Focus to Curb Safety Complacency

Focus on building an elite team to beat complacency.

Let’s talk about a surefire way to make you far more effective as a leader and to reduce the chance of complacency sneaking in. Focus down. When you focus down, you concern yourself with only your team’s needs. Focus down is not a derogatory term meant to imply your team are beneath you. Focus down means “head down” and focus on the people who need you. Leaders who focus down concern themselves with only their team and making sure their team gets the leader’s full attention.

Does it matter to your front-line crew that the long-time manager in Accounting doesn't seem terribly motivated for safety? Or that the new VP of Marketing doesn't seem to share your passion for safety? No, it doesn't. Because to concern yourself with the people outside of your purview, your areas of responsibility, means you are not focused on your team. You are allowing yourself to be distracted.

Elite level coaches don't get distracted.

What would happen if a sports team coach started concerning himself with other departments in the middle of a crucial playoff game? Soon, the players would also lose their focus and the game would be lost. Elite level coaches are concerned only with what is happening in this moment and how the coach can help his players win.

As a supervisor or safety person, what you need to be most concerned with is whether or not your crew of good people are getting their work done, doing what they can to make the department look good and doing it the safe way because they have a personal mission to look after each other. Regardless of what may be happening elsewhere in the organization, an elite level coach and team have a singular focus. And nowhere, is there any room left for complacency to sneak in.

When a group of employees becomes an elite team, other employees and departments want to be more like them. And an employee given the chance to be on the elite team doesn’t show up to de-motivate the team, to put in just enough effort to not get fired or to bring down the morale of the team by taking shortcuts with safety. Because elite performers already demonstrate their willingness to play at a high level before they are invited to join the elite team. They already have the right mindset, the right attitude and the right training to be able to seamlessly slip into a new position on the elite team.

Complacency doesn’t stand a chance when the elite team is always raising the performance bar.

PeopleWork buy now on Amazon Now, the here’s the gut-check question: are you an elite level leader?

Are you clear on your purpose and maintaining the high standards and performance of the team in front of you? Elite level leaders don't concern themselves with meddling in other departments or blaming a senior manager’s lack of safety commitment. Because it doesn't affect your team or their focus unless you make it their focus.

Be an elite level leader. Look after the people on your team. Give them the skills, the training, the coaching and the motivation to do the job at an elite level - beyond what any other department can. Focus down directly to your people who deserve your best and your full attention. And then, let the other departments and crews change their own commitment to safety based on the example you set with your elite level team.


Kevin Burns is a management consultant, internal safety communications strategist and author. His most recent book, PeopleWork: The Human Touch in Workplace Safety, is changing how companies do safety.

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Topics: safety leadership, safety culture, safety complacency