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.

8 LEADERSHIP LESSONS LEARNED WHILE SHOPPING AT WALMART

My Morning

I woke up early Saturday morning walked into the kitchen and brewed myself a cup of steaming dark roast coffee
(Keurig brewed it)  . As I made my way to my desk, I looked out the window and saw it was a cold, foggy and misty morning. I had just gotten comfortable at my desk, logged into the computer and thought about how wonderful it was going to be to enjoy a Saturday of writing. 

Then I heard some familiar noises behind me. I turned around to see my wife brewing her a cup of coffee. I said “good morning dear,” and was greeted with a smile and, “we need to go to Walmart this morning.” I remember hearing what was said, but thinking it was a nightmare. I took another sip of my coffee and turned back around to see if she was really standing there. I was hoping she was still in bed. But as I turned around, I saw her there, waiting for my response. I now knew it was real. Without words, the look on her face made it very clear, “you have no choice, you’re going!” There was no way to get out of it. We were going to Walmart, and I was just going to have to deal with it.


“we need to go to Walmart this morning.”

Well, we left the condo and headed for the car in this cold, foggy, misty morning. As we got in the car, I knew my attitude wasn’t right. All I could think about was having to deal with WALMART people. I could see it now; people getting in my way, bumping my basket, putting their basket in the middle of the aisle, so I can’t get my basket around, etc. 

Entering the War Zone

As we entered the war zone (store), my thoughts were immediately justified. I was walking by a register when an employee hocked a massive loogie and spit it in the trash can right in front of me!  In my total disgust, I ran toward my wife, when I was hit by a basket from a person turning from a side aisle into the main aisle. I grab my leg and continue to hobble to where my wife was. When I finally met up with her, she looked at me and asked, “what’s wrong,” I simply said, “nothing, let’s keep moving.”

After about an hour and a half of basket bumping, aisle space fighting and hardcore looks and grimaces, we finally finished our shopping. We headed to the Christmas/Garden area to check out. We were number two in line, and I was so excited that we were going to get out of here fast.

Then I overheard a conversation between the cashier and the customer in front of us. Apparently, the customer saw the same pots and pans online at a competitors site for $3 cheaper. Their discussion and banter went on forever. The customer would not relent. I came very close to saying, “Oh my gosh, I ‘ll give you $3 if you’ll just finish and leave”! Instead, I told my wife, “come-on lets go check out at the regular lanes.” We left and headed over to the other end of the store. As I was walking (maybe slightly running), I saw an empty lane, so I moved a little quicker to make sure no one got in front of me. Yes! I made it! The cashier greeted me and began to check us out. Then she noticed we bought a pizza. As she scanned it, she began to tell us how she and her husband “did something last night they hadn’t done in 20 years.” I thought to myself, I’m not sure I want to hear this. She said they had a pizza delivered along with breadsticks and two 20 oz cokes! My wife responded, “we hadn’t had a pizza delivered forever” and looked over to me and said: “isn’t that right?” I nodded, yes. By this time, the cashier was talking more than she was scanning and moving very slow. Then she saw a toy we bought my grandson and started commenting about she hadn’t seen that toy for years. I felt my ears beginning to catch fire, and my blood pressure busting through my arteries. All I could think was; quit running your mouth, speed up and finish my order so I can get the heck out of here!

Reflecting on the Moment

As we were finishing up, I caught a glance of the cashier’s face and saw how happy she was to be talking with us. I immediately told her to have a wonderful rest of the day and to have a Merry Christmas. She responded with a huge smile, “Same to you.”

We left the line and headed out of the store. As we came out, we were greeted by a Salvation Army Volunteer who greeted us with, “Have A Merry Christmas” with a huge smile.

These two instances immediately melted my heart and made me think about what makes people happy. I started to reflect on my negative attitude and stupid interactions with some of the people.  I began to think about how a real leader would be acting right now and realized that leadership should be a way of life all the time, regardless if you are at work or in a non-desirable situation. As we were walking to the car, my wife looked at me and said, “she (referring to the cashier) was so sweet.” I agreed and said that “our Walmart trip wasn’t all that bad.”

After we got home and unloaded the groceries, I started to reflect on the attitude I came into the store with and how that influenced my actions. I realized that I  learned several leadership lessons from my shopping experience.


