If they’re not giving you safety, it’s because you’re not giving them what they want.
To paraphrase a quote, the secret to getting what you want is to help enough other people get what they want. Zig Ziglar said that. He wasn’t wrong. Help enough other people get a win for themselves and they are more likely to help you get your win.
It seems like your people don't care about safety, but they do. Yes, your people do care about safety. They just don't care the way you care about it, because they see safety differently than you do.
Everyone cares about something. However, what's appealing and motivating to you is not always appealing and motivating to someone else. Your goals for safety improvement may be important to you, but your people need to have a benefit in working harder to reach those goals.
Asking which traits make a good safety leader is like asking which auto parts make the best car.
A question was posed by a safety person asking what are the traits that make up safety leaders? Asking which traits make a good safety leader is like asking which auto parts make the best car. Is it parts that make a customer choose BMW over a Mercedes or a Dodge Ram over a Chevy Silverado? Nope. Not parts. It’s the whole package.
A car is tangible. You can see it, touch it, smell it, hear it and drive it. It is a thing you control when you are behind the wheel. Leadership, of the safety variety, is much the same except you can’t see it, touch it, smell it or hear it. But you can drive it.
Having a collection of car parts on your front lawn is useless. Having those parts assembled by a skilled technician is what makes it a car. Leadership traits mean nothing unless assembled by a skilled technician. Then, the collection of parts must be driven by a proficient driver.
Leadership is not a position. It is an attitude. Management is the position. One has nothing to do with the other. Safety too is an attitude. It is a state of mind and a way of living your life.
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.
Leadership is not forced or thrust upon anyone. It’s voluntary. And personal safety leadership builds great teams.
A commitment to teamwork and safety. It’s all you need to go from newbie or lowly front-liner to leader. To become a safety leader requires a commitment to the welfare of your teammates. You can't build a strong team without caring about the safety of the members of the team. In this way, you can use safety build leadership in safety and teamwork.
While it might be easy enough (with applied work) to lift yourself up from the front-line to leader in the real world, the safety world hasn't been terribly well-equipped for it. It has been focused on compliance, following rules and filling out paperwork; all treated very scientifically and meticulously.
Historically, it’s been all business. Add a top-down model of management and you have a system that doesn’t look particularly attractive to want to buy-in to. Where's the teamwork? you might ask. While the focus in on processes and procedures and rules, there is little of the “person” in personal safety.
When people engage in these four things at your safety meeting, they will buy-in to safety.
Safety meetings started out as a legal requirement. You had to have them, they had to be recorded and the subject matter had to satisfy the Code. But nowhere does it state that you can’t add items to the safety meeting or that you can’t have fun and to speak-up in the meetings.
Companies buy templates for their safety meetings that are white-bread and innocuous because they’ve been dumbed-down to appeal to as many industries as possible. But generic safety meetings that talk about safety reports, inspections, incident reports, processes, procedures and protocols while numbing the mind with text-laden PowerPoint slides don’t build safety buy-in.
Employees don’t buy-in to the safety program because it is presented as a set of rules and policies. Employees resist anyone who appears to want to force them to comply. And it's tough for employees to warm up to someone who incessantly talks about procedures, processes, inspections and incidents. (Sure, it's important but not engaging in a conversational way). When your safety meetings are a re-hash of everything they've already heard on PPE, driving, lockouts and slips-trips-falls, you're going to lose their attention - and desire to want to warm up to safety.
As a safety leader, more doors open, more options are available and the longer you are likely to live.
My Blog post, Safety Cop Or Safety Leader got a lot of traffic and created much discussion. Some safety people found themselves inadvertently standing on the wrong side of the conversation. But, as Dr. Phil says, you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge.
To become a safety leader, you have to first understand what safety leadership is not: it is not safety management. Since there is no requirement to be in management to be a leader, then it only makes sense that you don’t have to be in safety management to be a safety leader.
Safety leadership is not just for those with a title. Safety leaders can be found on the front-lines too. They are willing to coach and inspire better safety performance through mosty, their example. You see, being a leader starts with being willing to go first. The first person to do something is the leader. Everyone else follows. But to go from safety person to safety leader, requires a mindset shift.
So with that in mind, let's explore six mindset shifts that can cause you to become a better safety leader:
Leadership has nothing to do with management. Safety leadership, therefore, has nothing to do with safety management. You don’t have to be in management to be a leader.
Leadership is not a position. It is an attitude - management is the position. One has nothing to do with the other. Safety too is an attitude. It is a state of mind and a way of living your life. Safety is the result. Safely is the choice in every moment of every day. Those with a safety leadership attitude, will choose to do the job safely in every moment.
Companies are waking up to the fact that people who blindly follow orders on a job site still get hurt. Helping people to connect with their own leadership abilities can help people to think more clearly on the job. It is for this reason that in the workplace, safety is fast-becoming the new leadership.
Safety management is a paid position. Safety leadership is voluntary - yet infinitely more rewarding.
It’s time to take stock of where you are in your safety career and to find ways to tweak, adjust and fine-tune your performance. There is, in this post, already an assumption that you’re up to date on legislation, rules and procedures. If you’re missing that part, you can add those items to this list. But I don’t want to discuss your knowledge of safety. I want to help make you a better safety leader.
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.