International business adviser and community leader Dr John Izzo will chair this year’s IOSH conference. Keynote speaker on the first day, he explains why taking personal responsibility is central to improving the workplace. Interview by Nick Warburton.
Dr John Izzo’s background is an eclectic one. Drawing on his work in social justice, corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability, the former minister turned business leadership expert has spent the past two decades helping companies discover the Holy Grail – vibrant, vital workplaces that inspire and engage employees and boost productivity.
Recognised as a modern philosopher on work and life, who consults and advises some of the most respected corporations across the world, Dr Izzo will be bringing his unique insights and experience to this year’s IOSH conference, both as chair and keynote speaker on the first day.
His presentation on ‘Stepping up – how taking personal responsibility changes everything’ will provide much ‘food for thought’ for delegates wishing to find inspiration on how workplace safety and health can be taken to the next level.
As Dr Izzo explains, the premise behind his idea of individuals taking 100 per cent responsibility, making no excuses and committing to bringing about positive change is a straightforward one.
“I talk about the two magic numbers,” he says. “Number one – what part am I playing? Number two – what can I do about it as opposed to, what part is someone else playing and what should they do about it? That’s not to say others shouldn’t also take responsibility but because we are only in control of ourselves, everything starts with us asking those two questions about ourselves.”
What this means in practice is that anyone, no matter what their position in an organisation, can be a leader or agent of positive change, inspiring and motivating others to help create more purposeful and fulfilling workplaces.
“A leader is anyone that has a positive influence on the people around them,” he continues. “I know people who have leader on their business card who don’t have a positive influence on the people around them. I also know people who are at the front line that create an incredible ripple of positive influence around them.”
This ‘responsibility ripple’ is one of the concepts discussed in the best-selling author’s latest book, Stepping Up. Dr Izzo plans to draw on the publication to show delegates how taking personal responsibility can enhance not only someone’s work environment, but also their personal life and wider society.
“Each time someone steps up and takes responsibility at whatever level they are in the organisation, they create a ripple of responsibility with others,” he points out.
“In the context of safety, if one person challenges a colleague, which is often a very difficult thing to do, then it makes others more likely to step up and take responsibility.”
To do this, however, Dr Izzo argues that managers also need to create a climate that encourages the workforce to feel comfortable about challenging someone, especially when they see a potential issue that could lead to a safety incident.
“If people are praised for efforts and not just results, if people can admit mistakes and you create an environment of learning instead of shame and blame, people are much more likely to be in a place of ownership,” he explains.
“What do we do as businesses that will make it more likely that people will take personal responsibility and ownership? Things like giving people a seat at the table.