“our Walmart trip wasn’t all that bad.”

Leadership Lessons Learned

While shopping at Walmart is not my favorite thing to do, it does offer many opportunities to influence and learn. Here are the leadership lessons I learned:

  1. Leaders are consistent in their thoughts and ideas about people regardless of where they are.
  2. Leaders value people for who they are and the hard work they perform regardless of the type of work they are doing. 
  3. Leaders make a difficult and challenging atmosphere, fun and enjoyable.
  4. Leaders listen with their eyes and ears and encourage responses.
  5. Leaders inspire others through their encouragement and influence. 
  6. Leaders are humble and relatable in all situations.
  7. Leaders keep a good head and an open heart in all situations, regardless if it is ideal or not.
  8. Leaders realize they are responsible for their own attitudes and take the initiative to change it quickly.

While I left the house with a negative attitude and a strong resentment to shop at Walmart, I learned a lot while I was there. By reflecting back on my experience, I was able to identify the fact that a leader is a leader all the time, not only when they think they need to be a leader. 

We all make mistakes, but it’s the leader who learns from their mistakes which has the most significant influence on others.

Leaders are also learners. We all make mistakes, but it’s the leader who learns from their mistakes which has the most significant influence on others. I encourage you to reflect on the eight leadership lessons I identified above and consider them in your leadership journey.

Managing Work/Life Balance

 

o-WORKLIFE-BALANCEI recently began a new job. Yes, I said a new job. The last two years have been very challenging, but that is a topic for a future blog. Man, I wish I could keep a job like I keep my wife (we’ve been married for 32 years).

With a new job comes the need to re-balance the commitment to work with the commitment to life. That takes a lot of effort. Let’s face it, a new job not only takes a lot of effort to build relationships, learn the job and become familiar with the organization, but it creates a desire to make a great first impression.

However, our personal life is the most important. Whether you are married, dating or simply just like your alone time, work-life balance is essential to your physical and mental health.

As leaders, we want to set the pace and set the expectation. If you are a true leader, the best way to do that is to exceed your own expectations. I find many leaders do this by coming to the office early and staying late. In fact, if I come to the office and someone is already there, I find myself questioning my commitment and leadership. Even though I know better, I will fall into this thought process sometimes.

I think the challenge of work-life balance is one of perspective and mindset. I heard someone say,

In order to change the way we work, we must change the way we think.”

I agree, to achieve balance we must think like the leader we are and not the doer we want to be.

I’ve heard it said that being “busy” is the badge of honor among leaders.”
I used to model that saying. However, I realize I was merely wasting time. There is a time within the end of a day (for me about 9-10 hrs) where my concentration and focus lacks. I only exist at the office to create a perception. Longer days don’t generate accomplishments.

As a leader, here is what is needed to create a fair work-life balance:

  1. Make a list of things you need to do. And make a list of things you want to do. Create a combined list based on both “need” and “want.” This will generate a desire to accomplish both while creating a more enjoyable work environment.
  2. Identify your priorities each day. Priorities change, so it is essential to take time in the morning, and afternoon to re-evaluate and make adjustments.
  3. Schedule time in the early morning to give you an opportunity to achieve items on your priority list before people start interrupting.
  4. Look for ways or opportunities to overlap projects.
  5. Limit emails, answering calls or checking voice mail.  Set aside an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon to answer emails and voicemails. In fact, I have a code for my staff and family. If there is an emergency or critical situations, they are instructed to use the code, and I will immediately answer.
  6. Assign appropriate roles and responsibilities to your staff. This will reduce your workload and free up time to accomplish your priorities.
  7. Trust your team. Some of you will say this is easier said than done. If that is the case, I suggest you reevaluate your team members. Give them a challenge and the freedom to perform and succeed. I use the approach of “Ready, Fire, Aim.” Meaning I let them do what they do, and we course correct as needed.
  8. Learn to say NO! It’s ok to say no. People will respect you more when you do. When we figure this out, we free up time to accomplish other things and spend more time with family or taking care of ourselves.

