4 Skills Needed by Leaders to Improve Safety

July 04, 2019

Happy Fourth of July!

The Human Performance, Root Cause, and Trending (HPRCT) conference took place last month in Colorado Springs. One of the sessions was about Leader-Inspired Safety and four important skills that build cultural excellence.

David Crouch, Senior Safety Consultant at Caterpillar Safety Services, delivered the session and explained that incidents occur for two reasons: behaviors (which is a human factor) and conditions (which may have human causes and remedies).

In essence, culture in the form of attitudes, beliefs, ideas and norms is at the root of almost any incident. Because organizational culture is greatly influenced by leadership, Crouch focused on what leaders can do to proactively influence positive attitudes and beliefs, and improve safety.

During the session, Crouch emphasized four skills needed by leaders to build cultural excellence, and which are described below.

1) Drive Accountability

Crouch said that accountability is about accepting responsibility for and explaining one’s actions, and is the opposite of blaming. In order to drive accountability, everyone needs to know what is expected.

Organizations should train workers so that they know what “good” looks like, and give workers the resources they need to succeed. Measuring performance and providing feedback are crucial to fostering accountability and continuous improvement in the organization.

Crouch stressed that specific and timely positive recognition is much better than non-specific feedback (e.g. saying “great job”) because “what gets recognized gets repeated”.

2) Create Connectedness

To create connectedness, organizations should communicate to everyone that safety is about making business operations more resilient and sustainable.

Leaders need to be consistent in their messaging that safety is as important as other functions like production, operations, finance, and customer service.

Leadership should also actively engage every employee in safety and integrate safety with other functions.

3) Demonstrate Credible Consciousness

What is “credible consciousness”? According to Crouch, it signifies “believable and convincing awareness and understanding of what it means to be safe”.

Demonstrating credible consciousness is about being believable as a safety leader. To achieve this, leaders should understand the safety processes and have the necessary information to make informed safety decisions.

Leaders also need to embrace safety concepts so they can apply them personally. Moreover, leaders should continually learn and grow, and encourage their employees to do the same.

4) Build Trust

Crouch highlighted four critical elements to build trust:

  1. Show care and concern for workers, not just in terms of safety, but also for workers as people to care about.
  2. Communicate safety as a core value, not just a priority, because priorities can shift and change over time, whereas core values should stay the same.
  3. Show openness and transparency, because workers need to be comfortable discussing with leaders about their concerns.
  4. Foster interaction by being responsive to worker questions and needs.

In conclusion, leaders have the most influence on organizational culture, and in nurturing the attitudes and beliefs that enable workers to make the right decisions, avoid at-risk and unsafe behaviors, and stay safe. Be sure that leaders in your organization have the required skills to build cultural excellence, and therefore improve safety.

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Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader