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.
Are you meeting the needs of your people in safety meetings?
How many times have you seen presenters, with 10 minutes of solid information, stretch it into a 90-minute presentation? How does that happen? Here’s how. The person organizing the safety meeting is trying to fill blocks of time instead of developing content that will make a difference to their people.
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.
Great safety performance doesn't happen by accident (pardon the pun). Well, it can happen for a little while by accident but it cannot sustain. There needs to be a wholistic approach taken to safety. Ensuring that front line supervisors get decent management and supervisory skills can create better performance. Add solid, interactive safety meetings, and safety messaging that builds a positive reinforcement of safety and you build better motivation for employees to want to be involved.
But, where does buy-in start? It starts in the relationship between employee and direct supervisor or safety person. In almost every instance, once an employee buys-in to their immediate boss, they are more likely to buy-in to what their boss is saying. When an employee has developed respect for their immediate boss, they are more willing to be influenced by that person. We allow ourselves to be influenced by the voices of those people we respect.
Supervisors without trust and respect are neither trusted nor respected. It's tough to convince people that safety is good for them if you don't have the employee's trust and respect. You have no influence without trust and respect. You may have authority but that doesn't translate into influence.
Group meetings called to address and fix individual behaviors is dangerous. That's like trying to address one person's time management skills by forcing the entire staff into a time management course. It punishes those who are doing it right, it demotivates the rest of the staff and it makes people want to hate safety.
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.
Stop discussing the negatives of not being safe. Instead, focus on the positives of buying-in to safety.
Ask employees about how they perceive the safety program and they will most likely answer that it's dull, boring, repetitive, mind-numbing, disengaging, and it tries to scare you into compliance. That's because safety has been focused on following rules and avoiding injury or accidents. But like everything else in life, safety evolves.
Sure, there is still an expectation of meeting the minimum standards of safety. But, that's the least that the law will allow you to do. If the focus is to achieve the minimum standard, you are chasing compliance - the standard that you are not allowed to fall below. And when safety programs are focused only on achieving the minimum, that's where the organization will live.
As organizations are becoming more people-centric, they are integrating people-development programs. You cannot develop your people without including safety. The best-managed companies and employers-of-choice still value a profit but not at the expense of their good people. They are organizations that attract the best employees and hang onto them. As I say regularly, the best place to work is always the safest place to work.
The best employees are attracted to workplaces that focus on achieving positives, more than just avoiding negatives. The best workplaces have a plan to make the experience of working there a positive one.
Here are the four most important ways to focus your safety program on positives:
Data is not how you build a safety culture. Leadership is.
Safety is about preparedness - yet most times even the safety meeting does not meet that standard. How many times have you seen your own safety meetings get thrown together at the last minute? This does not inspire confidence from employees. If the organizer is not engaged in delivering an engaging safety meeting, attendees won't engage either. Why would they?
Employees take their cues, not so much from what you say in meetings, but from what you do with them and your level of conviction about safety. As motivational speaker, Larry Winget, once said: "When you stand in front of a group of people, they won't care what you have to say. In fact most won't even believe what you have to say. But they'll be checking you out to see if you believe what you have to say."
In other words, you need conviction when it comes to organizing and executing the safety program - especially the meetings. If you don't have convictions about both the value of the program outside of the rules (the content and discussion points) and the purpose (the outcome - what you want them to do with the information), you will have a hard time getting employees to engage.
If you want to engage employees to participate in the safety program and to own safety as one of their guiding principles, you have to give them what they want.
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.
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.