Creating a healthy work-life balance doesn’t just happen. It takes commitment and persistence every day. However, seasons do come and go. There will be situations where the balance is off, however, be persistent in trying to maintain and create the balance because a good work-life balance will create a better you and stronger relationships.

balance

 

9 Real Reasons Why People Leave Their Jobs

Why do people leave jobs? Good question. I have been actively employed in the professional job market for a while. In that time, I have enjoyed multiple positions with multiple employers achieving both high and low results. However, there hasn’t been one position that I haven’t learned something new or how to become a better leader. In fact, I’ve learned more, become more diverse and become a stronger leader through the character I’ve built through the various situations and interactions I encountered. I wish it were the way it used to be. People got a job, the employees worked hard, the company recognized their value and so employees stayed for 30, 40 or 50 years. Nowadays, most employees get 3-5 years out of a job and turnover has become a day in the life of an organization.unhappy ee However, in my research, I’ve found the cost of turnover and employee retention costs to be astounding. Here is some of what I found:

  • 51 % of workers are looking to leave their jobs (Gallup)
  • 40 % of employees are considering employment outside of their current firm within the next year (SHRM)
  • 34 % of employees say they plan to leave their current role in the next 12 months (Mercer)
  • 74 % of all workers are satisfied with their jobs; 66 percent of those are still open to new employment (Jobvite)
  • Cost of replacing entry-level employees: 30 to 50 % of their annual salary (ERE Media)
  • Cost of replacing midlevel employees: 150 % of their yearly salary (ERE Media)
  • Cost of replacing high-level or highly specialized employees: 400 % of their annual salary (ERE Media)
  • 44 % of Millennials say, if, given the choice, they expect to leave their employer in the next two years (Deloitte)
  • 45 % of employees reported that they would be likely or very likely to look for another job outside their current organization within the next year (SHRM)
  • 47 % of Americans would leave for their ideal job even if it meant less pay (Adobe)

This information made me raise my eyebrows but didn’t really surprise me. Some of these are the reason(s) I left a job or two, and it confirms some of the feedback I’ve received in exit interviews.

So why do people leave their jobs? Here are 9 reasons I put together based on my experience and feedback from others.

  1. The Leader – More than 50% of people leave their job because of their boss. Whether it is a weak relationship or a lack of character and integrity, people will leave a job if they don’t feel comfortable working in that environment. People don’t typically leave a company, they leave the people. This is an accurate statement for me personally. I struggle with people who are poor leaders. Early in my career, I would merely find another job rather than work on my influence with that leader. However, I matured. I’ve realized that you can effectively influence your leader through your diligent hard work and your consistent character. When people see who you are in all situations, they tend to buy into the person and work to change their interactions and ways.
  2. BORED! – Same stuff day after day. People want to feel they’re moving forward and growing in their professional life. They want to have something to aspire to. If there’s no structure for advancement, they’ll look somewhere else. In the meantime, they’re likely to be bored, unhappy, and resentful-and that will affect performance. No one wants to be bored and unchallenged by their work.
  3. Overworked – There are seasons of being overworked. Stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed come with many jobs, but so does burnout.  If the season never changes, then employees will look elsewhere. Consider this,  it’s often the best employees, the most capable and committed and the most trusted that we overload most. If they find themselves continually taking on more and the perception is there is no end in sight, then they feel they’re being taken advantage of.
  4. A Blurry Vision – There’s nothing more frustrating than a workplace filled with visions, but no actions to achieve. I’ve worked at many places where the vision is posted on the website, are framed and hanging in each office. I even had a CEO tape our the company vision to every door in the building. However, I never saw the actions to achieve that vision. In fact, I bet you could still find some of them hanging after 2 years of leaving. What person wants to spend his or her time and energy in support of something undefined or merely hype and talk? People don’t want to spend their time and effort just spinning their wheels.
  5. Profits Over People – When an organization values its bottom line more than its people, the people go elsewhere. The result is a culture of underperformance, low morale, and even disciplinary issues. Of course, things like profit, output, pleasing stakeholders, and productivity are essential, but success ultimately depends on the people who do the work.
  6. Feeling Undervalued – It’s human nature to want to be recognized and praised for a job well done. And in business, recognizing employees is not merely a nice thing to do but an effective way to communicate your appreciation for their efforts and successes. This will reinforce those actions and behaviors that make a difference. When you fail to recognize employees, you’re not only failing to motivate them but also missing out on the most efficient way to reinforce high performance.
  7. No Trust – Trust is crucial to influence, and influence is required to lead people. Employees view your behavior and weigh it against your commitments. If they see you dealing unethically with vendors, cheating clients, or failing to keep your word, the best will leave.
  8. Lack of Transparency – Hoarding or not sharing information will cause people to leave. A person who hoards information does it to control the outcome.Patrick Lencioni’s masterpiece The Five Dysfunctions of a Team indicates the foundation for any good relationship is trust, and that foundation of trust just cannot happen without transparency at work. As a result, employees working for managers who share information will work harder for them, respect them more, be more innovative, and solve problems much faster.
  9. Corporate Culture – While it’s not the top for leaving a job, the overall company culture affects an employees attitude and ultimately influences their decisions to go. Some questions to consider when evaluating the company culture.

