The role of senior leaders in safety performance
Making wavesIntroducing a performance initiative into an organization is like tossing a pebble into a pond. Successful organizations achieve ripples that flow effectively and efficiently, creating rapid improvement and wide acceptance. In organizations that struggle, the pond is more like a pool of molasses; the ripples bogged down by built-in barriers such as mistrust between levels or poor communication. Still, others experience a ripple effect like dropping a pebble into a turbulent ocean. Activities are quickly swallowed up in a sea of competing priorities and conflicting messages.
A study of sites using the same behavior-based safety methodology matched pairs of sites by industry, site size, and time in the process. In each comparison some organizations were steadily improving (the ripples flowed freely) while others were struggling (like ripples in molasses or the ocean). The study showed that leadership behavior was a critical success factor.
Leaders in successful organizations don't just provide resources and verbal support; they influence the organizational climate through their actions. A body of research in organizational psychology shows nine characteristics predictive of successful safety outcomes. Senior leaders can strengthen their organizations in these nine critical areas and improve their organization's ability to engage the energy of its employees: