I have been in the Safety Profession for many years. But when I was new in the profession, I focused more on people meeting my expectations, needs, and wants rather than me meeting their needs and wants. I focused on doing big things and getting ahead of EVERYONE! 

All my initial training and education focused on compliance. I was expected to walk the facility and identify compliance issues and look for people not following company policies. Back in my world, the model of leadership was all top-down. Sometimes I ended successfully, but most times, I was unsuccessful because my thoughts were based on the numbers and bonus. That wasn’t the successful method of being a safety professional.

When I started to research leadership and ultimately became a certified executive coach, trainer, and keynote speaker for the Maxwell Leadership Group, I ended up reading a quote by Zig Ziglar that says this, 

“If you help people get what they want, they will help you.”

He was talking about leaders serving others, which rocked my head! When I kept reading, the term “servant leadership” came up. I did not know what that meant. However, I figured it out as my wife, and I served in the children’s church. We were serving the children to understand the bible and how to live a successful life and help others to succeed. 

So, let’s get into the information about servant leadership. 

What is a Servant Leader?

I believe the best description and definition is how John Maxwell defined what a servant leader is.

A servant leader is someone “whose actions and motivations reflect a selfless commitment to a cause, an organization, or their teammates” (Kouzes & Posner). Compare this to a traditional leader, whose actions and motivations focus more on driving results and growing the organization.

The great thing about true servant leaders is that they also get results and grow the organization. John Maxwell calls it the Law of Addition, from his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership—leaders add value by serving others.

Now my question to anyone reading this blog is this. 

Can a Safety Professional Become a Successful Servant Leader?

Well, my answer is…………………………… YES!

With everything I’ve learned and keep learning about leadership, I have changed how I approach being a safety professional. I focus on building solid relationships with all people within the organization. I began to focus on this quote by John Maxwell.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

John’s quote got me thinking about changing my approach to the leadership group and the hourly workforce.

I began focusing on the hourly workforce because they determined the company’s success. To be successful, I should spend a lot of time on the ground and build relationships with all of them. I tell safety professionals that we should spend at least 70% or more (depending on your role) with the workforce. 

With my career in new roles and jobs, I started focusing on the workforce by spending much time on the floor and learning how they work. I focused on six components to generate my servant-leader mindset.

6 Components of How I Became a Servant Leader within My Safety Profession

To develop yourself as a servant leader, consider these six components to embrace your philosophy. 

  1. I Don’t Rely on My Position or Title: I’m grateful for my accomplishments, but I don’t rely on them to build me as a leader. Instead, I work to earn respect by following up on what people have asked for and by serving others to achieve their success. Leadership is not about a title; it’s about your passion for people.
  2. I Believe in People and Their Potential: As a passionate safety professional, I care about people. That is the right thing to do. But there are also practical reasons for believing in people. The more I support people and help them achieve success, the more I serve them, and the more their potential safe activities increase. That creates a secure win for everyone.
  3. I Try to See Things from the Workers’ Perspective: It’s possible to lead and serve others only when you know their behaviors, minds, and desires. Therefore, I intentionally connect with people and try to see from their point of view to serve them better. This creates a situation of helping solve problems and building more confidence in performing their jobs safely.
  4. I Actively Work to Create an Atmosphere of Encouragement: When you are willing to serve people, a culture of cooperation emerges where it’s “one for all and all for one.” That makes the environment positive and develops a sense of value and trust.
  5. I want to Listen and Take Action to Meet their Expectations: I focus on what they say, need, and desire when interacting with others. Listening is much more complicated than talking. I struggle to listen to people because I know all the answers thoroughly. But I’ve learned that I can succeed when I listen and act. With actions, you will gain respect and trust.
  6. I Determine My Success by How Much Value I Add to Others: When you decide to serve others, the team’s safety and success will become your success. I remember when I changed my approach and thought process. It felt like my world immediately expanded, and I began achieving success through the increased safe behaviors and commitments from the workforce.

I believe this is true—The degree to which you serve as a leader will determine your effectiveness.

I have met many safety leaders who exhaust themselves, day and night, looking for ways to get ahead and make it to the top. And to be clear, I don’t see anything wrong with desiring to progress in your career and achieve more success. However, you will only succeed if you focus on others.

John Maxwell says, “You’ve got to love your people more than your position.” That’s what servanthood is all about—putting the needs of your people before your aspirations.

Considering how you can become a person focused on others and not yourself will build your ability to become a servant leader. I am still consistently building servant leadership by working to serve others specifically on what they need and want. Sometimes I get frustrated and struggle with my want to serve them. However, I learned that being a strong, successful leader requires strong influence through your relationships. 

Please consider the six components and make all the necessary changes or improvements to your character. Ultimately, I want all Safety Professionals to become strong Servant Leaders, and we will succeed in reducing risk and preventing injuries!

“The best place for a leader isn’t always the top position. It isn’t the most prominent or powerful place. Instead, it’s where they can serve the best and add the most value to other people.” – John C. Maxwell.

