Feb 12, 2019
It’s been quite a week. If you’re like I am, you have re-committed yourself to “no one getting hurt on your watch.” So, the big question is, “How do we sustain this feeling of shared ownership and commitment for safety performance?”
Maybe we shouldn’t use the word “sustain” at all. When you think about it, we’re not holding onto safety using set formulas, rigid rules, or tried and true processes. The word “sustain” actually sets us up for a trap that doesn’t work long-term. The fact is, things change. Constantly. There is no “winning formula” we can count on to adapt at a moment’s notice when situations change in seconds.
A more useful term is to “generate” or, perhaps, “create” safety performance all the time. If your leadership is generative, it can always adapt to do what is needed. It means you’re “up to something new, you’re innovative, you’re alive, you’re thinking, you’re open to something better.”
It’s sometimes said the greatest hurdle to innovation and breakthrough results is prior success. Success has a way of making you complacent. It can shut down innovation and it can prevent you from asking “wouldn’t it be better?” The past can inform, but it shouldn’t drive the future.
What you take away from Safety Week, along with a renewed responsibility for leadership, is far more important than anything you’ve learned before. You return home to become a more dynamic leader. Sure, the stand you take for safety is inflexible, that’s a good thing. But, now you know your stand for safety requires the courage to be fluid, to consider the wisdom of others in real-time. Your deep care and concern for your workforce means you are always, always open to gathering intelligence from whatever source provides it.
Now, while you just read having set rules and fixed methods can shut the door on innovation, there are certainly safety practices organizational leaders continue to find impactful and relevant. Generative leaders create new solutions the same way conditions change – constantly. That doesn’t mean they ignore people’s basic (and proven) needs.
People are not the problem, they’re the solution. When you recognize their important to solving every challenge, you shape a better culture. Generative leadership always includes trust and respect. Below, you’ll find a few ways that boost mutual respect and allow solutions to complex problems to come from anyone.
Regular forums and assessments to get grounded in current reality, regardless of the external conditions. The current business climate is up to you to create.
A willingness to be vulnerable- to not always have the answers- but rather the compelling and timely questions. Ask, “What if?” Ask, “What’s missing?” Ask, “What do you think?”
A balance of problem-focused (eliminating what we don’t want, i.e. lagging indicators) and solution-focused work (more of what we do want)
Similarly, justice in feedback- a balance of redirecting less desired behaviours with a focused intent to acknowledge pro-safety behaviours and efforts.
Constant vigilance to “what are we not seeing, addressing, perceiving, taking for granted.” Early warning signs are all around us. All the time. Don’t let success close your eyes to them
These are just a few examples of generative leadership practices that when systematically embedded into “how work gets done here,” can positively impact the ultimate desired outcome - to not only keep workers alive, but also bring them actively into the process of making a unique contribution to our respective safety journeys. What will be the leadership practices that define you and your organization? The best ones usually start with listening.