9 SAFETY CULTURE QUESTIONS WE NEVER THOUGHT WE WOULD HAVE TO ASK OURSELVES

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

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.  

WHAT KIND OF SAFETY LEADER DOES YOUR ORGANIZATION NEED

Need Leadership Quotes For Inspiration? We Found All The Best Ones ...

For every organization that employs people, the safety of the people is a critical part of organizational success.

Safety methods must be fully integrated into the entire organization, from finance down to daily operations. This ensures safety is always being considered regardless of the conversation being had or activities being considered. 

Being a leader in the current year has undoubtedly put a magnifying glass on this truth. With the number of job losses, the reduction of budgets, and the need to think differently, we have fallen into an unprecedented challenge for the safety of our people. However, we must realize that without workers, companies can’t succeed. So the need to ensure the safety of our workforce is critical.

In our efforts to ensure people’s safety, leaders must be effective influencers to establish or change expected behaviors. To be an effective influencer, leaders need to know what markers are critical to their success. 

What kind of safety leader does your company need? The answer to this question is; All leaders are safety leaders.

To send you in the right direction, I have identified four crucial markers of an effective safety leader.

BE PASSIONATE AND HAVE COMPELLING PURPOSE

Passionate leaders are fully engaged and committed to supporting the safety of their people. When you’re in the presence of a passionate leader, your senses become stimulated, and your emotions are increased as you pick up their positive, contagious attitude and energy. People who work for passionate leaders tend to exhibit very safe behaviors.

If you are not passionate about what you believe, what you do or the safety of your people, THEN DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT!

However, as a passionate leader, you need a vision that drives people forward. Realize that everything you do matters! Great lives are produced when they’re committed to a great cause—and the most significant purpose is the safety and success of people.

BE CLEAR IN YOUR PERCEPTION

There are two types of thoughts: those who view the glass half-full, and those who see the glass as half-empty. This is called perception, and our perceptions profoundly impact how we view things. After all, our perception determines our reality. “Perception molds, shapes, and influences our experience of reality,” says Linda Humphreys, Ph.D. 

In other words, we believe what we perceive, and we create our realities based on those perceptions. 

“You must see past your perception to visualize the reality that is coming.” –

Denis Baker, CSP 

Anytime you attempt something, especially change, trouble and resistance will come your way. 

BE CONSISTENCY IN YOUR APPROACH

The term “consistency” is not referring o all leaders are the same. It merely means that whatever style, management techniques, or leadership traits you exhibit, you must implement them consistently. A leader must be predictable, as consistency and predictability are positive traits that provide respect and ultimately allows the influence of others. In most work environments, especially now, leaders are faced with a whirlwind of change, and the leader must provide stability in their leadership.

Inconsistent leaders sometimes require a lot of detail, and on other occasions, need little detail. Sometimes they want you to seek their approval, then later question why you brought the same approval request. That causes a lack of respect and decreases your influence. 

The bottom line is that people working for inconsistent leaders often spend unnecessary time wondering how to proceed or harboring resentment because they cannot predict what the leader wants. This substantially slows down the organization’s and reduces its effectiveness. 

“The lack of consistency results in the lack of safe behaviors, which results in more injuries.” –

Denis Baker, CSP

BE COURAGEOUS AND PERSISTENT

To tackle change, you can’t give up. You must keep doing what you feel is right, no matter what happens. Just because you show courage during difficult times doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is moving ahead despite your fear.

Persistence is one of the critical markers of an effective leader. To gain persistence requires determination and a mindset that — no matter what happens — you will stick to your principles. Persistence is equivalent to running a marathon. The time you spend training and preparing, and what you do leading up to the race will determine how well you perform. To effectively influence others, you have to work hard and continually find ways to motivate, build respect, and consistently stand your ground.

You became a leader for a reason; success in leadership comes from developing and perfecting courageous persistence. 

People’s safety rises and falls on your leadership.

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!

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.

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.

Kickstart Your Approach to Behavior Change With These 10 Quotes

2020 is here. The new numbers ring in a new year and a new decade! With a new year comes new goals, new thoughts, and many start and stop diets (referring to me). With a new decade comes the opportunity to identify and redefine your long-term vision. Being a Safety Professional, I wanted to share some motivational quotes that will help you influence others and begin to change behaviors.

