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  • Writer's pictureLeverage Safety

Four Vital Questions for Effective Safety Leadership

Updated: Jul 17

As leaders, getting the best effort out of people can be a challenging task. Shaping performance requires a clear understanding of what is expected, effective communication, appropriate recognition, and consequences. In this article, we will explore four vital questions that leaders must address to drive performance and achieve safety excellence within their organizations.

  1. What do you want people to do? To shape performance, it is crucial to clearly define the desired behaviors that contribute to the most desired safety results. Identify both mandatory and discretionary actions that individuals need to take to prevent incidents and injuries. For example, a long-haul trucking company reduced side-impact collisions by 73 percent by implementing a simple precaution: engaging the turn signal three times before changing lanes. Determine the behaviors that will make the biggest difference in achieving the desired safety outcomes.

  2. How do you communicate it to them? Communication is a process that goes beyond a single event. It requires active engagement from both the sender and the receiver. Simply posting information or speaking to a group is not enough. Develop effective communication strategies to ensure the message resonates with employees. Consider using tools such as laminated pocket cards with essential safety questions, conducting quizzes, or offering incentives for knowledge retention. Reinforce communication over time to ensure the information sticks with employees.

  3. What happens if they do it? While progressive discipline is common in organizations, progressive recognition practices are often overlooked. Positive consequences are crucial for reinforcing desired behaviors. Recognize and reward employees who consistently demonstrate the desired safety actions. Sometimes simple verbal recognition can go a long way in motivating employees. Make sure employees know that their efforts are valued and appreciated, not just when they make mistakes but also when they do things right.

  4. What happens if they don't? To shape performance effectively, a balance of consequences is necessary. Positive consequences are appropriate for encouraging and reinforcing desired behaviors, while negative consequences may be needed to discourage unsafe actions. Define the consequences if employees fail to follow safety rules or neglect discretionary precautions. By implementing appropriate consequences, you can influence behavior change and drive safer practices.

To shape performance and achieve safety excellence, leaders must address four vital questions: What do you want people to do? How do you communicate it to them? What happens if they do it? What happens if they don't? Clearly define the desired behaviors, effectively communicate expectations, reinforce positive actions, and implement appropriate consequences. By providing a clear framework and fostering a supportive safety culture, leaders can shape performance and make safety a sustainable and integral part of the organizational mindset. Remember, effective safety leadership is an ongoing process that requires continuous engagement and commitment.

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