Several years ago, I had the great honor to complete a best-selling safety video with Bobby Bowden, recently retired head football coach of Florida State University. The video, Safety Coach: Unleash the 7C’s for World-Class Safety Performance was based on my first book with a similar title. Coastal did very nice work in bringing Coach Bowden’s thoughts together with my seven principles. And he did an excellent job in front of the cameras!

It was a thrill and pleasure to spend time with and hear from this coaching legend. When I returned home, after a couple of days, my father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly — my world was shaken for quite a while and it gave me plenty of time to think. I miss my father very much and there will always be a connection between Coach Bowden and my dad, John Sarkus. They remain quite similar as high-character people.

A Common Foundation

You’re probably thinking, get to the point — what’s your connection? The connection is credibility. Both my father and Coach Bowden have been men of character who’ve developed their own forms of credibility.

Do you really know the depth and breadth of credibility? It’s more important than trust alone! Credibility is comprised of both expertise and trust — a powerful partnership.

Let’s take a brief look at Bobby Bowden’s coaching career. He’s been at it for more than 50 years. He’s had to change with the times. But he’s continued to be successful and admired because of his credibility.

Coach Bowden has amassed nearly 400 victories and is the winningest head coach in Division IA history. He has two national championships and 12 Atlantic Coast Conference titles. He’s also helped turn thousands of boys into men and catapulted bus loads of players into the National Football League.

All of this isn’t simply good fortune or happenstance. Coach Bowden has worked hard to develop his expertise. He’s likely forgotten more about football than most head coaches at the same level have yet to learn. Coach Bowden knows a great deal about leadership, offense, defense, planning, recruiting, communicating, and motivating his staff and his team. That’s great knowledge — that’s expertise.

Think about the skills you’ve learned and developed — those you still need to learn and refine? You may be a manager, supervisor or a health and safety professional, but you have to continually evolve your expertise:

  • As a professional, do you know your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Are there technical skills you need to develop?
  • Do you know the relevant safety policies, procedures, and practices?
  • Do you know the technical aspects of your operations?
  • Are you developing your ability to communicate, lead, and influence others in ways that will improve overall safety performance?


The Second Part

Let’s not forget about the glue that holds credibility together, trust. You can be the most knowledgeable and skilled leader in the world, but if you aren’t trusted, you won’t be able to lead over the long haul.

Bobby Bowden may not be having the same success he had in the 90’s but don’t count him out. Coach Bowden may still have another national championship in him. Coach Bowden is admired throughout college football because he is trusted. His words and actions line up. When he speaks, people listen because he’s been where most coaches want to go. He has a vision regarding the kind of success he wants to see and the kind of team he wants to create. He gets people to believe in a vision for success and he gets players and coaches on the same page.

Think about the importance of trust in your own organizations:


  • Do your words and actions and those of your leaders match up?
  • How’s the follow-through — do you and others keep your promises?
  • Do you support your people appropriately so they can achieve great success?
  • Do you know how to push others to move closer to the vision?


Why have I chosen to write about credibility and not simply about trust? Because of the powerful marriage — expertise and trust compliment each other. When you and other organizational leaders have a large degree of expertise and when you’re trusted — WOW! Great things happen. People begin to believe in the vision for zero-accidents and push towards it. They believe in each other — they remain on the same page. They believe in their coaches — your leaders who have to communicate and create this vision for success.

Bringing it All Together

You may be wondering about my dad’s credibility? Well, after laboring in the steel mills for nearly 20-years, he was forced to find a new trade. With a wife and two small children to feed, Dad studied hard and changed careers. He went on to sell life insurance for another 20 and was a record-setting salesman in the 1960’s and 70’s. He was the first in his company to produce over one-million dollars in sales! How did he do it? Credibility. He knew life insurance and people trusted him. He loved his policy holders and they loved him. People phoned dad for years after his retirement because they missed him and trusted his advice. Some individuals said, “John is so honest, if he found a dollar bill he’d go looking for George Washington.”

I’ve worked hard at developing my own credibility as a leadership coach, speaker, and safety consultant. You need to work hard to develop your own credibility with regard to safety and within the operations where you work.

Credibility is the key to getting everyone to believe in your vision of zero accidents — for getting everyone on the same page. A page in a chapter that leads to great success!

David John Sarkus, MS, CSP, The Safety Coach® is president and founder of David Sarkus International as well as technical editor for ISHN. He is a leadership coach, motivational speaker, and consultant who helps leaders develop their personal credibility and improve organizational alignment. For more information regarding leadership coaching and alignment through various assessments, and safety climate and culture surveys logon to: www.DavidSarkus.com. David can be phoned directly at 1-800-240-4601 and from outside the U.S. 1-724-379-6439.