  1. “Let Today Be The Day You Give Up Who You’ve Been For Who You Will Become.” – Hal Elrod. Get rid of the poor attitude and cynical approach with people. Work to connect, build relationships, create trust, add value, and you will be in a position to influence others. A new year and decade is an excellent opportunity to change negative behavior.
  2. “The New Year Stands Before Us, Like A Chapter In A Book, Waiting to be Written.” – Melody Beattie. What are your goals, personally, and from a business standpoint? What you strive to become personally has a tremendous effect on what you achieve in business. What are you going to do to influence others and change behaviors?
  3. “If you Don’t Like The Road You’re Walking, Start Paving Another One.” – Dolly PartonThe road we take will lead us to our destination. If your destination isn’t what you thought it would be, then change it now! Sometimes the programs we develop and implement aren’t effective in changing behaviors. Take a moment this new year and re-evaluate where you’re going and change direction where needed. I always go back to Robert Frost’s Poem, “The Road Not Taken” and determine if I am on the right path to success.
  4. The Future Belongs To Those Who Believe In The Beauty of Their Dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt. What is your dream? What is the path to accomplishing them? As a safety professional, I spend much of my time in the field talking with the workforce, interacting with them, and engaging them in identifying what is of value to them. I use this information to determine what must change, what must improve, and what development needs I have. Each new year, I take what I’ve learned and made adjustments to my approach, vision, and strategic plan, which is a critical path to achieving my dreams. If I believe it, then I will do whatever it takes to complete it!
  5. “Don’t Count the Days, Make the Days Count.” – Muhammad Ali. Are you making every day count and every interaction meaningful? Interacting with the workforce and explaining the “why” is essential to achieving change. I’ve found that when I focus my time and effort on what matters, I tend to deliver more than I planned.
  6. “You are Never Too Old To Set A Goal Or To Dream A New Dream.” – C.S. Lewis.” Throughout my life and career, I have always looked for opportunities to grow my self and my experience. The Safety Profession must be willing to continually improve in what we do and how we do it. The Safety Professional must be ready to grow in their knowledge, training, and insight. You don’t know what you don’t know, but you know what you know but aren’t willing to implement what you’ve learned. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.” Always be open to doing things differently.
  7. “I Like The Dreams Of The Future Better Than The History Of The Past.” – Thomas Jefferson. Yesterday ended last night, get over it! Don’t focus on the results of the past, but focus on the opportunities to improve the future. I wish companies didn’t focus on lagging indicators but instead focused on ensuring everyone is engaged in the activities that will reduce or eliminate the numbers. I know many of our bonuses’ are tied all or part to the numbers. However, in my career, I’ve learned to focus on what will change behavior vs. what will change the names.
  8. “People Don’t Care How Much You Know Until They Know How Much YOu Care.” – Teddy Roosevelt. – I focused my early career on making sure everyone knew I knew everything. WRONG APPROACH! What I learned was that people don’t care that you know what you know, but you are willing to help them achieve their goals. It is like writing an Energy Isolation Procedure, implementing and then find out no one is using or following it because it doesn’t make sense or apply to their environment. Show you care by engaging the workforce and getting buy-in.
  9. “People Will Only Work to The Level Of Safety That You Expect, Nothing More, Nothing Less.” – Denis Baker. You can have the best well-written policies and procedures, the most effective training, and the greatest implementation process in the world. Still, if the expectations are not communicated clearly, people will do what they want, good or bad, right or wrong. I teach people in leadership roles to set high expectations and then hold people responsible for achieving and abiding by them. If not, they must be held accountable.
  10. You Can’t Change A Culture Or Behaviors From Behind a Desk.” – Denis Baker. Make it your priority this year to spend the vast majority of your time engaging and conversing with the workforce and building relationships with your leadership. You can be the best policy and procedure writer, but if you don’t connect and build relationships, you won’t be able to change the way people think when they approach a job or task. Remember this. You can get all the buy-in and support from the leadership you want, but unless you have the support and buy-in from those who do the work, there is no way to achieve success.

Success is what we achieve through others. As you dig into 2020, I encourage you to evaluate yourself and look for opportunities to improve and change. Be passionate about what you believe and do, and you will influence others to change their behaviors, and ultimately, the culture will change.

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.

The 5 Must Have’s For the Balanced Safety Leader

Fotosearch_k10730093What a great time to be a Safety Leader! Yes, you read that right. Let me repeat, what a great time to be a leader in a Safety Professional role! Are you a leader just because you’re in a leadership role? In my opinion, NO. I know many in leadership roles that for the life of me I cannot figure out how they got there.

