Libraries could be filled with books written about Leadership. My humble offering is simple; leadership is a behaviour not a position, nor just a topic for discussion or the subject of an away day. Sure, these things can help promote leadership but at the end of the (away) day it comes back to leaders behaving as leaders.
People follow leaders
How we choose to lead/live (and that word choose could be a whole discussion on its own) determines how we, and others act. People follow leaders. And they largely follow what they do as opposed to what they say. Within the world of safety leadership, be genuine and authentic in your care for people and allow the processes to flow from that.
leadership is a behaviour not a position
We were speaking at a seminar the other day and a question raised by one of the people there was, “What happens when people are cynical about safety – and think it is a waste of time?”
Our answer at that time was, “In every organisation or group there is a leader. They may not be an official leader, but they have followers and if you can get that person on board, you can change culture. It takes time and can only happen by actively spending time with that person or group of people, listening to them and engaging with them.”
Having thought about this some more, I think that people are cynical because they have been bombarded with process rather than being genuinely cared for and respected as people. I’m sure many of us have experienced bad versions of safety culture. Even cynics often care for their colleagues and don’t want any injuries at work or home.
Hearts and minds
So how do you win over hearts and minds and engage people? My suggestion is to listen to the cynics, let them speak and try and build up common ground. If there is merit in what they are saying – work together on how to change things. Help them to see that they are leaders and that their actions speak volumes to their peers and followers. The very people who were cynics can become the greatest ambassadors for your safety culture.
Safety culture is not about process. Process is the method we use to meet our main objective and that is people. Safety culture is about people. It is about caring for each other and ourselves. By practising this we can influence everyone around us.
Jeff is a co-founder of Fifth Dimension with his colleague Ivor Smith. Together they use their magically enhanced safety presentations to help engage audiences around the world and bring fun and life to safety culture.