What if instead of guilt and fear and manipulation tactics, you simply cared?
When you really think about it, there are only two main ways to get people to join in your safety program and for them to buy-in to the idea of safety: you can either manipulate or inspire. Either you pull on the heartstrings to try to guilt them into following rules, or you help them flip that internal switch that kicks-in their motivation and fires up their personal leadership capacity. Before you decide, know this: manipulation does not create leaders.
Focus on the plan to improve the things you're not already doing. Not the goal.
Once upon a time, in the mid-90’s, I was working in a sales job. At the start of each month, our sales manager would assemble all the sales reps in a room and ask each of us for our specific sales goal for the month. He wasn't asking us what our plan was to make more sales. He was asking for a number.
What if your "one thing" was to make a difference?
There are no such things as priorities. You can have a priority; one. But you can’t have more than one priority. Besides, it’s not a priority if it competes for attention with other priorities. You can have a lot of things that are important, or urgent or critical. But there is room for only one priority. It is that one priority that you can build a company, an ideal or a movement around.
A safety system by itself doesn't make the organization any safer.
Driving instructors have a system for teaching people to drive. Sports coaches have a system for improving player performance. Almost everything in this world has a system. There’s even a system for generating your paycheck. But, the system doesn't pay out unless someone tells it to.
To improve employee participation in the safety program, clear communications are key.
If you are going to communicate something in safety, what do you want to have happen? How exactly do you want your people to participate?
Informing people isn’t enough anymore. Your people are already bombarded with, on average, four thousand marketing messages each day. Everywhere they look, they are getting access to another message – competing with your safety message - even as recently as this morning.
But let's say that you are above-average in compelling and engaging your people’s attention during a morning safety meeting, as soon as they leave the meeting, they are faced with hundreds more messages that all compete for attention. So, to combat this, you have to be clear.
If you want people to care about safety, you have to first care about them.
I was working with a group of minesite supervisors and we were discussing the needs of employees and how a supervisor can make sure that employee needs were being met. I asked this question: how can you show your employees that, as supervisors, you care?
Here are some of the responses:
Give good communication
Improve your listening skills
Be respectful of their needs
Engage them in problem-solving
Recognize employees for their good work
Take a time-out with employees
Help employees to re-focus
Show support for your people especially when they need it.
All good answers. In fact, a lot of necessary answers. But the answer that wasn’t mentioned was, perhaps, too obvious. It is the one thing that supervisors, managers, safety people, executives, and even fellow workers must do to show their fellow employees that they care.
Ever thought about how to make mission, vision and purpose statements more powerful and to help improve safety doing it? Even more powerful than a corporate mission statement is a crew mission statement. Kind of like a team purpose or plan that galvanizes the crew members.
Safety leadership is about putting leadership skills into the hands of the people who are responsible for safety.
What’s that got to do with me? That is one of the first questions you ask yourself before you commit to doing something, or volunteering for something. You want to see the direct benefit back to you. Even in charitable giving you get a win. That’s why you do it.
Employees respond better to those things in their work where they can see the benefit of their own full participation. Show the employee his or her win and you will get their engagement. Safety is included in that.
Cut through the clutter
Everyone is busy. There are more than enough people asking for your attention and making demands on you each day. You have to be picky about the things that you give your attention to. You do not have an unlimited amount of energy or time. That’s why books and videos and articles and videos on safety get your attention. You have responsibilities in safety. You want resources that help you perform better at safety. Easy peasy. You pick the resources that speak directly to what you’re trying to do. There’s a win for you.
Without management’s public endorsement of safety you can still build a strong safety culture.
It doesn’t happen often. But occasionally, I get a call to help out in convincing a few key members of the senior management team of safety’s importance. The first question I ask is whether the senior managers are actively preventing employees from buying-in to the safety program or purposely undermining the safety program in any way? No is always the answer.
And so, we discuss options to improve teamwork in safety at the front-line, build a more robust safety culture at the front-line and make the safety program more attractive for senior managers to want to be part of it.
Senior management does not need to be gushing about their undying support of safety in order for safety to become more prominent. Don't worry that senior management does not appear to be supporting safety. Without management’s public endorsement of safety you can still build a strong safety culture. Oh, sure, it might be easier to get buy-in from employees if management is on-board. But it’s not impossible. It’s just going to take a little more work.
Why aren’t production and safety working out of the same office yet? Start with the common ground between safety and production.
Companies associate the success of operations with efficiency, productivity and profits. And it's easy to measure. In safety, success is determined by a complex formula ending in TRIR rates and with the prevention of occupational injury and illness. How do you make these two necessary parts of a company work together if they are not even measuring the same things?
Production and safety blame the other for either slowing work down. Safety gets compromised when there is a push on for greater production. Operations blame safety for slowing down production. Neither wants to be wrong. Both want to be right.
(Note: if you still believe that safety holds up production, you are probably in the wrong job.)
Why aren’t production and safety measuring success the same way let alone working out of the same office? And whose bright idea was it to let the two coexist separately? In order for production/operations and safety to work better together, they have to first establish the common ground. Neither side wants to see anyone get hurt and both sides want the company to have success. That is the common ground.
In PeopleWork, Kevin Burns presents his M4 Method of people-centered management for safety. Practical, how-to steps that frontline supervisors and safety people can master to promote a relationship-based culture focused on mentoring, coaching, and inspiring teams.