Does the organization appreciate employees, treat them with respect, and provide compensation, benefits, and perks in line with competitors?

Is the work environment conducive to employee satisfaction and engagement?

Do you provide events, employee activities, celebrations, and team building efforts that make employees feel that your organization is a great place to work?

Ultimately, many people leave their job because of the boss, not the work or the organization.

Job SatisfactionPeople create results. And Leadership is essential to attracting and maintaining talented results-oriented people. Ask yourself what you may be doing to drive your best people away, and start making the changes needed to keep them.

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.

ACHIEVING CHANGE IN AN UNCHANGEABLE ENVIRONMENT

I recently began a new job with a large organization. The organization is somewhat unique to me because it consists of two legacy organizations each made up of multiple companies. Each organization operated independently until recently when ownership decided to merge the two legacy organizations into a single corporation with shared visions and goals.

“Change is achievable in any environment, as long as all layers are iniated in the change process.” – Denis Baker

I was hired to help create a transformational change where safety and health are Fotosearch_k27534040integrated into the entire operational culture. I believe this is the only practical method for achieving safety and health goals and ultimately an incident-free culture. Safety and health should never be “first” or a “priority,” but rather a core value integrated into the culture of the organization. You see, priorities change, values do not and first is not always. I often use a pie analogy to visualize this. The pie is divided into equal pieces, with safety and health having an equal slice of the total pie. No more, no less, but equal.

Whether your profession is safety or finance, the successful process of change is the same. Here are 10 principles to follow when initiating change. Execute these, and your efforts will be made fruitful.

1. Have compassion and understanding. Regardless of circumstances, change is scary, and you represent a terrifying unknown. Every location I visit, after we complete the professional introductions and small talk, I am met immediate resistance. And most will try and distance themselves. When I begin touring, asking questions and making suggestions, encounter looks of concern or frustration and often hear, “but that is not the way we do it,” or we’ve always done it this way.” To help soften my perceived impact, I often encourage their suggestions or solutions. This creates a great team-centered environment that allows them to consider any of my initiatives. Probably, the most important thing I’ve come to realize, is their reactions aren’t personal; they are just responding to an uninvited change.

2. Reach out and connect with those affected by the change. Success in anything cannot be achieved without effective relationships. Before a relationship can begin, one must first connect with the person or group. Do this by identifying common ground. Look for small wins that build respect and credibility.  In the beginning, change can be frustrating for both sides. It will be tempting to simply brush off questions or concerns, because you may feel it is easier to just do it. And it is. However, I BEG YOU to RESIST that urge! No doubt we want quick results, but you’re better off starting slow and finding common ground. Find opportunities for one-on-one interactions. For change to be successful, connecting with those affected requires consistent, realistic, heartfelt conversation.

3. Influence the influencers. Influence those who have influence, without neglecting the others. Pay attention to group dynamics and identify the influencers. Identify who they are, and get to know them immediately. Learn what they value and be transparent in addressing their needs, concerns or wants. Just remember, you can’t do or control what you don’t control.

4. Expect resistance and don’t ignore it. Resistance is always present for any change, especially culture change. Don’t think it will go away on its own, it won’t. In fact, if left unattended, it will multiply and infiltrate the entire organization. Once this occurs, your job just got tougher. Meet with the discontent. Put your pride aside and listen. Address each issue as it comes up, but don’t make any promises or commitments you can achieve. If that happens, you just lost all the trust and respect you’ve been working to achieve. Gain buy-in by understanding the reasons getting buy-in for your vision and goals for change. Realize that most of the resistors are the influencers.

