What determines an effective safety manager? The intangibles hidden in the company culture and that which motivates us…
An easy way to determine the credibility of an organization is to simply look at how they value safety. It is not hard to pick if a company is authentic and worthy of its service to you if there is clear evidence that they are strongly committed to protecting their employees. An effective safety manager therefore is drawing from an existing company culture and their values. If these have the building blocks that create a worthy experience, then there is a good chance the safety manager will be motivated to follow suit.
It’s all about trust- effective safety managers trust their team and how this begins is from the top down. A good safety manager provides a framework, the boundaries, and then allows their workers to instil them and report back. They trust their workers and show genuine concern, curiosity, acceptance and use strong communication.
There are few employees that will put their hand up and ask to be micromanaged and this is something to be grateful for, as if they did, it would create a platform of distrust and a backdrop of accidents waiting to happen. Safety is a responsibility and managers need to create a sense that they trust their workers to take this on and own it.
Safety is about people, not paperwork. Any people-centric leadership style will inadvertently always trump following strong formal written procedures or regulations. It is a balance; an effective safety manager must have the skills to be able to juggle following the program rules but also seeing outside the paperwork thread and enacting a humanistic and personal approach.
Curiosity enhances flexibility. Having a mindset that is always curious will enact an ability to be able to see even the smallest, important, sometimes life changing things that a staunch compliance driven manager will miss. There is a reason we have only one mouth but two ears and two eyes, speak less, listen and look more. Your workers will provide you with everything that is needed to keep the environment and them safe, especially if you show them that you trust them.
Treat your team as leaders
A leader is someone who makes a choice to look after the people around them. If this is something you do, then you are a leader. Lead by the behaviour, led by the example. If an effective safety manager has engendered a strong sense of completely trusting their workers and also having a curious and flexible mindset, then all the workers will become safety leaders and will communicate effectively.
In Daniel H. Pink’s book “Drive – Supporting Truth About What Motivates Us” he demonstrates that autonomy, mastery and purpose are the true elements of motivation. Considering these three factors when it comes to safety motivation, we can easily see how having trust for workers will motivate them to act in a safe manner and be the safety leader themselves.
Autonomy is the desire for one to act on their own interests and values. So long as the manager trusts the self-worth and self-respect of the individual employee, then autonomy can be deployed. Considering the top down approach when instilling values – if the overarching organization’s intangibles are worthy, this will translate to the safety manager. They will provide the framework and boundaries and necessary safety compliances and then instil the same trust and beliefs into their workers which creates autonomy. Autonomy elicits the motivation to have a safety mindset and take responsibility for themselves and their team.
Being good at something, having a skill and the urge to do it better all the time. As Epictetus, the ancient Greek Philosopher quotes “no man is free who is not master of himself”. Too much compliance and not enough engagement will snub any person’s ability to be able to master their skill and subsequently their values of keeping them and their colleagues and the environment safe. Effective safety managers boost workplace moral and encourage workers to learn and increase their skills. They know their workers by name and are present, available to deal with and iron out any issues or concerns whenever they arise so that motivation for mastery is not lost.
The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. We all seek a purpose and for positive mental health purposes we certainly require it as part of our job. By adding both autonomy and mastery to the mixing pot of motivation to a safety mindset, purpose is simply another underlying application to look after oneself.
It is easy to see that the three elements that Pink describes are the ingredients required to motivate workers or us humans in general and by applying these to safety if workers are trusted and given autonomy to master their skill which automatically provides their purpose they will naturally stay akin to their own safety and the safety of others.
- David Hassell. (2018). ARE THE BEST LEADERS HANDS-OFF? Five Secrets of Effective Managers. Professional Safety, 63(8), 24–25.
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. (2015). Talent Development (Alexandria, Va.), 69(6), 67–.