Denis is an Executive Director for the John Maxwell Group and is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behaviorial Consultant. Denis is a senior safety professional and a strong, passionate influential person. He is committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique, passionate, and emotionally driven style resonates with many, creating a desire to become an effective leader. 

You can contact Denis at for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture training, DISC Behavioral consulting, or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.


Team Members will experience conflicts. A member of your team or another colleague whom you think is in the trenches with you can suddenly become a foe. In an instant, teams meant to work together to achieve the goals and objectives can end up locked in conflict. I don’t think any of us wake up in the morning hoping to deal with conflict………..but it will show up. Conflicts rip teams apart, destroy morale, and will result in poor performance.

So, what do we need to do to relieve the conflict and become a stronger high-performance team? 

  1. Positions – Many team members focus on their job title to dictate the direction. This is very typical for those promoted to a high level for the first time, or maybe it is a person who has occupied the job for many years and feels they know how to strategize for success. To relieve this conflict, the team members must be open to allowing each member to share their thoughts and ideas, and the team provides professional feedback. When each person is talking, other team members must focus on listening to what is being said and understanding where they are coming from and why they are posing the information. 
  2. Mistrust or uneven communication – Many teams have members who create an atmosphere of mistrust because they want the results to follow them. As a part of multiple teams, many members don’t communicate or consider the entire company but focus on what will work best for their assigned responsibilities. This creates a very contentious atmosphere and results in extreme conflict. For example, suppose someone dominates the conversation while others sit silent or appear to have dropped out. In that case, a team member might need to stop the process and ask each person what they need to accommodate their assigned responsibilities. This will reduce the frustration and eliminate the conflict.
  3. Personality clashes – When you don’t get along with a team member, it can make both of you very frustrated. And though you might wish for a personality transplant for your annoying coworker, that’s probably not going to happen. Personality clashes are the most reported problem in the workplace. Too often, these conflicts go unresolved because people concentrate on their personalities rather than focusing on the issues. When the clashes escalate, they create a TOXIC work environment. People influence each other’s behavior. We can’t control or change another person’s personality, but we certainly can control our own emotions and reactions. The clashes are between you and the other person, no one else. Consider what Lou Holtz’s humorous perspective is, “Don’t tell your problems to people! 80% don’t care, and the other 20% are glad you have them.”
  4. Power issues and personal agendas – I am KING and WILL DO what I WANT TO DO! A conflict that involves power issues or solid personal agendas must be deleted. The reality is that some members are not a right fit for the team, and leaders need to remove or offer them another role. This doesn’t happen often, but occasionally it will. The good news is the team usually jumps forward once it changes. 

“When your agenda becomes more important than the team’s desired outcome, team performance suffers, and each member will fail.” 


Conflict can improve team performance when it is handled properly. The challenge for Team members is knowing how and when to intervene.


When we have our leaky roof, we’re just hoping to restore things to normal. However, when we repair Team relationships, there is always an opportunity to build more trust and increase future performance.

Denis is an Executive Director for the John Maxwell Group and is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behaviorial Consultant. Denis is a senior safety professional and a strong, passionate influential person. He is committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique, passionate, and emotionally driven style resonates with many, creating a desire to become an effective leader. 

You can contact Denis at for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture training, DISC Behavioral consulting, or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

5 STAGES OF CULTURE CHANGE, The Beginning of Coaching for Safe Behaviors

“We can change culture, If we change behavior. If we change behavior, we eliminate incidents”

Denis Baker

We are all in a position of power—a manager, a team leader, or someone who has the ear of a leader—we can effect change.

Culture has a significant impact on everything from safety to employee engagement to productivity. In addition, it gives people a sense of belonging and self-worth in their workplace.

However, the stark reality is that organizational culture is a complex web of relationships, and as those relationships change and shift over time, everyone must embrace change. This will serve to maintain any positive change that has been affected and continue along a productive path. The ability to eliminate unsafe behaviors is determined by the quality of relationships we have with people. Regardless of your position or title, you are in the place of growing, developing, and improving people. And those people are relying on you to train, communicate, and coach them to perform their jobs or tasks safely. 

Coaching is a skill that every safety professional and leader must master. The implementation and integration of behavioral change is a crucial aspect of achieving a sustainable safety culture. 

Coaching facilitates a culture transition through the stages of behavior change to achieve safe habits. Effective behavioral change requires that we identify what we are changing, why we are changing it, how we change it, and then create a strong plan of action to maintain effectiveness.  

In this blog series, I will focus on creating a culture change through individual behaviors.


Before we get too deep into how to change a culture, let me identify what behavior change is. Behavior change refers to the “transformation or modification of human behavior,” with a new or altered safe behavior being the end-point.

“To change a habit, make a conscious decision, then act out the new behavior.”

Maxwell Maltz

I have identified five stages to achieve culture change. However, the process of implementing and maintaining change seems to be a spiral rather than a straight line. I have found that most people regress in the beginning stages, so constant and consistent coaching is required.


Throughout my career, I focused my expertise on changing culture and ultimately changing behaviors. As a safety professional, when you first start at a company or facility, you must become familiar with the current culture, identify areas of concern, and identify a strategic improvement plan. Safety professionals play an integral role in a company or facility culture change. Therefore, you must be accurate in your evaluation and plan.

