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.”

Denis 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, trainr, 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.

WHAT WILL YOUR LEADERSHIP LOOK LIKE IN 2020

“Don’t Fool Yourself; LEADERSHIP IS HARD!”

In my effort to cultivate and grow my leadership, I find it challenging to stay the course and achieve what I read, witness, and teach. In fact, I often find myself telling people one thing and doing the exact opposite. Doing that can hurt those you lead, coach, mentor, or teach. If you don’t improve, you will ultimately lose respect, trust, and, eventually, the ability to influence. 

As 2020 approaches, I decided to evaluate my leadership abilities and identify those things I do well and those areas where I need to improve. The last four years have been a personal leadership challenge for me. I’ve had a job change that put me in a role with no direct reports and limited my decision-making authority. I’ve had to learn to lead differently. The term; “influence without authority” has become an actual reality challenge for me.

During my self-evaluation, I identified my top 5 strengths in leading others and having a strong influence on the decision making process.

1. I am a very HIGH ENERGY AND PASSIONATE leader in the areas I believe in.

2. I am willing to embrace CHANGE, even if I don’t entirely agree with it

3. I am PERSISTENT in my approach to achieving my desires, goals, and objectives

4. I am CONFIDENT in my decision making but open to ideas and suggestions

5. I am a strong ENGAGER of people

It is always good to identify your strong points, but it can be challenging to identify areas for improvement. The way I approached this was to reflect on 2019 and the many conversations, suggestions, and feedback I received throughout the year. I am always asking for feedback (although many times I don’t want to hear it or I have an excuse) 

Based on my evaluation and reflection, I will focus on building and improving the following five leadership traits in 2020. 

1. Being Clear in My Communication – I will work to enhance my communication approach through tone and word choices. Working to pull my feelings and frustration back and undoubtedly transfer my thoughts, ideas, and expectations. I will explain the “why” more often and ensure people are well informed. People want to be “in the know.” People want to deliver expectations, but can’t be successful if we don’t clearly and successfully communicate. They also want to know what the rewards are for good work and the consequences for sub-standard work.

2. Build Stronger Relationships – Relationships are critical to leadership. Strong relationships build trust and respect and offer the opportunity to influence. I will work to be present with my customers, leaders, and the workforce. I will reach out for general conversations and make sure I follow-up with the right people. I will work to show how much I care about all facets of the business. It is said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” They are looking for you to care for them and build a working relationship. I will work harder to learn and remember names and recognize that life is going on outside of work.

3. Humble Myself – I am am very confident in my role but must be better at leading with humility. I don’t know everything and always make the right decisions, but I will work diligently to illustrate my knowledge through the quality of my choices. I will recognize all persons, regardless of position, and work to realize that no one is any more important than anyone else. I will demonstrate this through my actions and interactions. I will let each know how important they are by involving them and getting their brains in the game.

4. Be a Stronger Encourager – I will continuously look for and recognize the great work people are doing. I will express my gratitude and exemplify the positive difference they are making. I will encourage them for their actions, the work they perform, and the value they add.

5. Have Courage – I understand creativity and innovation drive progress and performance. I will make bold decisions, push back when needed, but fully support the final decision. I will have difficult conversations when necessary, and I will do the difficult right things.

With a new year and new decade roll into place, I feel like it is the optimal time to increase my influence and achieve more than I ever have. I don’t know where most of you fall within your leadership needs (unless I know you). Still, I believe the results from my self-evaluation will encourage many of you to look within yourself, identify areas of improvement, and make the necessary changes to become a stronger influencer and more effective leader.