Kate Cairns on CultureLab

Audio production by James Ede, Be Heard

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It takes but one person, one moment, one conviction, to start a ripple of change. - Donna Brazile

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Witnessing injustice, incompetence, indifference or tragedy is hard. Occasionally we get so upset and angry that we take a stand and openly speak up against what we believe is wrong.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media are flooded with words of righteous indignation coming from good people like you and me. And it's important that we do speak up because, as Kate Cairns said in our interview:

It takes just one person to break groupthink. You can be that person.

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But here’s the problem - sometimes our words are not enough.

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To change things for the better, someone has to DO something.

And often that “someone” is not the government, not the policymakers, not the boss, not even the person whose job it is to make it right- it’s us.

As Kate says in the interview,

We need ACTIONS, not just words.

In 2009, Kate lost her sister, Eilidh to a tragic road incident. She was run down by a tipper lorry while she was cycling to work.

When this tragedy struck, Kate somehow managed to suppress her shock and anger and launched an investigation into what actually happened. She needed to understand - why did her sister have to die?

What she uncovered was a major, systemic issue involving the construction industry, the legal system, the police, and the assumptions regular people made.

The issue that Kate uncovered still leads to more than 400 deaths per year, just in the UK alone.

And so Kate decided to do something about it.

When I asked Kate what she has to say to people who feel powerless to improve their environment, she said:

Be brave and never think that you cannot have an impact. It has always been a few brave people that changed the world.

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Episode highlights

In this episode, I deconstruct Kate’s influencing strategy that resulted in policy change and new standards in sustainability (CEEQUAL) and construction logistics safety (CLOCS).

The key elements of Kate’s approach to making a culture change:

  • Believe that you are enough
  • Rally the right supporters
  • Get in the slipstream of something else
  • Choose your battles
  • Be the change and do what’s right
  • Act locally, create ripples of change globally

In this episode, we also talk about other important issues, such as inclusivity. As a woman in an industry that still lacks diversity, Kate is on a mission to help create a more inclusive, diverse world.

She says:

Inclusion is about togetherness and putting yourself in other people’s shoes to understand what their experience is like.

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Listen to the interview in the player below, or on iTunes. If you like what you hear, please leave a review and it may be featured on a future episode.

 

Learn more about Kate Cairns

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Kate grew up on the wild beaches of the north of England bestowing her with a love of the ocean, an excitement in extreme environments, and a deep respect for the strength and fragility of the planet.
 
Throughout her career, she has held multiple profession roles - a chartered civil engineer, chartered environmentalist, sustainability advisor and professional speaker. Kate specializes in safe, sustainable and responsible business practices in the construction and logistics sectors. She has instigated new industry standards in sustainability and construction logistics safety.

Kate is a strong advocate and powerful speaker and has brought about a change in law and policy at a European, national and local level.  She has won several industry awards and become known as a game-changer in her field. She constantly challenges the status quo working with progressive clients to build a more inclusive workforce and drive culture change within the construction industry and beyond.

Connect with Kate on LinkedIn

 

Sometimes all it takes is to get the ear of someone who has the ear of someone with influence.

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Books and links mentioned on this episode

The Prince - Niccolò Machiavelli

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou

The Wisdom of Crowds - James Surowiecki

A Good Time to be a Girl - Helena Morrissey

 

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