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.
Don’t waste your one-on-one time with your people enforcing rules.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. When employees buy-in to safety, you don’t need to police them anymore. Where you once spent a great deal of time on enforcement, you can now replace with coaching and mentoring. Trust me when I say, coaching and mentoring is infinitely more satisfying.
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.
We have the best people and the best safety processes more than ever, so you have to wonder why we are still hurting people?
For 50 years, safety has been promoted as being all about rules, processes, regulations, paperwork, inspections, reporting. We’ve organized a lot of meetings, and talked far too much about rules, and we’ve endured death by Powerpoint, and tried to get traction on the cutesy slogans, and tired, worn-out clichés. Oh, sure we've developed some new technology but mostly to make it easier to pencil-whip checklists and file reports. There’s not much that has been developed to make safety more engaging, and inspiring, and motivating.
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.
The one thing that will connect continuous-cash-flow, long-term investments and legacy, is safety. Without safety, everything is at risk.
The safety department complains that it’s difficult to get workers to buy-in to safety. Employees resist buying-in to a program of checks, forms and paperwork. Especially the paperwork.
Safety meetings, rewards, recognition and paperwork are important. Indeed. Each plays a role in the safety culture-building plan. But to build a successful safety program requires a foundation of employee buy-in. Without it, you will be feeding the monster (spending large amounts of money) and never achieve the desired success.
To change that, go to Leadership 101; basic values-based conversations with employees. Coach employees to see that their own long-term goals and the company’s long-term goals are the same. The values are the same. Then, show them how safety is the tool that gets them from where they are (in the present) to where they want to be (in the future). Safety is the insurance to protect the future.
Here are three compelling conversations for supervisors and safety people to have with their crews one-on-one. The purpose of these conversations is to influence better buy-in to safety:
Solid and effective safety leaders make people proud of who they work with and inspire them to want to be better.
I watched a firefighter tear up at being called a hero this week. Then, he displayed class and leadership in his response. And I was captivated and engaged and proud … and I don’t even know him.
The Fort McMurray wildfire brought out the best in so many. It continues to do so. Captain Adam Budgen of the Fort McMurray Fire Department, after being asked in a TV interview about how he feels about being called a hero, responded to the question.
“I don’t consider myself a hero. But I’ve met more heroes in this experience than I ever thought existed. (Pause to wipe his eyes) Our community right now has more firefighters and more first responders, police, everybody, that have given up their own homes (in other communities) that are safe, their own families that are waiting for them, to come up (to Fort McMurray) in the middle of this beast to help protect my home. They’re heroes to me. (Pause to wipe his eyes) Everybody I work with has been holding me up and I’ve been holding them up. So I am in the company of heroes.”
There are just some inspiring moments in the deepest, darkest adversity. That thirty-seconds of sound bite provided reflection. There are three compelling things that leaders, including safety leaders, do to get results:
Front-line employees can have leadership abilities without having a title.
Call it a pet peeve but please stop using the word leadership to describe management. We have all worked for a manager who had no leadership skills. You don’t call those people your leader. You call them your boss. Leadership and management have little to do with each other. Besides, front-line employees can have leadership abilities too - without having a title.
You don’t have to be in management to be a leader. Besides, peer-leadership is sometimes far more effective when it comes to getting fellow employees to safety-up. Positive safety peer-pressure can make work-sites more safety-conscious than management intervention.
Safety certification and titles don’t make you a leader. Position doesn’t make you a leader. That’s good news for front-line employees. There’s no monopoly on leadership. Employees can be leaders just as easily as anyone else. It's influence, demeanor, conscientiousness and selflessness that makes leaders. Leadership is a mindset - how you approach your role in the world. Leadership, natural leadership, doesn’t need courses or schooling. Leadership is not something you get in exchange for money.
Employees make decisions daily that are either in alignment or out of alignment with the safety program. You can be a leader in your own life in safety - or you can take your orders from the boss.
Employees may know logically that safety is the right choice. But, it is the story of why you choose safety that is more compelling to others.
What’s your story? Everyone has a story about the time they made the decision to jump on the safety bandwagon. Everyone has a story of why safety is important to them. Some of those stories may be as the result of suffering a workplace injury. Some may be of losing a friend or family member. Some may be from a realization from something someone said that affected them at an emotional level. But before most people choose safety as one of their personal values, there is usually a story. Unfortunately, most stories are sad.
Why People Choose
Ask someone why they choose a retirement savings plan. You will hear stories of wanting freedom in retirement, to travel, to see the world, to enjoy grandkids, etc. They are not sad stories. They are stories the come from caring about family and loved ones. They also want financial independence.
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.