True safety leaders possess certain traits and attributes that make them successful. There are certain things that leaders are good at and do well. I believe there has to be something that sets them apart from the rest of the organization.

What if there was something that would make you more successful, more efficient, and make your job easier? As leaders, we must learn what it takes to become both effective and successful. These two things, being effective and successful, can have lasting impacts.

This blog will provide you with the must-haves to be a balanced productive and successful safety leader. Your ability to create a balanced approach to safety will ensure your success.

What led to the creation of these top must-haves? After much deliberation, they were the result of a personal need to try something new. More specifically, I was failing as a professional. What I did for many years did not work. I had good performance on occasion, but it wasn’t sustainable. I discovered that a personal approach to leadership was what I needed. One of the things I noticed in many leaders was a general lack of character and an ability to effectively balance our approach based on individual situations. Many safety professionals are regulatory driven. There is an absence of managing the situation from a balanced approach. From this, I saw a personal and professional need to create a balanced approached to the safety professional. This motivated me to develop these “5 Must-Haves”.

Balance is essential, no it is critical!. You never want to go too far one way or the other. Learning to balance your thoughts, approach and interaction with people and situations require continuous, delicate adjustments to maintain a balanced, practical approach. Balance is stressed in every aspect of our lives — from learning to ride a bike to eating a balanced diet. It should be no different in our interactions with employees and others in the organization.

Maintaining a balanced approach to the safety of employees will ensure our ability to influence their behaviors and drive the continuous improvement in safe practices.

The 5 Must-Haves for a Balanced Safety Leader are:

  1. Must have an unwavering PASSION for the profession.
  2. Must have a great ATTITUDE
  3. Must be a PROBLEM SOLVER
  4. Must take INITIATIVE
  5. Must have HUMILITY

Here is a brief description of each.

1.  Must have an unwavering PASSIONLove your profession or leave it!

I am so tired of meeting professionals that hate their job, hate their profession, or those who merely chose their job because they vie wit as easy. If that is you, go find something else to do. All you are doing now is creating a toxic environment for yourself and the employees in the organization. Find something you love and build your passion around it.

Passion fuels will-power as a leader. Without it, you’ll lack the drive to change and overcome obstacles. Look, being safety professional is not easy. It takes patience, a caring heart and the ability to work through the barriers. Let’s face it, we are here because we care about people. Passion is what drives me to learn more and work hard every day so that I can rest easy when my employees make it home safely from work.

2.  Must have an excellent ATTITUDEA great attitude is a positive attitude.

I think it was William James who once said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes.”

Our attitude determines how we interact with others and the way we communicate determines our influence. Safety professional’s have daily interactions with all levels of the organization. If we approach an employee with a bad attitude, the outcome tends to be riddled with talk of discipline, loss of job and discouragement. On the other hand, a right or positive attitude can motivate an employee to recognize their at-risk behaviors and identify what needs to change to ensure they stay safe.

If you have a poor attitude, stay locked up in your office. If you have a right and positive attitude, be present and bring the sunshine where ever you go! Success will follow!

3.  Must be a PROBLEM SOLVER – Can’t let your problems be a problem

Safety Leaders are good at identifying problems, issues, and concerns. Whether it is a condition or behavior, they can determine enough issues to fill a novel. The question is, are you good at solving the problems? Be a problem solver and influence! A good rule of thumb, provide at least two solutions to every problem you identify.

4.  Must take INITIATIVE –  READY………FIRE………AIM.

My staff hears it all the time. What does it mean? Shouldn’t you aim first, then fire? No. Just identify the problem, fix it, and then make the necessary adjustments later. At least you did something. If you never take the initiative to do something, things will never get done! If you identify a problem or something that needs to be done, who is the best person to initiate the solution? YOU!

5.  Must have HUMILITY – Humility is better than humiliation

I always have to include humility in any discussion I have on leadership, regardless of whether I am focused on the Safety Profession or leadership in general.

Why? Because so many leaders struggle with it. They’re under the impression that you must be strict, authoritative, and all-knowing in every situation. I’m aware of this because I used to lead that way.

However, through my many leadership mistakes in life, marriage, parenting, and work, I realized that leadership is about knowing what you know, and more importantly, recognizing what you don’t know. Not only is there intrinsic value in admitting you don’t know all things, but it is also clear importance amongst employees who sense your humility.

