What are H&S pros doing to achieve an engaged workforce?  If they don’t know the difference between transactional and transformational leadership my answer is “not much.” The traditional/transactional work system focuses more on the task and very little on the person doing the task. A high performance/transformational work system focuses on BOTH the task and the person doing the task. 

The norm for senior leadership is heavily weighted on the transactional side – a strong focus on key performance indicators like sales, quality, cost, production, etc. Functional excellence can come from becoming more transformational – with leaders’ heads and hearts in the game. 

H&S pros need to get a clear grasp and understanding of transformational  leadership and then influence their management to become more transformational.

Key skills are performance characteristics:  Listening – seek first to understand and then to be understood; communication – speaking in the language of the customer i.e. worker; caring – being sensitive to the needs of others; being collegial – relating to everyone and making them feel at ease; engaging – conveying a sense of worth to workers.

Carry the message forward that transformational leadership is the key to engagement and engagement is the key to functional excellence — not just in safety but other key performance areas.  Go forth and spread the good word.

Dr. Richard Fulwiler, CIH retired as the Director of Health & Safety Worldwide for Procter & Gamble and is President of Technology Leadership Associates.