6 Safety Leadership Attributes Most Effective in Changing Behaviors

“Its easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

MARK TWAIN

In our attempt to become effective safety leaders, we must build strong relationships, respect, and create an atmosphere of trust and value. In my years of growth as a safety professional, I’ve learned through trial and error how to build real relationships with the workforce. These relationships resulted in respect and trust. In a recent survey to 50 hourly workforce employees, I asked the following question; 

“what leadership attributes would be most effective in convincing you to consider changing your actions and behaviors.” 

With the responses, I was able to identify 6 keys attributes safety professionals need to exhibit to convince workers to change their actions and behaviors.

  1. Clarity: Communicate the “why” of each expectation and requirement – We must be clear and concise in our expectations and requirements, but to ensure buy-in, you must present why these instructions are critical to the safety of each worker. People want to be “in the know.” They want to know where they are headed and what you expect from them so they can deliver. 
  2. Relationship: Connect with your workers – Many safety professionals are enforcers and don’t focus on conencting and building relationship. This causes tension and disrespect. Be present with your people. Please don’t leave them wondering who you are. They are looking for you to connect with them and build a working relationship. Learn names. Acknowledge people as you walk around. Recognize that life is going on outside of work. 
  3. Confident humility: Humble yourself and empower your workforce for success – Be competent and confident in your role, but lead with humility. Be decisive when necessary, and illustrate your knowledge by the reality of your decisions. Ask for suggestions and consider all solutions when looking to implement or change requirements and expectations. Safety professionals make mistakes often. I know I do!
  4. Encourager: Cheer on your workforce – While walking the work area(s), be on the lookout for those who are exceeding expectations and give them the recognition they deserve. Let those who are meeting the minimum requirements know how much you appreciate them following the rules and meeting your expectations. Encourage those doing the right thing that they are setting themselves up to go home the same way they came in. FOr those not exhibiting safe behaviors, ask them “why”, explain the expectations and “why” and encourage them to commit to working safely.
  5. Courage: Challenge your workforce – When problems occur, challenge your workforce to identify solutions. Creativity and innovation drive buy-in, which results in progress and safe performance. Have difficult conversations when necessary, and always get a commitment to do the right thing. People want to know where they stand and where they might need to improve.
  6. Passion: Let your workforce know you care for them – LOVE what you do or LEAVE! Exhibit unlimited energy and enthusiasm for your people, purpose, vision, and the values you embrace. Passion will drive buy-in and respect. It will inspire the workforce to consider doing the right thing. The safety profession is about people. When workers realize your passion is for their safety, and not just a job, they will be more prone to do what is right. Don’t be shy about your passions; let it shine through, and people will follow.

Exhibit these six attributes, and you will build strong relationships, gain respect, and create an atmosphere of trust and value. Accomplishing this will reduce risks, prevent injuries, and make a difference in others!

undefinedDenis is a former VP of Safety, HR and Risk Management As an Executive Director of the John Maxwell Group, Denis is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior Consultant. He is a passionate person of influence 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 dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change training, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

FEAR LESS AS A LEADER, From a Safety Professional Perspective

“Your Only Limit Is You. Be Brave And Fearless in Everything You Do”

Fears hold us back from achieving our success. As a leader, fear hinders the engagement of your passion. It opens the door for workers and leadership to take advantage of you and the situation. However, when you overcome your fear, you establish a deeper dependance on your personal growth and leadership.

Fear and overcoming fear are critical parts of our ability to lead others. In my role as a Safety Professional, I find myself fearing to make a decision or give advice that might affect production or create a morale challenge. I believe anyone who says they don’t have fear, probably needs to re-evaluate themselves. Fear lives within us all. Think about this:

You are flying from your hometown to Hawaii with your family for a much-deserved vacation. It has been a challenging year for all of you. About 3 hrs into the flight; over water and away from land, you notice smoke coming from the right engine. You notify the flight attendant, and she immediately runs and notifies the captain. Others are seeing smoke also. A buzz of fear and panic, including members of your family, begin to take over the cabin. The captain comes over the intercom (difficult to hear because of all the screaming) and says they must land in the ocean……….Has fear entered your thoughts?

I don’t think it matters who you are, how tough you are, or what your role in the organization is, I suspect anyone reading this would answer my question with a YES.