Here’s the truth. Employees know things that you don’t know. They may not say it to your face, but trust me; they are talking about you behind your back.

I love what C.S. Lewis and Lou Brock have to say on the subject of humility and pride:

 C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

Lou Brock said, “Show me a guy who is afraid to look bad, and I will show you a guy you can beat every time.”

A lack of humility makes us vulnerable. Without it, we open the door for negative things. People don’t want to follow arrogant leaders. They want to support someone whom they believe in and connect with. A lack of humility withholds honest connections with others; therefore, we must act as humble leaders.

CONCLUSION

Here’s a recap of the must-haves for leadership.

  1. Must have an unwavering PASSION for the profession.
  2. Must have a great ATTITUDE
  3. Must be a PROBLEM SOLVER
  4. Must take INITIATIVE
  5. Must have HUMILITY

This is only an introduction to what it takes to become a productive and successful balanced safety leader. Throughout the years, these five must-haves have helped me become a successful leader. Evaluate your current leadership style and identify what will complement your personality and enable you to lead more effectively and bring you success.

Take time and research each of these must-haves and learn how to apply them in your current position. I am confident that you will become a more effective balanced safety leader because of it.

Fotosearch_k15213036

WHAT SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROFESSIONALS KNOW ABOUT LEADERSHIP

Fotosearch_k8652164After many of my safety leadership talks or training’s,  I hold informal Q and A sessions with other safety professionals. During this time, the vast majority of questions I receive are around self-leadership. Leadership has become a favorite topic and is discussed in most any professional setting. In fact, I believe the term “leadership” is a grossly overused and misrepresented word, especially safety leadership (a topic of an upcoming blog).  However, the “principle” of leadership is very underused in many people.

The safety profession is no different. In fact, the last 7 years of my life has been dedicated to pointing out the low level of leadership in the safety profession. I have and continue to be, committed to sharing my thoughts and knowledge to increase the safety professional’s leadership with employees, supervisors, and executives. I firmly believe the safety professional has more daily interactive opportunities to lead people than any other levels of the 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. The Safety Professional, on the other hand, typically has responsibility for the entire facility, region or area. Much of the safety person’s workday is interacting with people on the floor or field and with those who have direct control and authority over the production and operational personnel. So when I think about all the opportunities where a safety professional’s leadership is essential, I think about every conversation, interaction, and/or situation where the opportunity for leadership is inserted.

In this blog, I will identify and briefly discuss 6 insights on what successful safety professionals know about leadership. I’ve developed and learned these through my personal experience and by observing and mimicking successful people.

Anyone who reads this blog will have the necessary insight to improve their leadership. For the safety professional, improving our individual leadership will enhance our ability to influence others in the direction we believe will eliminate injuries and protect employees.

I encourage you to think about how you currently lead and use the information to improve your effectiveness.

Here are the 6 insights successful Safety Professionals know about leadership.