5. Communicate your values. In the safety profession, it’tempting to withdraw when you encounter conflict, but you have to do the opposite. You’ve got to overcommunicate. Look for ways to demonstrate your values as you explain your vision. You want to reassure people that your principles are positive and show where your values align with theirs. The key is to be steady, positive and consistent.

6. Learn from other leaders. How do others achieve change? Read, ask and network, looking for ways and ideas that might work in your situation. I often tell people to go with their gut. Meaning, if your intuition is saying yes or no, then follow that “gut feeling” and move forward. As we say in the safety profession, “steal shamelessly.” Great leaders learn to steal the best ideas. Remember, their approach or tactics are vetted and proven.

7. Go forward boldly. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. (Just be sure to fix them faster than you make them!) Stop and assess yourself, your process and your progress often, and course-correct as needed. Mistakes are inevitable. Keep it moving.

8. Prioritize and act. Identify the one or two areas where you will receive the greatest benefit and make that your priority effort. However, always evaluate your progress, the level of reception, the level of effectiveness and be ready to make changes as needed.Remember you are the change agent, you must be willing to change.

9. Create wins for the organization. Never underestimate the power of early victories. They give people confidence to keep pushing forward, even though turning the ship is hard. Achieving an early win builds momentum. People trust leaders with a proven track record. They will accept changes from people who have led them to victory before. Remember, it is easier to steer a moving train than stop it.

10. Identify and equip other leaders. If you want to sustain change and start building momentum, you must start developing and equipping the leaders. This is something many organizations fail at. We take the best worker and make them the leader. Great principle, but horrible execution. We tend to neglect the coaching and training needed to make that person successful. Look for those who rise to the top and pour into them your coaching and mentoring efforts to see them become the best leaders possible.

When I am looking for a job, I tend to identify companies where change is needed. In Fotosearch_k21722018fact, I have been a crucial part of at least six organizations where a cultural change was required. I approach each opportunity by implementing these 10 principles. Execute these 10 principles and watch change take place.

Influential Leaders Never Use These Phrases

Believe me when I tell you that I can offend even when it is meant for praise. We’ve all said things that people interpreted much differently than we thought they would. These seemingly benign comments lead to the awful feeling that only comes when you’ve planted your foot firmly into your mouth.I recently read an article by Travis Bradbury, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. It offered insight into what to say in a conversation. I thought I would share some highlights with you. 


1. “You look tired” – Tired people are incredibly unappealing — they have droopy eyes and messy hair, they have trouble concentrating, and they’re as grouchy as they come. Telling someone he looks tired implies all of the above and then some. Instead say: “Is everything okay?”

2. “Wow, you’ve lost a ton of weight!” – Once again, a well-meaning comment—in this case a compliment—creates the impression that you’re being critical. Telling someone that she has lost a lot of weight suggests that she used to look fat or unattractive. Instead say: “You look fantastic.”

3. “You were too good for her anyway” – When someone severs ties with a relationship of any type, personal or professional, this comment implies he has bad taste and made a poor choice in the first place. Instead say: “Her loss!”

4. “You always . . .” or “You never . . .” – No one always or never does anything. People don’t see themselves as one-dimensional, so you shouldn’t attempt to define them as such. These phrases make people defensive and closed off to your message, which is a really bad thing because you likely use these phrases when you have something important to discuss. Instead say: Simply point out what the other person did that’s a problem for you. Stick to the facts. If the frequency of the behavior is an issue, you can always say, “It seems like you do this often.” or “You do this often enough for me to notice.”

5. “You look great for your age”– Using “for your” as a qualifier always comes across as condescending and rude. No one wants to be smart for an athlete or in good shape relative to other people who are also knocking on death’s door. People simply want to be smart and fit. Instead say: “You look great.”

6. “As I said before . . .” –  We all forget things from time to time. This phrase makes it sound as if you’re insulted at having to repeat yourself, which is hard on the recipient (someone who is genuinely interested in hearing your perspective). Instead say: When you say it again, see what you can do to convey the message in a clearer and more interesting manner. This way they’ll remember what you said.

7. “Good luck”– This is a subtle one. It certainly isn’t the end of the world if you wish someone good luck, but you can do better because this phrase implies that they need luck to succeed. Instead say: “I know you have what it takes.”

