Two years is a long time to be trying to get it right as a supervisor. Especially when it comes to safety. On this episode, the three C's to becoming a better safety supervisor.
Does your workplace take the most senior employee in a crew and promote that person into a supervisory position? And then leave them to hang without skills, training and basic supervisory tools? Has it maybe happened to you?
You know, there's a sense of irony that your company requires any employee or contractor on your job site to have proper training to operate a piece of machinery? But to supervise the people who are actually operating the machinery doesn't require any supervisory training?
Workplaces want their supervisors to mentor and coach the younger, less-experienced workers. But a lot of those same supervisors don’t get the skills and tools to do the job with any kind of competence. It can take a new supervisor up to two years to find his or her own workable management style.
So, let's see if we can't shorten that two-year curve. Here is a 3-part formula to improve your effectiveness as a supervisor or safety person. Each part of the formula starts with the letter C.
Kevin Burns is a management consultant, safety speaker and author of "PeopleWork: The Human Touch in Workplace Safety." He is an expert in how to engage people in safety and believes that the best place to work is always the safest place to work. Kevin helps organizations integrate caring for and valuing employees through their safety programs.
“What matters most is that everyone goes home safe each day.”
Is making sure people go home safe really what matters most? Because if that’s what matters most, then it’s the least you can do. It's the bare minimum of things you are allowed to do by law when it comes to safety. You are not allowed to do less. You can be fined or jailed if you do less.
Employees have a basic expectation that their workplace and their employers will do what is necessary to protect them from harm. When you tell your people that what matters most is that they go home safely, they know that. That’s their expectation.
So really, is sending people home safely the most important thing you do each day? Or could you be doing a lot more?
Safety Leader? What is that?
Let's start with what a safety leader is not. It's not a position, it's not a title. It's not a management position. It's not bestowed upon you because you passed a few safety courses or because you are a certified safety professional. And it's not something that you will ever be called.
Safety Leader is made up of two parts: safety and leader. Safety is an attitude. It's a way of life, a mindset, a philosophy and a set of personal values combined with how much you believe that you are of value. People who believe that they are worth something, that they make a valuable contribution or they have a purpose for living, want to protect that which they do and who they are. They will adopt a safety mindset to protect themselves against anything that would harm them or the people they care about. Oversimplified, but that is safety - the attitude.
Leader is the second part. It comes from leadership which is also an attitude. Management is a position. Leadership is an attitude. You don't have to be in management or in a position of authority in order to be a leader. Leadership isn't about you, it's about them. Everyone else outside of you. Good leaders are focused on building other leaders; people who can make a difference in the lives of others. So when you combine this outward focus with safety to form the phrase safety leader, you are speaking about people who believe in safety, believe they and others are worth protecting and caring for and will work alongside to offer mentorship and coaching to build best performances in safety.
Alright, so what are we going to do with this podcast and what can you expect to get out of each episode. First, I make a solemn promise to you to keep each of these episodes short. I vow to not take 10 minutes of solid information and cram it into a 60-minute podcast and then fill the rest with fluff and filler. No, I know you're busy and so I promise to not take up a ton of your time.
How did the Safety Leader Podcast come about? In talking with quite a few of my clients and connections on social media, I came to realize that many of my Blog readers worked on the road, in remote locations sometimes, from their mobile offices a lot and didn't have ten minutes to sit down and watch a video or read a few blog posts in succession. But you drive to work and you drive home from work. And sometimes you drive FOR work. It's those miles that can be made useful, where you can improve your skills as a supervisor or safety person to get better at helping others to be better at safety.
As a safety communications and management consultant, I’ve seen that when frontline supervisors buy into safety as one of their personal values, they better understand their role in keeping the workplace safe. The Safety Leader Podcast introduces the next level in safety. Workplace safety lies in the relationship between the frontline employee, the employee’s immediate supervisor, and the bond among the entire crew. Supervisors are uniquely positioned to bring workplace safety past compliance and across the threshold to where safety is personal. When trust and respect are the tools of frontline supervisors, their ability to personally influence frontline employees is deeply improved.
I believe that the battle in safety is at the front line, not the head office. All the certified safety officers, VPs, and safety managers in the world can’t have the impact on safety of a single supervisor or front-line safety person and a solid crew. A rules-based approach to management doesn’t have the reach of smart coaching and mentoring for ensuring safety. Quoting the rule book, finding fault, and barking orders isn’t leadership. It isn’t even good management.
Over the past few years, I began to see clearly was that the relationship between a frontline supervisor and a frontline employee is critical to the health and safety of an organization. It’s where the culture of an organization is made and reinforced. Organizations thrive at the level of teamwork, camaraderie, solid work ethic and values. A good supervisor will keep a team together, while a poor supervisor will turn over staff. We all know people who’ve left jobs because of a lousy boss, even at good companies.
Sadly, most frontline supervisors ascend to their positions by virtue of being the most senior guy on the job. A lot of these supervisors don’t have any particular management or supervisory skills, yet they’re the ones in charge on site. They’re the ones who are supposed to keep the team together, keep them motivated and focused, make the right decisions, keep their crews safe.
To get safety right, they need to be armed with more than just a rule book of procedures. No one wants a safety cop looking over their shoulder while they work. Supervisors need the personal skills to become centers of influence.
I commit to you to give you my best ideas, tips and strategies to help make your job easier and more effective. That's what the Safety Leader Podcast is all about. I look forward to spending time with you.