Your favorite high-school teacher and the best boss you ever had have given you all of the clues you will ever need to become more influential in leading your people in safety. But what clues did they leave you? And how will you know which of the things they did will help you be a better leader in safety?
Well, let’s start with your favorite boss. Out of all of the bosses you’ve ever had in your lifetime, what is it that makes this particular boss best? Was it particular character traits, mannerisms, the way they spoke to you, the way they approached meetings or coaching sessions? Was it the way they seemed to be focused on your success more than their own? Was it a gem of an idea or observation that you will carry with you as a real learning moment for the rest of your life? They are your favorite for a reason.
Now, think about the best teacher you ever had and compare that person to the best boss you ever had. Study your favorite teacher for the same clues as your best boss. Where are they similar? Think about how each of them talked to you, coached you, valued you and pushed you to be a little better. The way they made you the center of the conversations with them. The way they connected with you.
It will be no surprise to learn that the things your best boss did and the things your favorite teacher did were closely related. There are things that people do for us that we enjoy, and we warm up to. You have responded positively to the positive influences in your life. You remember those positive influences fondly and are probably grateful for the mark they made on you. How does that affect you in helping your people come to safety more easily? Read on and watch the video below.
Learn from past examples
Now that you’re in a position to lead others, ask yourself if you are being that kind of teacher and that kind of boss for someone else?
There’s a huge difference between being a leader and being the boss. To be a boss, all you need is a title or a position over others in an organization. You don’t necessarily need authority (as many a supervisor has discovered when they’ve tried to exercise it). You just need a title, position and little talent to enforce rules. That’s why so many focus on rules enforcement. Employees can’t argue with the rules.
But to be a leader, you need respect and trust before you will ever have influence. Without influence, you will never capture hearts and minds in safety. People won’t follow someone they will not allow to influence them.
So how are you doing with developing influence with your own team? Right now, your people are a direct reflection of their immediate supervisor. If you are having a tough time connecting with them and gaining their trust, then the issue probably isn’t them.
What you need to become a leader of influence.
If you want to become a leader of influence, you need to focus on building trust, and respect by connecting at a deeper level with your team. Employees will be more willing to do safety better when they feel safe and valued by their supervisor.
Your people want to learn from an effective leader. They will barely tolerate a bad boss. So, ask yourself, which one will you be?
- Be the best boss ever – for someone. Make the decision right now to be the kind of leader that in ten or twenty years from now, at least one employee will say, that you were the best boss they ever had. Nothing happens until you make that one decision. But once you make the decision, you begin to shift your legacy. And every day, you add another building block to how you will be remembered. Be remembered for the positive contribution you made to your team. And help them want to take your example and emulate it.
- Forget about what you think you need from the job. If you truly want to get great reward from your work and to be recognized for your work, make your work all about making sure your people get what they need. Forget about what you need. Focus on giving your people what they need, and you will get what you need. The real, true leaders spend their days trying to replace themselves. When you really think about it, that’s what makes them so valuable to an organization.
- Focus down where you can make a difference. Get your nose out of the politics going on above you and move your focus onto your people. You can’t punch the weather. There are some things you can control but most things you don’t. So focus on the things you can influence – your team. Protect your team and insulate them as best you can from the politics and things that will affect team harmony. At the front-line, the only thing that should matter to you is making sure your team stays focused on task, and that they are willing to look out for each other.
Kevin Burns, consultant and author, works with smart, caring companies to energize safety culture, build teamwork, and get employee buy-in. Kevin is on a mission to help employees purposefully care about the work they do and to actively look out for the people they do it with. He is the author of, PeopleWork: The Human Touch in Workplace Safety - the book that is changing how companies do safety. He is based in Calgary, Alberta.