  1. They focus on leading themselves first – The ability to drive ourselves is crucial to our ability to influence others. However, leading ourselves is one of the most challenging things to master. Why? We don’t see the blind spots. Blind spots are areas where we fail to look at the situation or ourselves realistically. We see ourselves through our intentions, people see us through our actions. Leading yourself is perhaps the least discussed aspect of leadership yet. When we fail to do what is right, trouble ensues!
  2. They understand how leadership works -Leadership is a complicated subject. However, effective leaders understand that leadership starts with influence. The safety profession is built on influence. I don’t know of any safety professional who has direct authority over others. I know some who think they do. However, safety professionals have no authority and must learn to “influence without authority.” As safety professionals, the way we efficiently influence and ultimately lead is to ensure we are adding value to everything we do and say. We need to make others successful. We accomplish that by helping them eliminate self-imposed limitations and encourage them to achieve their potential.
  3. They learned how to resolve conflicts – Every safety professional encounters conflict. Anytime you try to change behavior, conflict arises. People do not like being told what to do, how to do it and when to do it. However, the safety professional’s ability to effectively resolve conflict will determine their level of influence with the individual or group. To resolve conflict;
    • Meet with the person privately
    • Ask for their side of the story
    • Try to come to a flexible agreement
    • Set a deadline for action
    • Validate the value of that person and make a commitment to help them succeed.
  4. They learned to efficiently work under poor leadership – Poor leadership is common in the workplace. I probably didn’t have to tell you that, but understanding what you are working with is essential. One of the most discouraging situations is to work under and with poor leaders. I have personally worked with poor leaders from the CEO of several companies to the line supervisors who have direct influence with the people on the floor and in the field. There are several reasons they may be poor leaders; they may be difficult to work with, they may not like you, they are a bully, they may lack vision, they are indecisive and inconsistent, or they have character issues
    • Here is how to work with poor leaders;
      • First, consider if you are the problem
      • Determine if you have specific evidence to support your opinion
      • Assess your influence and credibility
      • Think through every possible outcome
      • Make a decision to act
      • Ask to speak in private
      • Outline your complaint, and seek a collaborative solution
      • Determine whether you should stay or move on
      • If you decide to stay, give your best and support your leader
  5. They learned how to navigate leadership transitions – Life is one big transition after another. Transitioning leadership can be exciting and challenging. One of the most common challenges is to transition the new leader into the safety process. I can’t tell you how many times I have established a safety process and culture, then a new plant manager or CEO comes in and they have a difference of opinions. It makes the future unsettling. However, a new leader can bring excitement and high expectations, which can lead to a more engaged leadership team in the safety process. Here is how one navigates leadership transitions;
    • Consider the possibilities
    • Weight the risk and rewards
    • Receive the affirmation from your direct reports
    • Take action and move forward
  6. They learned how to develop leaders within – One of my most successful approaches to building a robust, sustainable safety culture has been to create an environment where I personally coach and mentor leaders at various organizational levels. This has led to an influential mutual respect that resonates within the organization. John Maxwell has said, “everything rises and falls on leadership.” I have found that saying to be entirely accurate. Nothing can be accomplished without leadership. My desire to impact the safety of others is my ability to increase the leadership influence of those who have direct authority on the safety outcome. I have found this to be one of the most rewarding activities in my career. How do I identify potential leaders?
    • I look for those who make things happen
    • I try to identify those who have influence on others
    • I watch for those who build relationships, not friendships
    • I see who people are congregating around
    • I see who see and adds value to others
    • I look for those who seize opportunities
    • I look for those who finish tasks

Fotosearch_k2035485 (1).jpgThe ability to effectively lead people through your influence is directly proportional to your success. Let’s face it. Your success is directly proportional to the safety of those employees at your site, facility or within your company. Remember this, “a good leader is one that yearns to learn.”

 

“a good leader is one that yearns to learn.”

As you learn more about leadership and develop as a leader, you will find new ways to improve. Consider using these 6 insights to learn and grow in your quest to become a successful safety professional.

 

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.

INFLUENTIAL LEADERS ARE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATORS, 10 Principals to Becoming a Better Communicator

 Influential

GREAT LEADERS ARE GREAT COMMUNCIATORS.! I can’t think of any influential leader that is not a good communicator. Think about it. Everyone you respect as a leader can communicate effectively in every situation, good or bad, stressful or easy, big or small. As leaders, the way we approach and talk to people has a direct impact on the outcome. I wanted to write this piece because of my past (and sometimes present) way of approaching people and interacting with them. This is an area I have been working very hard on.

When I think about influence, I think about the initial contact, interaction and then the forthcoming communication1communication. Throughout my career, I have come to realize that influential people and those who have great interactive skills are able to recognize the situation and adjust their approach quickly to enable the most effective outcome.

To become an influential leader, you must learn to anticipate the reaction of people and use the correct tone and inflection to motivate the employee to react and respond appropriately. Remember, leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. So we must develop a communication method that allows for influence.

We all communicate, right? But what is communication? Ask anyone on the street and they will likely include the word, “talking”. Well, communicating definitely includes talking. But, is it simply talking? I define talking as a prearranged group of vowels and consonants expelled with an abundance of hot air to address a particular thought or answer. So I concede that communication does include talking certainly; however, communication must go beyond talking and into connecting.

In John Maxwell’s book, Everyone Communicates, But Few Connect, he discusses communication going way beyond words as revealed through a study conducted by UCLA Professor, Albert Mehrabian. Professor Mehrabian discovered that face-to-face communications could be broken down into three components: words, tone of voice, and body language. What may come as a surprise is that in some situations, what people see us do and the tone we use can far outweigh any words we say whth-33ile trying to communicate. If we can maximize the use of these three components in a conversation then we can become very effective communicators resulting in a positive interaction and greater ability to influence.