8. “It’s up to you” or “Whatever you want” – While you may be indifferent to the question, your opinion is important to the person asking (or else he wouldn’t have asked you in the first place). Instead say: “I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but a couple things to consider are . . .”

9. “Well at least I’ve never…” – This phrase is an aggressive way to shift attention away from your mistake by pointing out an old, likely irrelevant mistake the other person made (and one you should have forgiven her for by now). Instead say: “I’m sorry.”

In everyday conversation, it’s the little things that make all the difference. Try these suggestions out, and you’ll be amazed at the positive response you get.

5 Ways to Defeat Complacency

 

The phrase,” it is what it is” becomes the motto for many people who allow complacency complacency-2to embed there lives and way of thinking. In fact, that phrase indicates complacency has overtaken their ability to transform their results.

Complacency is like a deadly virus dormant in your system. It is lurking to kill your goals, dreams, and success.  It has the power to rob you blind of new experience, positive change, and personal growth. The worst thing about complacency is the infected person is usually unaware that he or she is at risk.

Complacency occurs in all of us. It is present in our personal life and career. However, success is determined by your ability to effectively avoid or move away from complacency. 

To help you avoid or beat complacency, here are five ways to defeat or prevent complacency.

  1. Let Others Have Influence“Never mistake the power of influence.” – Jim Rohn. Leaders need to listen and be wise, vulnerable and courageous enough to allow others to have influence. I know what you are thinking, being vulnerable as a leader is a sign of weakness. That thinking is out of date. In fact, I believe vulnerability is a sign of strength, creativity, and openness. Vulnerability displaces complacency by ensuring we are allowing others to influence where and when we need it. Let’s face it, complacency embeds itself in the inability to think differently. Influence will enable us to consider options.
  2. Challenge the Status Quo“Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” – Martin Luther King Jr. Evaluate your goals often. As complacency sets in, our ability to think differently is minimized by our inability to process anything other than what we already know. Instead of seeing the opportunity to move forward, we wait to seek permission and find ourselves passed up by great opportunities. Lolly Daskell wrote, “Challenging the status quo takes an open mind, open heart and open will.” When we fail to challenge the status quo, we allow complacency to discourage our intentions and thus weaken our ability to contribute to success.
  3. Be Curious I have no special talents, I am just passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein. What we know is all we know. Without a curious mind and curious heart, we become stagnant in our thoughts and ideas. This allows complacency to become our comfort place. John Maxwell said, “When you lack curiosity, you breed indifference.”  Indifference leads to ruts and routines and creates a complacent spirit. Curiosity, on the other hand, promotes change and adventure and a desire to always improve.  Curiosity requires wisdom and courage, just like the explorers who first set off around the globe. When you are in exploration mode, you may be moving forward or side-to-side, but you never go backward. You put yourself in a position to create influence rather than falling into the traps of complacency.
  4. Kick Laziness in the RearWe often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison. Complacency results from our lack of desire to allow others to influence, challenging the status quo and the lack of curiosity. Why? Because we prefer to remain idle and do nothing. We are just lazy. We accept where we are and what we have accomplished, and there is no desire to do anything more. This creates a complacent environment where we accept our current position. We may have a desire have a desire to be better than we are, but we don’t do anything to move forward. Laziness puts our careers and relationships on hold. We become stagnant and accept our current performance as ideal. Success has no room for laziness. Become a person who desires perfection! In others words, “Just Do It.”
  5. Keep Hope Alive At All CostYou don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. Regardless of life or business situations, hope will always shine a positive light. Hope drives our desire for accomplishment. Hope is the belief that circumstances in the future will be better. It’s not a wish that things will get better, but an actual belief, even when there may be no evidence that to support it. Talent, skill, and ability gets you in the game, but the hope is the motivation that keeps you there. 

ComplacencyComplacency robs us of our success and achievements. It creates a way of thinking that blocks our ability to achieve the great things we desire. In fact, complacency sneaks up on us so fast that we don’t realize we’ve become complacent until someone points it out. 

Take a pro-active approach to preventing complacency by evaluating your current personal and business position and taking actions to defeat and even avert complacency. Consider these 5 ways to overcome complacency.