To get there, I have outlined the Five (5) stages to change a culture. While every company and facility is different, the culture change process is still the same. By following these five stages, you will help to ensure an actual culture change.

Setting the foundation

Before behaviors can be changed, organizations must identify the areas of focus needed to understand why the current behaviors exist. These areas typically include; missing policies or procedures, lack of training, leadership failure, et. Still, they may also be in the pre-contemplation, action, or maintenance stages. The current safety position is generally determined through active observations, listening, curiosity, and asking open questions. This knowledge will contribute to developing the organization’s safety strategic plan and creating the required coaching journey.


In the contemplation stage, the organization is “aware of existing safety issues and is creating a plan to address the issues, but has not committed to taking action. This stage can last for a long time as organizations struggle with dysfunctional employee behavior and the amount of effort, energy, and cost to create, change and implement programs and training. In the contemplation stage, the mindset of “We may” change or implement generally creates a delay in the path forward. 


This stage combines intention and behavioral criteria. For example, an organization in the preparation stage may have reduced some unsafe behaviors but have not reached the criteria for sustainable, effective behaviors. They can be considered to be in the mindset of “We will.” Their intention and motivation are firm, and they plan to implement their change plan within a short period. 

Within this stage, the leadership will brainstorm possible approaches and solutions. Successful behavioral change requires identifying the right approach and protecting our upcoming changes from distractions and conflicting goals. Anticipation, planning, and engagement are crucial for maintaining safe behaviors. 


Now the organization is committed to implementing programs and conducting training to begin the behavior change process. Organizations in the action stage are considered to be in the “I am” mindset and consistently implement their new behavior expectations. When clients are in this stage, they are likely to achieve fewer incidents and experience more robust safe behaviors. In addition, the Behavior Coaching Process (discussed in a later blog post) will result in even fewer incidents and help ensure consistent safe behaviors. 

However, once the action stage is entirely in progress, there becomes a risk of complacency and a focus on production, which causes employees to fall back into exhibiting unsafe behaviors. Keep in mind that the initiation of programs and training will be efficient, but the failure to be persistent in the expectations can create a culture backflow. 


In this stage, we want to continuously improve to prevent relapse, consolidate the gains attained during the past efforts, and increase safe behaviors. In my experience, this stage typically comes into play around 18-24 months. Cultures in the maintenance stage are considered in the “I still am” mindset and are considered to be in this stage when the new behavior becomes a habit. While in the maintenance stage, leadership and safety professionals are generally confident they can maintain the improved behaviors. However, they must be diligent in maintaining this change. There will be challenges and concerns. However, if the leadership has built an engaging culture, it doesn’t generally present a significant risk and can often get back on track and even create more robust, safe behaviors.


Many of us have behaviors we would like to change. Understanding the stages of change and applying each one effectively and timeously will support a meaningful, sustainable, and, ultimately, empowering behavior change, resulting in improved safe behavior and fewer employees getting injured. My next blog will focus on effectively coaching leadership and employees to change behaviors through their mindset.

Remember, our actions determine the result!

“A change in bad habits leads to a change in life.”

Jenny Craig

Denis is an Executive Director for the John Maxwell Group and is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behaviorial Consultant. Denis is a senior safety professional and a strong, passionate influential person. He is committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique, passionate, and emotionally driven style resonates with many, creating a desire to become an effective leader. 

You can contact Denis at for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture training, DISC Behavioral consulting, or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.


When considering the last few months, if we had been given a glimpse of this crazy year ahead of time, we would have thought the world had gone mad.

I feel It probably has.

There has been a significant change in the safety professional’s approach to influencing the workforce and leadership in safety. For some, organizations have a healthy and sustainable culture indicating that the only need is to reinforce the culture and look for continuous improvement. But for most safety professionals, organizations either; don’t have a safety culture in place yet, or the current culture is not strong enough to sustain a consistent, safe workforce. 

While we can’t approach safety the same we have done in the past, we have to ensure our current safety culture is continuously building up strong through our leadership and employees. 

I recently thought about this and came up with 9 questions I believe we need to focus on to ensure the workforce’s safety in this current situation. 

  1. Do your employees feel comfortable with COVID-19 protocols and procedures put in place?
  2. Is safety still a core value, or is the entire focus on revenue?
  3. Are your employees still stopping work when they feel unsafe? 
  4. Do your employees still feel comfortable approaching their colleagues if there is an unsafe condition or situation? 
  5. Are the employees exhibiting safe behaviors?
  6. Are people managers still engaged in the safety process?  
  7. Is safety integrated into every conversation? 
  8. Are your employees under pressure and more inclined to take shortcuts? 
  9. Is the leadership team thinking differently? 

I encourage you to ask yourself these questions first. Ask your team, the workforce, and leadership what their thoughts are and develop an immediate implementation plan to address the shortcoming or redesign processes. The answers to these questions will determine the plan as we advance. 

Your ability to ask questions will hlp determine the path forward.

“The ability to ask questions is the greatest resource in learning the truth.”

Carl Jung