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Find your Why to Lead in Safety

Sue Chennell - Wednesday, February 08, 2017
  • As a ten year old, sitting in the Festival Theatre in Adelaide next to my Mum, I remember being transfixed by the poise, grace and power of the ballet dancers we had a yearly subscription to see. Instead of watching their costumes I was absorbed in their bodies and physicality. Without a doubt this led me to being a physiotherapist, later an ergonomist and in recent times a health and safety consultant. Lately I’ve been thinking about these ballet dancers as I consider WHY I’m in this profession. 
  • Simon Sinek (and his third most watched TED talk of all time) probably prompted it but I’m sure my curious 3 year old who asks me WHY about 37 times a day is the main reason.
  • As a health and safety professional or someone in an organisation responsible for it, it is really worth considering Sinek’s concept of ‘Starting with WHY’ and applying it to our roles to lead and influence.
  • Sinek found that all effective and inspiring leaders and organisations think, act and communicate in the same way... and it is the complete opposite from everyone else. He talks about the Sinek talks about the ‘Golden Circles and that effective leaders communicate from the ‘inside out’. Rather than starting with the ‘what’s’ and ‘hows’ and bamboozling with data and initiatives they start from why they do what they do, their cause, purpose or belief. ‘WHY’ provides a clear answer to the questions, “Why do you get out of bed every morning?",“Why does WHS even exist in your organisation?” and “Why should that matter to anyone else?”






Your purpose, cause or belief.

Your contribution.

Your inspiration


you create, make or

provide your service,

your strengths




your product, service

or day to day activities






  • The ‘WHY’ inspires. How? Well this bit hit a cord with my scientific side. A cross section of our brain lines up nicely with the Golden Circles. Our neocortex or homeosapien brain is responsible for all rational and analytical thought and language (think the what and the how). Our limbic brain, which is responsible for all feelings, all human behavior and decision-making and trust and loyalty, aligns with the WHY.
  •  "Stories are so powerful because they convert data into pictures and feelings which our brains are hard wired to receive” Andrew Hopkins 

    • As WHS professionals I think we are really good at communicating from the outside-in; we tell people what we do (provide a healthy and safe environment?) and how we’ll do it (work on leadership, manage risks, consult and train?). But if we don’t understand our own WHY for being in our roles then how do we drive decision-making and behavior in others? The critical component of our roles.

                  “People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it” Simon Sinek

      Could tapping clearly into out WHY lead us to have more inspiration, excitement and effectiveness in our roles?

      Could it inspire and excite others? I think so, because we do see it happen.

      Whilst health and safety professionals come from varies backgrounds I do think our WHYs are probably of a similar vein. Think about your organisation’s WHY for health and safety. Do you even know it (and my opinion is that creating a healthy and safety environment is definitely in the ‘WHAT'/'HOW' category!)? It doesn’t have to be the same but is it compatible with yours?

      Are you hiring health and safety professionals or looking for a new role? Getting clear about your and potential employees’ authentic WHY about what we do can only be a good thing. 
      So what’s my WHY you might ask? I am super clear that it is to maximise human and organisational potential. And even my 3 year old seems OK with that one.

      I had the pleasure of presenting ‘Your WHY: Influence and Lead in WHS’ at the recent 4th Women in Safety Leadership Summit in Sydney. If you’d like more information or just to chat about your ‘WHY’ please do get in touch. 

    • Further information from Simon Sinek can be found here Start with Why

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