Leadership insight: Lucy Fell, health, safety and wellbeing director, Highways England
Fell says that the most important characteristic of a safety and health leader is to have a lot of empathy for people who do the job.
“It’s no good for me to write a 100-page document for road traffic officers that advises on climbing over the [motorway] barrier, for example,” she says. “That’s not going to work at 2am in the rain, is it? I have to think about how it will work and ask the people doing the job and work with them and be pragmatic.”
She adds that it is also about influencing others to secure their commitment. “I know people think with the HSE you go round saying, ‘You’ve got to do that because I’ve got a warrant’, but there’s a lot of influencing that goes on beside enforcement and [a lot of] translating the law into understandable language.”
Another priority is to ensure that the team supporting a leader has a variety of skills and aptitudes. “We are very different in our backgrounds and experiences,” she says of her team.
Wherever she has worked she has embraced continuing professional development opportunities and sought to plug gaps in her understanding, latterly aided by IOSH’s Blueprint framework. Finance and budgeting is one example. “It’s quite complicated in Highways England when we are looking at project financing. You are looking at huge figures and we are not for profit, so it was an area I needed to improve in.”
She has also accepted offers of mentoring and coaching, including from Highways England non-executive director Elaine Holt who chairs the safety committee. Fell says mentors in each of her jobs have helped her develop confidence and gravitas and learn how to influence executive boards. In turn, she now mentors those coming through the ranks.
“I think it’s really important people have reflective practice and look at what they need to develop, not just technical skills. I think that’s been key to my success,” she says.
Read IOSH Magazine’s full interview with Lucy Fell: https://www.ioshmagazine.com/article/lucy-fell-highways-england