happens when someone leads up.

A successful middle manager gets promoted when she takes the right amount of initiative, defers the right amount of credit and orchestrates success. That success might happen despite (not because) of who her bosses are, and that’s just fine, because she’s leading up.

In many ways, we get the bosses and clients we deserve. If they’re holding you back, change them.

We have an astonishing amount of freedom at work. Not just the freedom to call meetings, make phone calls and pitch ideas, but yes, the freedom to quit, to find a new gig, to pick the clients we’re going to take on and to decide how we’re going to deal with a request from someone who seems to have far more power than we do. “Yes, sir” is one possible answer, but so is leading from below, creating a reputation and an environment where the people around you are transformed into the bosses you deserve.

When you do this with intention, it gets easier and easier. From afar, it seems impossible, and it will be until you commit to it.

  • Do it on purpose
  • Tell stories that resonate with those in charge
  • Demand responsibility, don’t worry about authority
  • Reflect credit, embrace blame
  • Earn the right by taking small steps
  • Convene, organize, learn, teach and lay the foundation
  • If they don’t get it, go somewhere that does [slash] hire better clients, regardless of the fee

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