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Safety Leadership

By Dr. Josh Williams and Emily Wood Smart safety leadership is critical for exceptional safety performance. There are five core leadership competencies that can help you, as leaders, better reinforce safety excellence and prevent incidents and injuries. Successfully applying the competencies in your everyday work will improve your influence over team activities. This includes shifting the narrative from “safety is managed through enforcement” to “safety is managed through team participation” as employees recognize their why for safety and actively engage in safety efforts. Anchored in years of research and experience, these leadership competencies include: Actively Care, Walk the Talk, Build/Live the

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By Eduardo Lan Many of the clients we work with at Propulo Consulting ask us what it takes to create a robust Safety Culture where people work safely out of choice rather than obligation. Three critical elements of this are an organizational willingness to learn, an engaged workforce, and the leadership that creates such an environment. Leaders set the cultural tone Leaders are critical to this equation because they set the cultural tone of the organization. As Edgar H. Schein, former MIT professor and organizational culture guru, says: “Leaders reinforce an organization’s culture by what they pay attention to and how they choose

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D. There are no shortcuts to safety culture improvement. However, if there was a safety culture improvement ‘hack’ it would be getting and using more employee input for safety. One of the best ways of doing this is through safety suggestions from front-line employees. This should be done both formally (e.g., peer checks, safety committees) and informally (1-1 conversations). Many of the best and most practical safety ideas come from front-line employees. Also, getting more employee input leads to better decision-making and increased front-line discretionary effort for safety. For example, at one manufacturing facility in Southwest Virginia, the safety

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D. Improving supervisory safety leadership is critical for safety culture advancement. And to be sure, being in a supervisory role is one of the toughest jobs in organizational settings. And one of the most important when it comes to safety. The term “where the rubber meets the road” is often applied to this level of leadership because supervisors carry out the vision and directives from senior leaders but also manage the difficult day-to-day challenges with front-line employees doing the work. For years, we have talked about the dangers of old-school leadership. Decades ago, the norm for field leaders was

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By Eduardo Lan I often hear clients complain about workers' lack of engagement. It is not uncommon to hear comments like, “we ask them for their feedback and opinions, but they hardly speak up,” “it's like pulling teeth” or “we are afraid to ask them because we´ll get a laundry list of complaints.” Never for a moment do they stop to consider that the problem with communication might have more to do with how they listen than with what workers say. There are many benefits to effective listening. According to the article “Are you Really Listening?”, “When leaders listen in focused, attentive,

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D. Organizational safety communication is a key litmus test for healthy (or unhealthy) safety cultures. The best organizations have ongoing, open feedback throughout the organization. Weaker organizations have one-way traffic with communications (not getting employee input), insufficient psychological safety, and disorganized messaging. It is common for us to meet with EHS leaders who will provide pages of safety improvements over the last few months. However, when we speak with field employees, many are unable to list a single improvement they’ve seen. The hard work of making changes was made but the (seemingly) easy task of advertising them was not.

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