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ASSE Safety 2014 Speaker Q&A with Bob Veazie:

“Informing is a one-way command and control behavior.”

June 9, 2014

Working together against fatigueISHN conducted an exclusive interview with Bob Veazie, founder of People Powered Leadership, who presented a talk at ASSE Safety 2014 on “Commitment-Based Safety: the Only Way to Zero Injuries.”

ISHN : What is essential , what must happen, in order for safety pros to obtain the true commitment of the workforce to safety?

Bob Veazie: Commitment is gained by three things:

1. Education

2. Voice and Choice - Engagement - but having the ability to vocalize ideas and concerns and then make choices in the matter. 

Most leaders get this confused with informing. Informing is not engaging, it's a one- way command and control form of behavior. People feel engaged when they are heard (they have a voice) and they have some choices somewhere in their work. The whole idea of MBO (Management By Objectives) was always to have employees choose how they want to help. 

Georgia Pacific has a nice term called "Decision Rights."  Employees have Decision Rights on certain things at all levels. When organizations take these away from the basic choice of how to manage personal risk, they de-empower the performance (weaken or erase the commitment) of the individual. 

And let’s face it, commitment always drives higher performance as compared to compliance. I have yet to see a team win a World Cup, Stanley Cup, Super Bowl or World Series because "we had to." I have yet to see an organization achieve a long run at zero injuries without employee commitment -- unless they cook the books in the longer run and case managed too far.

3. Reinforcement - I should call this accountability but I'm not talking about how most people experience accountability. I'm talking about compassion, support, positive reinforcement - caring.
 
The more these three commitment drivers are utilized, the more commitment you will gain from anyone, a safety pro, employee,  etc. Yet, if a safety pro works in a severe command and control environment they are in trouble. Line management must be on board because culture and leadership style are generated from their behaviors.
 
Can a workforce be committed to safety if senior leaders are plainly indifferent to safety?

The journey to any cultural change goes well beyond the repeated action of something -- this is stage 1 - developing the discipline to do the work over and over. Most organizations at best only get this far. It's doing the mechanics without the deeper spirit of the work. It's why Scott Geller created People-Based Safety from Behavior Based Safety -- people were not getting this distinction. Still, most don't.  When you work with employees give them:
 
1. Increased education (why - knowing how it works)

2. Choices - Ability to modify and discover that it is worth it - it works (adds value from my vantage point).

3. Reinforcement – This is a key leadership behavior. Really this is about accountability -- but positive accountability .
 
Increased choices and reinforcement move more people from the discipline or mechanics of the work to being personally committed in the work -- doing it more and more for themselves because it makes sense and it is growing in worth to them. Leadership is essential to reinforce the work for employees to grow into it, beyond the discipline to the commitment.

And at the highest level you need passion. It's comes from the heart. Employees won't go there unless led.
 
I think the best way to answer your question is with another question: How many Olympians, individual sports or team sports go without a coach? How did the New Orleans Saints do with Sean Payton (year before suspension and year after) and when he wasn't coaching for a year?
 
Coaching is an essential component of high performance.  Guess what leadership's role is -- coach, coach, coach. Ask questions and provide continuous positive reinforcement to increase the volume of desired behavior (leading to desired lagging results).
 
If a leader implements BBS because it’s mandated, most employees are going to pencil whip facetious observations or not do it at all. When leaders grow in commitment and passion ahead of their employees, their employees reflect this behavior back and they grow more themselves.
 
In the short run employees out of the goodness of their hearts will try anything. As Scott and I wrote in our book, “When No One's Watching,” only those few who already value safety will stay performing at a higher level out of their personal value for it. Most people don't have that personal value, they need to be coached, reinforced and feel a greater purpose and pride in their work.  This is only achieved through effective leadership that cares and acts.

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