Leading Safety, and Leading Safely – Part 6 – Are we getting better at this stuff?
Most of us are so busy fire-fighting the daily challenges that flood our inboxes that we often fail to take the time to have a look and see how we are doing, to improve. Whilst measuring and benchmarking performance using metrics and indicators allows comparison and competition (as long as it is used constructively) and provides the opportunity for leaders to identify areas that can be improved, we still need to subjectively look at ourselves also.
Do we encourage leaders to continually challenge the status quo and improve themselves and the safety performance of their people and organisation? Improvement is incremental, in that the early stages might simply be a small increase in people opening up and sharing their problems. Exemplary performance will certainly not be an immediate result, but performance that improves step by step, and can be seen to be improving will generate its own momentum and belief. Open and honest communication of performance generates trust in its own right and influences the commitment and performance of the organisation.
We all use metrics to some extent, but we fail to consider the potential side effects, and the sometimes-conflicting messages slavish adherence or focus on metrics drives. They also affect not only the management but the organisation as a whole. Consider the case where a senior manager extolled the need to follow procedures in order to keep the organisation safe, but in every meeting was commending the team for doing more with less, delivering 130% output based on the available resource. What side effects do you think were caused by his well-intended actions and words?
Ponder the statement “What is important to my boss is really important to me!” and ask yourself what your team consider to be your real priorities.
- How regularly do we challenge our safety performance, or are we getting complacent?
- How confident are we that we place actions appropriately and follow them through to conclusion?
- How often do we recognise when we have completed our actions, and congratulate their achievement?
So there we go, the ramblings of someone who spends his time looking at safety leadership and its impact on organisations. Sometimes I get asked what the difference is between Safety Leadership and Leadership in a wider context. The honest answer is nothing! Safety is something that we all care about to some degree. Safety Leadership is simply the thoughts about how to bring out that care and instil it in your team or organisation so that you are better able to protect your people, your clients and your business from all the bad things you don’t want to happen.
I hope you have enjoyed my dirges, and that it helps in even the smallest way. Take care of yourselves and the others in your charge.