A Team-Focused Approach to Safety Leadership

Improve individual safety performance and you improve team safety numbers.

Team04.jpgThis is Part 4 of the Traits of Safety Leaders. To read the first three parts go to: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

This time around, we are going to focus on building solid performing teams in safety. But to build a solid team, requires more than just a collection of good team members. It requires the right mindset from the team leader; in this case, the safety leader. This time, we are going to cover off a couple of traits that really drive inspiration and motivation to want to contribute to the team.

In the first three parts of this Traits of Safety Leaders series, we covered the first nine traits of safety leaders. So for this week’s post, we will profile three more traits of safety leaders starting with trait number 10:

10Team-Focused. Low performing teams can become high-performing teams under the right coach. We witness this in sports often. A sub-par season team replaces their coach and suddenly, they can perform at a higher level and greater success. But the new success is always due to more than just swapping out the coach. Under the right leadership, a team can be coached to success regardless of how diversified they are. This is especially true in safety. High-performing teams are focused on not just numbers because good numbers can be the result of dumb luck. The team is focused on improving each individual team member. When the whole team is the focus of the leader, the individual members of the team must first be improved. As the individual team members improve, so does the team. And, consequently, the team’s performance numbers. Under a team-focused safety leader, improving the numbers is not the goal. Improving the performance, contribution and skills of the team members is the primary objective. Improve the performance and you improve the numbers. But you will never improve the numbers without a focus on team and getting buy-in to a shared agenda. All members of the team must be focused on the good of the whole team. That will take a team-focused safety leader who is willing to focus more on people and less on numbers.

11Supportive. The basic premise of being a supportive safety leader is that employees do not work for you; you work for them. It is necessary to fully understand that premise. The supportive leader ensures that the wants of needs of the individual team members are met. That includes skills, inspiration, mindset and team-focus. The supportive leader arms their people with the skills and tools to enable them to win more often. Success on a work-site depends on each individual team member making a solid contribution when the time calls for it. Each person in a workplace has their job function. The success of the team requires that each person execute professionally. The safety leader supports each team member with the skills and tools they need to execute consistently. The supportive safety leader never loses sight of the principle that people are more important than things.

12Empowering. Empowering safety leaders have a more optimistic view of the ability to get excellent work from employees. If you are less trusting of your people, you will be unable to empower your people to make good decisions in the field. If you do not trust them, you will intervene, often. That takes away their power that they are capable of good choices and good decisions. Ironically, if you don’t trust them to make good decisions in safety, maybe that's a reflection of your inability to instill the skills to make good decisions. Empowering safety leaders, on the other hand, trust their people. You can’t trust what you don’t know so safety leaders get to know their good people. They come to a level of certainty in how their people with work and the decisions they will make. Empowering safety leaders continue to work with employees on skills development and safety mindset. Safety leaders want employees to own an accountable “I got this” mindset in safety. When employees step up and make safety a guiding principle in their lives, empowerment is easy for the safety leader.

Get Kevin To Speak For more ideas and strategies on getting better at "people" in safety, buy my book PeopleWork: The Human Touch in Workplace Safety. And stay tuned for more parts of the Traits of Safety Leaders.

Kevin Burns has authored ten books on human performance and safety, including his most recent release, PeopleWork - The Human Touch in Workplace Safety. Buy it now on Amazon. Then, consider bringing Kevin's consulting expertise to your company or have him speak at a safety event.

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Topics: safety speaker, safety leadership, kevin burns, safety culture, peoplework