President and Organizational Consultant
Catalyst for Change, Inc
Leading Safety Improvement: Humbly admit the Battles YOU Face
A few years ago I was leading a Safe Work Habits workshop for a security company’s armored truck division. Halfway through the morning, the President stopped me. He shared with his employees that he had just realized he was probably the riskiest driver in the room. He admitted to driving while on the phone, while eating, while reading and even writing emails, and at times, while doing a mix of these distracting behaviors. He further admitted that if anyone in the company was caught doing any of these behaviors on the job he would be the first to expect discipline. But who was going to discipline him? He concluded, in line with the intention of the Safe Work Habits training we were in the middle of at the time, that safety was an issue for all of us – starting with him!
Safety is in large part a personal choice. Yes, those choices are influenced by others in many ways. But we do have to face the decisions we make. When leaders challenge themselves and start to realize how hard it is to be safe themselves at times, how they lead their organization will change significantly. When key leaders go public with their own safety challenges, safety improvement becomes a true team focus rather than a finger pointing and blaming exercise.
Have you admitted your battles to be safe to anyone? This humble act of leadership makes a huge difference in your organization’s effort to change its thinking about safety. It makes it safe to be honest about our challenges to be safe. It sets an expectation that we will surface “our” opportunities and take them on together, out in the open.
Try talking about the risks you struggle to reduce with other employees and see what happens. In my experience, it gives employees permission to openly tell you what they are really struggling with.