Leading Safety, and Leading Safely - Part 2 - Providing Direction - Baines Simmons
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Leading Safety, and Leading Safely – Part 2 – Providing Direction

Colin RussellYou have a safety policy, surely that provides all the direction the organisation needs?  Organisations are required by regulation or legislation to develop and display their safety policy, but from our experience it usually doesn’t mean anything to anyone, or support the people and their behaviours.  It could be argued it is really a compliance tick-box, even if it displayed everywhere – when was the last time you or your team referred to it or used it to guide your activity?

Leaders needs to provide clear and unambiguous direction, they need to lead their team somewhere, or to achieve something.  Direction provides a unifying goal, a harness or a sense of purpose.  Without a clear destination in mind, it’s a bit like going for that stereotypical ‘Sunday Drive’, aimlessly driving around – which way do you turn at each junction?

The question we rarely see answered with any confidence when we work with clients is ‘What do you want your organisation to be like in the future?’ or ‘what does ‘good safety’ look like not just to you, but to your team?’

By developing a clear Safety Vision, Strategy and Objectives which relates closely with the organisations’ overall purpose, teams can follow the flow and recognise the purpose of their task or role.  It will help them make local level, tactical decisions that align with the safety vision, and will help them act safely and play their part.

But leaders need to be clear, and determined.  We sometimes use the word ‘determined’ when discussing direction, as it related both to the fact you need to determine or work out what the direction is, and also the determination to succeed, the driven and committed nature by which leaders can inspire safe acts and attitudes in their teams.

Ah, I thought “Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast,” thoughWhilst this is a well-known phrase attributed to Peter Drucker, it really resonates with me. If the direction is set by a small team or executives, the chances are that there will be little ownership and conviction.  We have seen organisations bring their Unions, their informal leaders or even their whole business together to build one or more elements of the vision and behaviours.  The strategy must mean something to everyone; it should reflect the organisation’s current culture and the culture it aspires to.  In other words, it needs to be an inclusive approach otherwise you may as well lay the table and get the toast on!

  • Do you have a clear picture of what good safety looks like in your team or organisation?
  • What safety principles do you want demonstrated day in, day out?
  • What behaviours will consistently create the desired high levels of safety performance?
  • What safety-conscious behaviours do our star performers consistently demonstrate?
  • How well does the workforce consider their part in delivering the Safety Vision?
  • How much were the workforce involved in developing the Safety Vision?