"Managing the desert island"
When it comes to safety in your organization, have you ever felt like it was you against the world? Even in organizations with supportive cultures, from time to time, one can feel this way. But it’s in times like these that safety professionals must re-double their efforts. Instead of “mailing it in” here are ten ideas to help you take on the world when you feel all alone.
1 Create buzz!
Being a leader, you are accountable for your organization’s energy. Chances are very good that if you are feeling alone, the energy level within your organization is near rock bottom. At times like these, it’s time to create buzz with the purpose of pumping energy into your work group. There are a number of ways to do this from funny, safety-related YouTube videos to rubber chickens. I would suggest that you outline a formal strategy that includes a number of concepts such as raffles, give-a-ways and contests. Make sure senior leaders are visible.
2 Play a game
I know what you’re thinking, there is no way that your people will “play a game” or participate in an activity. Let me tell you the secret: don’t tell them!
There are tons of activities and games, that last anywhere from two minutes to more than a half hour, that your employees will do, not realizing it’s a game or activity. Remember, engagement in an activity leads to involvement, involvement leads to ownership and ownership leads to results…and it gets you off the island!
3 Give something away
Give away a small token; in safety it is called a SAI (Safety Awareness Item). This can be a candy bar, stick of gum, duct tape or an apple. The item should be useful, practical and handed personally to the employee.
Remember, this isn’t about buying safety, it’s about the relationship and putting the customer - I mean employee - at ease so you can have a good conversation and begin working your way off the island.
4 Block and tackle
In sports, when things are not going well, the coach will always return to the fundamentals, or get back to the “blocking and tackling.” When we feel like it is us against the world, we need to get back to safety’s fundamentals - the safety process. A safety process is a formal and systematic set of procedures outlining safety in your organization. It includes management safety accountability, incident reporting, incident analysis, hazard recognition and inspections, and employee recognition, just to name a few.
5 Share a story
Safety is personal and one of the best paths for organizational growth is through vulnerability - the ability of people within the organization to share a story. To foster this, ask a number of people, especially senior leaders, to share a story. It doesn’t matter what the story is, it matters that it is personal, heart-felt and honest. Keith Ferazzi, business leader and author, puts it like this, “Vulnerability is the courage to reveal your inner thoughts, warts and all, to another person.” It’s through this “courage” that results are found.
6 Professional development
“In order to help another, you must first help yourself.” I was working as a line-manager for a mid-western utility when one day the phone rang. It was the safety manager. I thought he was calling about a near-miss report, but to my surprise, he asked if I wanted to serve in a temporary role on the company’s safety staff. I knew the operational side of the business, but I didn’t know safety. I began to work on my professional safety certification; I pursued the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) designation. Nearly five years later, I passed my final exam! I tell this because through that process I learned safety. If you find yourself feeling alone, don’t forget to help yourself first.
7 Find your informal safety leaders
No matter how alone you may feel, take a moment to look around your organization. What you will find is a handful of people who are leading. Each person will be leading in a unique and different way, but each person will have influence over a number of fellow employees. Once you identify these leaders, bring them together and ask for their help. These are the people who can help you build a raft and pull you from the desert island.
8 Bring food
“The family that eats together stays together,” reads that familiar saying, but why? Well, the family that eats together is not only sharing food but time and life.
Set up a structure to share a meal within your organization. Hold a monthly breakfast if the group makes it injury- free or meets another safety-related goal. You can also hold quarterly luncheons. Over time you will find that the work group that eats together is safe together!
9 Recognize the power of recognition
Safety is a tailor-made vehicle for appreciation and recognition. To work your way off the island, set up structured recognition including line and senior management. It is in the natural facilitation of safety process elements, such as job safety observations, safety team interaction, and safety goal achievements where consistent appreciation and recognition can grow roots and have a far-reaching positive effect on an organization.
10 Work one day at a time
Francis Petro, president and CEO of Hayes International Inc. said, “The fact is, the only day an employee can get injured is today. You can’t get injured tomorrow until it gets here, and you can’t get injured yesterday because it is gone. So we have to be very, very clearly focused on what is happening today and that becomes part of our makeup, that becomes part of our nature, and that becomes part of our culture.” (McMillan 2007)
Focusing on today allows everyone to clearly focus around today’s hazard. It helps with job planning and job safety briefings. Focusing on today makes a clear theme that can bring energy back to your group…energy that can carry you gracefully off the island.
Fight the good fight
In the end, we all feel alone from time to time. It’s not the fact that we feel that way; instead it is what we do about it that matters. Remember what Art Linkletter said, “Life turns out the best for those who make the best of the way life turns out.” Keep fighting the good fight and working hard to be a desert island survivor.