Safety Only Needs Ten Percent Buy-in

054BlogThumbYou don’t need more rules and procedures in safety. You need more people to buy-in to what you are trying to do in safety. That is a very different issue. And it requires a different set of skills to capture hearts and minds of employees in safety.

If you’ve adopted a leadership mindset, then you will have already spent time envisioning what needs fixing in your safety program. Without spending time to assess what’s wrong, you can’t possibly improve your program. Without a vision of where you would like to end up, you’ll stay stuck right where you are.

You may say that you have a vision for safety. But if you spend most of your day checking boxes, that’s not vision. You don’t need talent to check boxes. You don’t need leadership skills. Anyone can do it. Far too many do. Instead, vision is about seeing clearly where you want to end up, developing a plan to get you there and then executing that plan. Every. Single. Day.

The 2-sales rule.

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Selling a vision to your people, selling yourself for promotion to your bosses, and selling a product to customers all employ the same mechanics. And in every sales situation, there are two sales made. The first is the salesperson successfully selling themselves. The second is whatever the salesperson is selling (product, idea, point-of-view, etc.). However, you will not buy what the salesperson is selling if you don’t like them or trust them. If they don’t make the first sale, themselves, they won’t make the second.

In safety, you must have a vision for what the future looks like when everyone is firing on all cylinders. If you don’t have a clear vision of where you are going, how is anyone else supposed to buy-in to your plan? If you can’t see it, they can’t see it either. Without vision, you’re just checking boxes and meeting minimums.

Truthfully, we buy-in to the person before we buy-in to what that person is saying. If you'd like to get started on improving buy-in from your team, then take the Free Preview of the Safety Communications & Coaching for Supervisors course. 40-minutes of video instruction, summary sheet download PDFs and a companion MP3 audio version to take with you on the go. And it's free to get started.

We buy-in to vision.

Employees don’t buy-in to someone who only spouts rules, procedures and numbers. But they will buy-in to someone with a vision. A vision that clearly communicates why we're here, what we're doing, and "why" it matters.

Your vision needs to include how you view your people. If you believe that they need to be tightly controlled for fear they will make a mistake, that is not a leadership vision. That’s not even good management and it makes for a lousy place to work.

We buy-in to the person before we buy-in to what that person is saying.

Leaders with vision want to help their people to get better in performance. Leaders know that when each member of the team gets better, the team excels. A good visionary safety leader wants to ensure that his or her people develop the skills (including their own vision) to become leaders themselves.

Vision starts with intent of ten percent.

In order to create a vision for your team, you must start from a place of intent. What is your intent for your team? What do you want to have happen? You say you want performance to improve but which parts? What is the plan that gets you better performance? Vision, without a plan, is daydreaming.

New call-to-action In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, he provided research from scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Their findings showed that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief in something, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. Not sometimes. Always.

This is good news if you’re trying to get buy-in to your safety vision. Once the percentage of people who buy-in to your safety vision rises above 10 percent, the idea begins to spread like wildfire. As long as the ten percent of your people hold firm to their belief, and they talk about it openly, the remaining opinions will gradually change and then, at some point, they will suddenly shift.

Companies can start shifting their safety cultures almost immediately after they have captured the hearts and minds of just ten percent of employees. It takes effort, commitment, an unshakable belief and a vision to hold onto. Once you get that critical 10% to care as passionately about safety as you do, the majority of employees will soon adopt the same point of view.

Ten percent is an easy number.

If you’re a hockey fan (and know that I am), it only takes two players in a team dressing room of 20 to get the rest of team pumped up. It takes only two players to stand in front of their teammates and to challenge them to believe that they can win. To get them focused and motivated to give their best. Two players out of twenty. Ten percent.

You are not trying to get the whole company to buy-in to your vision for safety. You only need ten percent.

Extrapolate those numbers to your own workplace. Got 50 employees? You need 5 people to hold your vision. You could probably already name those 5 people off the top of your head. Got 200 employees spread over ten departments? You need 2 people in each department to hold your vision. Again, you could probably name them off the top of your head.

You are not trying to get the whole company to buy-in to your vision for safety. You only need ten percent. Let the ten percent do their work and get you the rest of the organization.

Now, go get started. Share this post with your ten percent. Don’t hesitate. Then, talk about the vision for safety openly and often. Do not get discouraged. It’s worth your effort. Now forward the post (or copy and paste it into an email). Hit send.  

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Kevin Burns, consultant/author, works with smart, caring companies to energize safety culture, build teamwork, and get employee buy-in.

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Topics: safety leadership, safety buy-in