Today I’m joined by Kate Russell, a conflict management expert, which is likely to be a different thing to what you might think it is.  Kate leads Adelaide Conflict Management, a specialist advisory firm where the phone rings when there is trouble brewing in organisations off all shapes and sizes.  Like health and safety people, Kate’s aim is to stop her phone ringing.

This episode is brought to you by the man flu….no, whilst I’ve got man flu, it’s not what makes this possible, in fact its doing a great job at slowing me down! This episode is brought to you by the Safety Professional Practice Differently Masterclasses, launching in June 2018.  The entire premise of our work at Safety on Tap us helping leaders grow and drastically improve health and safety along the way.  You’ll remember previous guest and friend of the show Dave Provan who’s passionate interest and the focus of his PhD is understanding the past, present and future role of health and safety professionals.   So it made perfect sense for Dave and I to put our heads to together to help you create a more effective future for yourself, and your team.  The Safety Professional Practice Differently Masterclasses are a one day learning event which will take you on that journey – an engaging combination of information, social and experiential learning leading you to take action, tailored for your specific situation and your context.  This is a learning experience like you have never seen before, and will thrust you into your better future.  We’re kicking off with a few Masterclasses across Australia, but also looking for locations if you want to host a public masterclass – all the details including a video chat of Dave and I talking through what’s involved, are at

Let’s get into this episode, here’s Kate Russell:


That was a good chat! Before I share my takeaways, there’s a few things you should know.

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So here’s my three takeaways from that chat with Kate Russell:

Takeaway #1: Conflict is a part of being human, so firstly, lets reframe how we think about it.  In my early career I had a great deal of anxiety associated with a few particular people who I felt were combative – where conflict was regular.  Framing this as a  bad thing created problems for me.  If instead we frame conflict as a part of human interaction, as a sign of someone not being heard, as an opportunity to build a relationship instead of something to be fixed, we might manage conflict better, build stronger relationships and make more positive progress.  As Kate said, so much growth comes from conflict, even when it is painful.  After reframing conflict myself over many years, I know that’s been my experience.

Takeaway #2: If you are thinking that the source of conflict is all about the other person, there’s a good chance that you are part of the problem.  Kate described how she is often called in, usually by the boss, to ‘fix’ the other person, who usually has less power or position.  Kate quickly resets their expectations by exploring the extent to which they have some responsibility in the situation, and working on how they can accept and change that.  Have a think about the times or relationships you experience conflict – what part do you have to play in that? And most importantly, what will you do about it?

Takeaway #3: Conflict needs to be managed, which is often the remit of HR, or at least not generally the health and safety person or function.  Managing conflict reduces psychological risks, as well as reducing turnover, improving productivity and engagement.  Working on reducing conflict through improved leadership, that’s conflict prevention for sure, but it has so many other benefits that we’d soon forget about conflict as a distant memory.  The takeaway, as we learn from episodes 37, 39, 40, 53, is that health and safety has a clear role to play in the management and prevention of psychological risks, AND the improvement of our business overall.  Fullstop, no arguments (did you see what I did there, a little pun on conflict?).  You have a role to play.  The question is, what’s that look like for you and your organisation?

Until next time, what’s the one thing you’ll do to take positive, effective or rewarding action, to grow yourself, and drastically improve health and safety along the way.  Seeya!

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