How do you become a better communicator and ultimately an Influential Leader? Through my own study and desire to improve, I have come up with 10 principles you can use to improve. Follow these and have greater influence.

  1. Know Who You are Talking To or Dealing With – Leaders who communicate effectively realize they are responsible for their reactions and are very careful to create a non-threatening atmosphere. They always seem to be in control of a conversation, but not over-powering. They don’t worry about sounding important, having power or being the “expert.” Instead, they think about what needs to be addressed and ultimately what needs to be said. They are thoughtful about how they can deliver this message so that people will be able to hear it.  Leaders communicate expectations and tell people what’s important for them to know, even if it’s negative.
  2. Evaluate Body Language – Influential Leaders constantly track people’s reactions to their message. You must recognize the changes in body language including facial expressions, body stances, etc. Is the person facing you, looking down or rolling his/her eyes? Body language is feedback. Many times, this is the only feedback you will get. Learn to read body language and you can tailor your message to adjust the way we interact as needed.
  3. Be Honest and Factual – People who are influential leaders are honest in their communication. They don’t stretch or exaggerate the circumstances. They certainly don’t lie to make their point or look good to others. They are transparent people that admit if they don’t have all the facts or can’t share information.   They don’t use the politician method of creating circular answers that never address the issue. Influential leaders understand that lies and half-truths create dissention, distrust and anxiety.
  4. Be Who You Are Regardless of the Situation- Don’t be someone you’re not! People will find out the real you. Position or prestige doesn’t change who you are. Look at professional athletes. They become rich and famous, but they are who they are regardless of the amount of money they have or how many highlight reels they make. There’s a reason Mark Zuckerberg presented Facebook to investors in a hoodie and jeans. This is who he is and he knows the value of staying true to who he is. People will be open and allow you to influence if they believe you are who you and nothing more.
  5. Speak With Authority and Conviction – If you believe it, then say it! Don’t use words that you can’t say or don’t know the meaning of. President George W. Bush was the master of making up words. This often watered down or moved the focus from his points. However, he often spoke with authority and conviction giving credibility to his thoughts and desires. Influential Leaders speak directly to and with authority in the things they are passionate about and are clear on their desires and intended outcomes.
  6. Speak to Groups as Individuals – Leaders rarely have the luxury of speaking to one person at a time. Whether they’re addressing a toolbox topic or conducting a keynote with 5,000 people, influential leaders know how to work the crowd or group and make every single person feel as if he or she is being spoken to directly.
  7. Use Your Ears for More Than Hanging Glasses – Influential leaders realize that listening is far more than hearing. They understand that we listen not to reply, but to understand. When someone else is speaking, great communicators aren’t thinking ahead and planning what they’ll say next. Instead, they’re actively listening, fully focused on understanding the other person’s perspective. Leaders must listen to employees and seek to understand their concerns, hesitations and struggles.
  8. Be Humble – Influential leaders are not afraid to use phrases such as; “It’s My Fault,” “I Was Wrong,” and “I’m Sorry”. Humble leaders admit mistakes right away and are not driven by drama or false humility.
  9. Ask for Feedback – Influential leaders are always looking for ways to improve their communication and interaction. They are not afraid to ask how they can become better and more effective. They realize we see and hear our actions and words based on our intent, while others see and hear through our actual actions and words. If you are good, asking for feedback will make you better. If you are bad, it will improve you.   Either way, you will become better at communicating and interacting.
  10. Be Proactive, Not Reactive – Influential Leaders are proactive in responding to situations and rumors by being open and transparent in their communications. They are very clear in their directions and expectations and are always providing necessary feedback to ensure people don’t waste their time on things that don’t matter.

InfluenceAs I stated at the beginning, “Influential Leaders must become effective communicators. You will stand out and people will be drawn to you. Is it because of your effective influence or your destructive influence? When you implement these 10 principles, you become a better communicator with greater influence.

7 Keys to Becoming an Influential Safety Leader

7 Keys to InfluenceIt is my belief that the safety professional can have more influence than any other person within an organization. Think about it. Executives are typically in the office and seldom experience the field or the manufacturing daily work environment. Managers/Supervisors have assigned areas of responsibility, where they typically regulate a certain department or area.