Throughout my career, I have faced fear numerous times. When you are in a profession where you have a passion for people, but are in a support role and do not have authority, there are times when you must make difficult decisions. These situations tend to put fear in our hearts and heads and sometimes can affect the outcome of the situation. 

I’ve identified five of my most common fears as a safety professional. You’ll recognize the fears because I believe anyone within the profession (even outside the profession) deals with similar situations regardless of industry or position.

  • Fear of Inadequacy – Do I know what the answer to the question is? What does the standard say we need to do about this situation? What if I tell them the wrong thing? If I’m wrong, will they disrespect me and not come to me for direction in the future? 
  • Fear of Disapproval – Will I be challenged on my decisions? Is my choice going to result in a meeting with my Plant Manager? Will my decision and direction create an atmosphere of negative energy and a loss in employee morale. Will my decision set our culture back?
  • Fear of Confrontation – Will our interaction become a hostile vocal or physical confrontation? Will they ignore me?
  • Fear of Isolation – Will they not like me? Will they invite me to lunch? Will my relationships be broken? Will I be alone?

All of these fears are felt by many, if not all, safety professionals. I will also say that anybody in any position will experience similar worries. I’ve seen each of them disrupt strong cultures and effect performance. If you’re facing any of these fears, it doesn’t mean there’s something defective about you. These fears are universal; they show that you’re human.

You will face fears. No degree can prepare you to meet them. So how do you combat your fears?

  1. Build relationships. This creates an opportunity to generate a positive attitude and motivate people.
  2. Connect with people in positions that generate your fear. Once you have that relationship and connection, the person(s) will consider you a part of the team.
  3. Build trust. Follow through on your commitment. If you can’t, then be humble and admit your mistakes.
  4. Make sure your directions and decisions add value to both the workers and leadership. People will only follow the instruction when they know it will add value to them.
  5. INFLUENCE! By accomplishing all of the above items, you will be able to influence others to change behaviors, think before performing the task, and ensure others are working safely also. 

Your approach to situations determines your ability to minimize or eliminate your fears. Here is how you should face your fear:

  • If a situation puts you in fear, step back, and take a few moments to breathe through it, think of the possible consequences and how you will handle them.
  • Walk away and call someone for advice.
  • Remind yourself that your fear is a storehouse of wisdom
  • Use humor to relieve the tense environment
  • Be flexible. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got! Many things can be done differently and will achieve the desired outcome.
  • Realize that influential leaders have to do the “difficult right things.” Sometimes the initial result is a challenge, but the long-term outcome will always be positive.

Our ability to manage fear becomes an asset to the safety of the workforce. It also contributes to the success of your organization and, ultimately, your success as a Safety Professional. You will create an environment of teamwork and collaboration that offers employees and leadership the opportunity to engage in decisions, creating a feeling of inclusion and buy-in.

“If something excites and scares you at the same time, it probably means you should do it.”

undefinedDenis is a former VP of Safety, HR and Risk Management As an Executive Director of the John Maxwell Group, Denis is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior Consultant. He is a passionate person of influence 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 dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change training, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

INFLUENCE, The Key to Effective Behavior Change

Influence is an overused word, but few understand the concept. Many think influence is manipulation, force, and/or intimidation based on their position or status within the organization. That is not influence, that is dictatorial power! Influence is an exchange of ideas, a persuasion of others to a known purpose or direction. Influence is gained through the respect of those who are to be influenced.

But what is influence? I want you to think of influence as salt. Salt is not a flashy spice saltlike cayenne pepper or nutmeg. Salt is merely a basic. And yet, it is essential. Without it, food is bland and tasteless. Without it, decay and rot ensue. In recipes, salt serves all the other ingredients by extracting and enhancing their fullest expression and flavor.

As safety professionals.  You are in a profession whereby your ability to INFLUENCE others will be critical to the protection of life and safety. You must learn to influence like salt; in the background, without being visible or noticeable. It must become a part of your character and how you operate.

Why is influence so crucial in the safety profession? Influence is essential because safety professions typically have no authority and cannot MAKE people do anything. However, to have employees follow the policies and procedures, apply their training and follow directions, and ultimately achieve success, we must learn how to influence.

In fact;

we must learn to influence WITHOUT Authority!!!

