The Nuclear Industries Blind Spot (and they’re not the only ones)

I wrote this as part of a Linkedin Nulcear Safety Culture Group. In sum, the nuclear industry, and many outside that industry, while understanding some of the behaviors and processes necessary for healthy culture, don’t have a clear grasp of the emotional nature of culture and human systems, and the role that leadership must play to set the optimum emotional tone.

Here’s my response to the group:

Hi Madalina, Thanks for the invitation, and I am very much looking forward to my upcoming visit to Bucharest.

Looking through your conversation I have several thoughts. For one, I agree that a sound management system “should ideally encompass all elements.” The same cultural elements that support nuclear safety, such as encouraging eomplyees to voice concerns, are also essential to industrial safety, quality, morale, high performance, and so on. You and Mr. Holohan cite some very useful sources. Unfortunately they have a common blindspot. The key variable in human systems is the leadership’s capcity to create a climate where hierarchy provides structure (who is responsible for what, who decides what) but doesn’t fuel fear. Fear is natural in a hierarchy (call it caution, if you are more comfortable with that), and it takes intentional and consistant behavior to reduce it so that relible information flows. This requires leaders with high EQ and a rational knowledge of the emotional nature of human systems.

INPO recognizes this blindspot in their human performance coaching to the US industry, and is embarking on a leadership development program. Unfortunately I’m afraid it will be primarily a traditional classroom approach. One doesn’t learn about and change how the manage emotion by reading about it or listening to theory. Some of that sets the stage, but the reliable path to learning about EQ is through dissecting the emotions in one’s own interactions. This takes live unscripted interaction with skilled guidance and coaching. I helped deliver that type of learning to PECO Nuclear for years, but it is little known or understood in the rest of the industry.

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