The safety professional, on the other hand, typically upholds responsibility for the entire facility, region or area. Much of the workday is spent in the field or on the floor. Safety Professionals are expected to have a broad range of knowledge and an array of information concerning the business. In addition, they must have the ability to solve a wide spectrum of problems.

It is evident safety professionals have the ability to influence others more than any other position within the profession. The problem is that too many of us fall into the “authority” trap, where we think we can force compliance and the “0” injury campaign. So wrong! That used to be me. I thought I had the power and the authority to fix any problem. After six or seven jobs, I realized this was not the case. Rather, I’ve recognized the power of influence, it’s a trait that enables me to evolve as a strong and effective leader.

If you want to be a leader who has influence upon executives, manager, supervisors and employees, the key is to become valuable. When I reflect upon leadership, I think of John Csafetysign. Maxwell’s definition of leadership. He simply states, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” I have fully bought into this belief and I daily strive to increase influence. My desire is to influence others a little more each day. In my quest to increase influence, I have identified 7 Keys that will help create more authority as a safety professional.

They are as follows:

  1. Be firm but Fair – I learned this back in 1985 when I was in the academy for the Texas Prison System. I will never forget when I heard it for the first time. I was in a sweltering classroom listening to an old instructor when he said, “Inmates are people. Like anyone else, they respond to tone and attitude. If you want an inmate to respect you, you must be FIRM BUT FAIR with them.” This is an extra step you must take to become an influential, capable leader. Talk to your employees and listen to them. They will tell you why they can or cannot comply. Some people mistake rudeness as a sign of strength, however, it’s not even a substitute. Establish a high expectation for performance and hold others accountable. Observe the “big picture” because there might be something that keeps an employee from fully complying.
  1. Be Kind but not Weak – Do not mistake weakness for kindness. In my opinion, people are not weak when they demonstrate kindness. In fact, I think kindness is a leadership strength that has a positive impact upon others. Kindness is telling someone the truth, letting him or her know the consequences of their actions and laying everything on the line. Kindness is also about being open and honest. People will hear the truth if it is presented in a gentle and respectable manner. Remember, respect is achieved through the way we discuss and talk with others. Dealing kindly with people will generate respect ad allow you to influence them.
  1. Be Bold but not Annoying – It takes boldness to be an effective safety leader. In order to build influence with executives, managers or employees, you have to lead the way. You have to have your back exposed to the group. Such an idea can be expressed in the prison term “willing to feel cold steel,” although not literally I hope. Rather, you have to be the individual who isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo. You must be the first to identify and address problems, taking initiative and providing solutions. I love how Jim Rohn states, “Like the farmer, if you want any rewards at harvest time, you have to be bold and face the weeds and the rain and the bugs straight on.” Be known as a problem solver, not a problem creator.
  1. Be Humble but not Timid – You can’t get the “high life” by being timid. Some people mistake timidity for humility, but humility is a virtue; timidity is a downfall. It’s an affliction, although it can be cured. Humility is the opposite of pride. Ezra Taft Benson said “Pride is concerned with who is right, humility is concerned with what is right.” Humility does not come easy. In fact, I personally find it very difficult at times. We all want to be right, as well as our ideas and thoughts acted upon. We all want people to look up to us and think have the answers and know the way. However, we don’t always know what others are going through. Sometimes we don’t have all the facts or see the bigger picture. Be willing to admit when your wrong and you will gain respect as well as influence in doing so.
  1. Be proud but not Arrogant – It takes pride to build your ambitions and pride in a cause or accomplishment. The key to becoming a good leader is to be proud without being arrogant. Do you know the worst kind of arrogance? Arrogance that stems from ignorance. It’s intolerable. If someone is intelligent and arrogant, it can be tolerated at best. To be ignorant and arrogant, that’s unbearable.
  1. Be funny without being Goofy – In leadership, we learn that it’s OK to be amusing but not silly, fun but not imprudent. Be of good cheer and it will rub off on others.
  1. Be a Realist – Deal in truth. Delusion creates agony. Simply accept life as it is, even the drama that comes with it. Enjoy the ride; it will be fascinating!

Showing-direction-influenceOur ability to influence others is the core of our profession. Influence is achieved by earning the respect of those you come into contact with. We have a unique opportunity to influence at all levels within the organization. The 7 Keys listed will help create an individual atmosphere where influence is increased. After all, our ability to influence within the safety arena could result in a life or death consequence.