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4 Key Things Effective Safety Supervisors Know

Exceptional performance is always noticed. Exceptional front-line performance in safety comes from effective supervisors.

supervisor01.jpgBusiness gets better when the people IN the business get better. In other words, nothing improves until the people tasked with doing the work improve. In order for there to be an improved result requires an improved effort. At the front of the line is the effective supervisor. Effective supervisors create loyalty and a positive team attitude among employees.

Knowing the rules of safety may be important. But that’s not enough if you want to improve the culture and performance. Effective supervisors understand that there is only safe production. Production is never separate from safety. Effective supervisors quickly rise above those who enforce only the rules.

There are far too many people in safety pushing rules, processes and procedures. There are too few who have the skills to help employees perform better in safety. Anyone can be a safety cop. Not many have the skills to be an effective supervisor.

If any part of your job includes overseeing any aspect of safety, this is for you. Here are the four most important things you need to know about being an effective supervisor in your safety position:

1Effective supervisors know that competence is not enough. Competence is the level you are trained to. Excellence is a personal choice beyond that. Beyond knowing the rules, effective supervisors bring skills to the job that catapult them ahead of others. Without effective communication skills, supervisors may be competent but not exceptional. Safety certification doesn’t guarantee anyone the skills to effectively communicate what they’ve learned. To be an effective supervisor, one must get better at communication, mentoring and coaching. Effective supervisors help employees to find their own motivation to do safety voluntarily. That’s a special set of skills - valuable and effective ones at that.

2Effective supervisors put employees ahead of themselves. Staff don’t work for supervisors. Effective supervisors know that they really work for staff. A baseball manager is not responsible for hitting the ball, fielding the ball or running the bases. The players do that. The manager’s job is to put his players in a position to win. That’s the role of effective supervisors: to put their players in a position to win. Effective supervisors are able to give the instruction, inspiration and motivation that employees need. Effective supervisors offer development, focus, inspiration and the motivation employees need to excel. They don’t give them just enough to avoid getting injured and to pencil-whip the paperwork. Effective supervisors are like coaches - the good ones, not the losing ones.

3Effective supervisors know that titles don’t get respect. The person holding the title gets the respect - or not. Supervisors become effective when they are considerate, approachable and maintain a positive attitude. How you communicate, how you treat your crew, and how you inspire them matters. How you recognize their strengths and achievements matters too. You don’t get respect because you passed your certification. You don’t get respect because of the position you hold. Effective supervisors get respect because they make people feel like they matter. You get respect because you give respect. You get respect because you earn it and because people would miss you if you were gone. Until you care about them, they won’t care about you; the job or your title.

4Effective supervisors know that employees will engage in safety when supervisors engage them. Effective supervisors value the employees. Employees, when they feel valued, improve their engagement and performance. It’s tough for employees to continue to give high-level performance when they don’t feel that their work is valued. Effective supervisors know that the best way to engage employees is to help them feel like they matter. You can’t just talk about paperwork and inspections and expect that employees will feel valued. Effective supervisors ask their crews to get involved. Effective supervisors help their crew members to voluntarily raise their own bar for performance. They treat each member of the crew as a good person trying to do the right things in safety. Effective supervisors ask for their input and ideas. They involve them and engage them.

New Call-to-action Effective supervisors focus on the needs and performance of their immediate crew. It has been said that people don’t leave a job, they leave their immediate supervisor. Truthfully, even in a tough safety culture, a good and effective supervisor can create a loyal crew. If an effective supervisor were to leave the company, it's very likely that the crew would follow. The example for others to follow is set by the good crews, the tight crews, the exceptional players. Exceptional performance is always noticed. Exceptional front-line performance in safety comes from effective supervisors.

Kevin Burns is a management consultant, safety speaker and author of "The Perfect Safety Meeting" and his newest #1 Amazon Health & Safety Bestseller, "Running With Scissors - 10 Reasons To Invest in Safety In Slow Times." He is an expert in how to get through to people - how to talk with them so they hear and understand. Kevin's presentation "Trust The Process - Instill A Safety Attitude To Build An Engaged Culture Of Safety" will help your organization reach the following goals: better engagement and buy-in to safety, increased teamwork, better communication, lower turnover resulting in increased profits from production.

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Topics: safety leadership, kevin burns, safety culture, safety supervisor