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Top 3 Reasons Safety People Fail To Become Leaders

You don’t instill a positive safety culture by settling for performance within the average.

The best organizations give world-class safety performance. They don't do it with a mediocre effort, mediocre standards or mediocre safety people. They do it by surpassing industry average targets, a focused engagement and with safety people on top of their games. They search out and employ supervisors and managers who set a higher standard for themselves. They seek out those who want to inspire their own crews to be better, to reach farther, to achieve at a higher level.

You don’t build championship teams by shooting right for the middle of industry averages. You don’t instill a positive safety culture by settling for performance within the average. If you want to lead, you have to do not just what others are not doing, but by doing what they’re not even prepared to do.

World-class safety is driven by having higher standards than the average. Higher standards drive a greater effort to set themselves apart. Greater effort is driven by high-performing safety people. World-class safety is not achieved by a mediocre effort, standards or people who don’t seek to be exceptional. Without exceptional people, you're shooting right for mediocrity. You will not, and I repeat, NOT get there by luck.

Not every safety person is a high-performer. There are below average and average performers. Then, there’s the top echelon; the elite - the leaders. Mediocre safety performers allow excuses to dictate their results. Elite performers, leaders, invest in themselves and their skills.

Safety leaders treat their careers like professional athletes do. They hone their skills. They attend the conferences. They read books. They go outside for resources that help. That includes more leadership skills, management training, communications classes/books. They take it personally when the company misses their targets. They invest themselves, no matter what the cost in time, effort and engagement with front-line crews.

Here are three reasons safety people fail to become leaders:

1They're satisfied with mediocrity. When your target is to achieve the industry average, you’re shooting for the middle of the pack. To hit the industry average takes only a few small tweaks and adjustments to the safety plan. It's easy. In fact, you can copy another company’s safety plans and come close to the average. Once within the average, there is little motivation to seek beyond that. Mediocrity takes over. This is where “good enough” lives. Unfortunately, once you hit the industry average, complacency usually follows. Where there is complacency, incidents occur. So, if you’re not growing, you’re falling behind. Leaders grow.

2They believe that someone else should pay to make them better. The company will train you to a level of competence. Excellence (elite), though, is a personal choice beyond that. You will be paid in direct proportion to what the market believes you are worth. You will be recruited and hired and laid-off in direct proportion to what the market believes you are worth. You must make a personal investment in yourself. Improve your management skills, your business acumen and your leadership ability. Otherwise, you will be picked for the mediocre positions. Leaders, meanwhile, get hired for the elite positions. Leaders get the ear of senior management. They become trusted advisers. They bring a new perspective to the job. It's a mix of safety knowledge, leadership, business and personal traits that shout “expert.” How do you become a leader? You invest and pay your own way into the elite performer category.

3They lack the skills and confidence to get personal. Mediocre performers rely on cerebral traits. That includes title, position, the H&S Code, the law, and guilt/manipulation to get compliance. Their safety meetings focus on reports, paperwork and procedures. Little effort is spent on appealing to employee engagement or motivation. Because they lack the skills. It is impossible for safety people who lack coaching and motivation skills to create a team of high-performers. Employees are not inspired by PowerPoint slides of inspection reports. Nor does guilt inspire (i.e. there’s a family waiting for you at home, etc). Guilt gets compliance - the bare minimum. To achieve high-performance requires a completely different set of skills than mere compliance. Your employer will not furnish you with these skills. You will have to acquire them on your own - and you will be better; more valuable as a result.

the perfect safety meeting ebookTo surpass the current industry leaders, you have to up-your-game. You have to be better than the other 99% of safety people. Membership in the top 1% requires two things: commitment and personal investment. Your results change dramatically when you choose to become a safety leader. Ordinary people are able to make an extraordinary commitment to self-improvement. When they do, they will take their teams along with them.

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. Click here for more information and to discuss your needs with Kevin.

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Topics: safety leadership, safety culture, safety compliance