Shifting Focus: The Power of Behaviors in Achieving Safety Excellence
Updated: Jul 17
In the pursuit of safety excellence, organizations often struggle with engaging employees and instilling a personal sense of responsibility for safety. Merely asking individuals to support safety or make it a way of life is not enough. To truly drive a culture of safety, organizations must demonstrate how to accomplish it and consistently reinforce safe behaviors. In this article, we will explore the importance of behaviors in shaping safety culture and performance and how organizations can leverage them to achieve sustainable excellence.
Understanding the Difference
Effort vs. Luck Focusing solely on outcomes can be misleading. Judging individuals based on results without acknowledging their actions can lead to a superstitious approach rather than sustainable progress. Successful leaders understand the importance of identifying and recognizing the specific actions that contribute to desired outcomes. It is not just about what they have done, but how they have done it.
The Power of Observable Actions
Behaviors are the observable actions that individuals exhibit, including their words, body language, and work product. To achieve sustainable performance, it is crucial to understand the reasons behind these behaviors. Why do people do what they do? This understanding is essential in driving lasting change and obtaining excellence in any operational category, including safety.
The Behavioral Approach to Safety
Behavioral approaches play a critical role in safety regulation and legislation, from executives to new employees. Compliance and safety are dependent on specific behaviors, both at the individual level and in leadership. Employees must hold themselves accountable for personal safety, just as they hold the company responsible for providing a safe work environment. Aligning behaviors with safety values is key to achieving this delicate balance.
Defining Roles, Responsibilities, and Expectations
Organizations striving for excellence in safety, quality, or production should clearly define the roles, responsibilities, and expectations for every job title and level. Similar to quality management, safety should have well-defined guidelines and standards. By aligning systems and culture to reinforce desired behaviors, organizations can break through performance plateaus and achieve sustained positive results.
Focusing on What You Want
Many organizations fall into the trap of fixating on undesirable outcomes rather than emphasizing what they want to achieve. Shifting the focus to measure and manage what is desirable can be transformative. Self-driven leaders understand the power of focusing on the positive and working towards their goals. By clearly defining the desired behaviors and aligning systems and culture, organizations can create a clear path to excellence.
Leading with a Clear Destination in Mind
Leading without a clear understanding of the eventual destination is futile. Organizations must define what they want to see in their operating environment, articulating it in positive terms. This clarity allows leaders to align systems, culture, and expectations to guide their teams effectively. Without a clear vision of success, the journey becomes aimless and progress becomes challenging to evaluate.
To achieve safety excellence, organizations must go beyond asking for support and ownership. They must demonstrate and reinforce safe behaviors, focusing on what they want rather than what they don't want. By understanding the power of behaviors, defining roles and expectations, and leading with a clear destination in mind, organizations can foster a culture of safety that drives sustainable performance and continuous improvement. Remember, actions speak louder than words when it comes to safety.