Thought Leadership


Develop community-based cultures through safety

"A community of people is a force to be reckoned with!"

March 14, 2012
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communityIn order to achieve continuous improvement in safety, professionals must seek ways to build their cultures with a sense of community. This means bringing out the best from groups of diverse individuals that can offer an array of talents, all toward a common goal. People within the organization must be part of a common purpose and shared vision for safety. In effect, this means feeling and being part of a community to improve safety performance. A few key characteristics of building a community-based culture with and through safety include:

1. Capable Diversity. Good communities by their nature are inclusive, not exclusive. No one is left out because everyone believes that all members can and need to share their unique beliefs, knowledge, perspectives, and talents.

This aspect of community requires that we provide the kinds of learning and education that will allow our people to make a greater impact for safety. It means that they know how to run a good meeting, coach each other, communicate effectively, and get involved in “real” problem solving. It also means that people know enough to seek out ways to make improvement in safety an ongoing task. Knowledge and the diversity of knowledge serve as part of the foundation for establishing, building, and maintaining a sense of community through safety.

2. Commitment. Even with individual differences, people can and will commit to the cause of continuous improvement in safety. Within this shared commitment, people can build symbols and a common language that binds and bonds them together.

But people need to realize and see the concrete evidence of their efforts. Workers must see how accidents and related costs have been impacted. They also need to realize how their collective safety performance helps to support the organization’s overall mission for success. When people are committed to safety, they feel obligated to share in each other’s successes and failures and pull together to remove organizational barriers and solve problems in fair and equitable ways.

3. Consensus. Communities work toward agreement of their members so they can move forward as one — especially for reasons that support the culture for safety. This also means, that at times, differences will have to be challenged, confronted, and worked through until adequately resolved.

When community is at its best, there is enough knowledge and support within the group for people to manage their own actions. Workers will not have to be told or forced into doing what’s right for safety; they simply jump in and do it. They don’t need to be supervised.

And our true measure of success in safety is what people do when they are not being supervised or watched in any way, by peers or superiors. At this collaborative level, people will establish significant personal bonds with one another that will further help members to see their individual contributions and talents as valued members of the community. Trust, respect, and shared knowledge maintains and nurtures the collaborative arrangement that we as professionals must learn to support.

4. Openness. Organizational members must be able to be open and honest with each other, and at times, some individuals may be hurt or offended by the degree of openness. This kind of openness also means that unspoken thoughts not ordinarily voiced can be embraced and will not surface, again, at a later time in ways that might undermine the decisions of the group.

Other forms of confrontation are dealt with quickly and openly so that future challenges related to conflict would not cause the group to falter at some time in the future. This sort of openness requires followers develop as leaders for safety. Honesty, openness, and trust build continuity as people move to new positions or leave the organization. A change in formal leadership near the top or middle of the organization will not require the group to start all over. And it will not cause significant disruption in other ways because significance within community has already been developed and nurtured.

5. Fight fair. Conflict has to be viewed as a part of the improvement process and dealt with through a community of people who are well aware of the boundaries for handling these obstacles. Even when conflict does exist, there is a “collective conscience” to call upon the guiding principles of the organization — its values.

It is already known that organizations with a conscience and an ethically-driven workforce produce more and better results. In effect, fighting fairly and conscience helps members to see themselves as part of a larger community: the individuals, the social community, stockholders, and the interrelated systems of beliefs, values, and actions. When individuals understand that ongoing conflict is harmful, they can and will work toward resolution with this larger community in mind.  

Tips from The Safety Coach®
1. In a solid community, we provide the kinds of learning and education that will allow our people to make a greater impact for safety. It means that they know how to run a good meeting, coach each other, communicate effectively, and get involved in “real” problem solving.

2. People need to realize and see the concrete evidence of their efforts. Workers must see how accidents and related costs have been impacted.

3. When community is at its best, there is enough knowledge and support within the group for people to manage their own actions.

4. Workers will not have to be told or forced into doing what’s right for safety; they simply jump in and do it.

5. When conflict does exist, there is a “collective conscience” to call upon the guiding principles of the organization — its values.

If you’re looking to build more than just your culture for safety - yes, a community in and around safety, I want to help you. Just give me a call at 1-800-240-4601 or 1-724-255-9111. Also, visit The Safety Coach® at www.davidsarkus.com.

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