Influencer and opinion leaderThroughout my years as a safety professional, I’ve found that there are more opportunities to influence than any other position within an organization. Think about it. Executives are relegated to an office.  Managers and supervisors have assigned areas of responsibility and seldom venture outside of their designated area. They may understand the departmental dynamics, but not necessarily how it affects the rest of the worksite or organization.

YOU, on the other hand, have responsibility for the entire facility, region or area. Much of your workday is spent in the field or on the floor (or at least it should be!). Safety Professionals are expected to have a broad range of knowledge and an array of information concerning the business and are supposed to solve a full spectrum of problems. So think about all the opportunities to influence; practically every conversation, interaction, and the situation will offer a chance to influence.

However, not all safety professionals take the opportunity to influence like salt. No, a lot of us prefer to pour salt on the wound instead. Because we cover or touch all areas and all departments, we often become very familiar with organizational practices, the people and the dynamics of various personalities and relationships. In doing so, we become aware of problems, inefficiencies and identify opportunities for improvement.

This is both good and bad.

On the one hand, you can use this information to analyze the safety needs and influence for change. On the other hand, the Safety Professional tends to be solutions oriented and strives to solve everyone’s problems.

As a consequence, this mindset is often interrupted as “knowing how to do everyone’s job and do it better!” This has the tendency to isolate our position and decrease our influence.  When we do things to decrease our influence, we decrease our ability to lead and ultimately get things accomplished by others. In their book, Influencing without Authority, Cohon and Bradford state “You need to INFLUENCE those in other areas, departments and division’s, those you don’t have control over.”  You must learn to influence without authority.

I want to share with you an example of real influence. While flipping through a TIME timemagazine issue listing the 100 World’s Most Influential People. Two individuals were listed, that I suspect are known to very few. Had influence been determined by a vote, I suspect that most readers would have never picked them. Their names are Brady Gustafson and Mary Scullion.

Brady, just 21 years of age, saved his fellow Marines when they came under direct attack in Afghanistan. Though Brady himself had suffered a life-threatening injury, he fought to save his friends and fellow Marines until help arrived.

Mary works tirelessly with an organization to help the homeless in Philadelphia, stating that “none of us are home until all of us are home.” As a result of her efforts, there are now less than 200 homeless men and women in Philadelphia.

These are real stories of influence. In society, influence generally indicates power over others, the power that inevitably reflects back on the one who is influencing. But for Brady and Mary, influence has very little to do with their own glory.

Indeed their influence is not about making a name for themselves, but rather about lifting up those without names and faces who have no influence or who most of the world will never know; homeless men and women and small-town young men who defend America.

What makes Brady and Mary so influential? I believe it is their behaviors. For Brady, he decided to take a risk to save others, knowing full well the potential outcome. However, his desire to defend and protect others generated a behavior that resulted in the saving of many lives. For Mary, it is having a subtle, but effective method of support to change the way the homeless population behaves.

So how does that relate to the Safety Profession?  When we consider the process of eliminating injuries, one must consider behaviors as the single most crucial aspect of a person working safely. With that as the case, changing or modifying behaviors will reduce or eliminate workplace injuries.

How does one influence change in a person’s work behavior? The answer to this question is simple. You must influence the person to exhibit the right safe behavior because it is the right thing to do. To accomplish this, you must do the following;

  1. Realize your character will be crucial to having influence.
  2. Give encouragement. Start every conversation or interaction with something positive.
  3. Let them know you need them. Make sure you establish their importance in the organization.
  4. Create a memory of the conversation. People will refer back to those memories when they are in similar situations.
  5. Say the right words at the right time. What we say is very important in our influence.
  6. Encourage them to make the right choices and decisions.
  7. Remember, you are there to support and influence them. It’s not about you!
  8. Listen to what is not being said. Make sure you listen to understand before you reply.
  9. Find the key to their motivation. Everyone is motivated differently. You must learn how to motivate in short period of time.
  10. Be the first to help. If there are issues, look for realistic solutions and be helpful in solving problems.
  11. Everything is in a name. Use their name throughout the conversation. Nothing is more influential to a person than referring to them by their name during a discussion.
  12. Encourage them to work safely. Get their personal commitment to exhibit the right safe behaviors.

Our ability to influence others is the core of changing behavior and ultimately eliminating injuries. As Safety Professionals we must focus our efforts on becoming influential through our consistent interactions with all levels of the organization.