As a safety leader, you are the key to creating culture in your organisation. And, the culture you create will be founded on the mindset that you foster in your employees. You have the power to encourage a safety culture that merely survives, or you could encourage one that actually thrives. Do you manage workplace health and safety issues in an ad hoc fashion, or have you created a supportive, collaborative environment where your workers feel involved in safety issues? To create a culture that truly thrives, it’s vital to know how to create a healthy and open environment with workplace safety firmly embedded in everything you do.
What Type Of Culture Are You Creating?
More than the way you lead your workplace safety initiatives, it is the way that you manage people that will have the biggest impact on safety culture. Without your employees behind your safety goals, they will be very hard to achieve. Ultimately, there are two types of culture that you can create:
- Survive – this culture comes from an environment where employees are managed on a day to day basis. There is little planning, collaboration or understanding from management and, as such, workers aren’t involved in workplace health and safety initiatives. It is a very much top-down approach, where employees are told what to do when the proverbial hits the fan.
- Thrive – this culture comes from an environment where safety leaders seek their employees’ input in proactive planning and risk mitigation strategies. They actively encourage ideas towards safety initiatives and create the channels to do so. Success is openly celebrated, achievements acknowledged, and problems are solved together rather than in isolation.
If you create a survival culture, not only will your workplace safety initiatives likely bomb, but you could create animosity, stress and, eventually, a high level of turnover. In a survival culture, workers don’t feel invested in the company and its safety mission. Alternatively, a thrive mentality works to create a culture where individual wellbeing is valued, which, in turn, helps the whole organisation to succeed. However, to encourage a thriving culture, you need to be able to empathise with others, emotional intelligence is key.
How Can You Improve Your Emotional Intelligence?
While we may all be safety leaders, we are all also individuals. That means that we have our own ways of doing things and our own strengths and weaknesses. Fortunately, however, emotional intelligence, while more natural to some than others, is something that we can all learn. By working on our emotional intelligence, we can improve the quality of our relationships and the effectiveness of our workplace health and safety programs.
There are three skills we need to acquire: awareness of our own emotions, the ability to regulate our emotions and the ability to empathise with the emotions of others. We need to be aware of how our mood influences those around us. In the same way, our approach towards workplace health and safety will influence those around us. We need to understand when to take action to regulate or channel our emotions. And finally, by being more aware of our own emotions, we should be able to recognise the same in others. By picking up on when others are struggling or having bad days, we can offer them the support they need. By demonstrating emotional intelligence, we can create a culture where employee wellbeing is prioritised.
What are the Qualities of a Great Safety Leader?
Safety leadership is the ability to manage your own safety responsibilities while also motivating your employees to strive for workplace safety. Ultimately, leadership is the influence that you exert over others. By demonstrating emotional intelligence alongside other leadership qualities, you have much more chance of making a positive change:
- Safety first – you always bring attention to safety in all you do and bring it to the forefront of conversations and meetings. More than that, you lead by example, influencing safety culture by showing that you believe in it.
- People-focused – you know safety is more than processes, procedures and rules. To make them a reality, you need to help workers develop safe work habits by engaging and educating them.
- Always on – safety is a mindset that shouldn’t be turned on and off when you enter the workplace. Great leaders will encourage their teams to exercise the same attitude to safety in their personal lives.
- Communication – you create an open dialogue with your employees about safety practices. Constant communication strengthens safety programs, and regular meetings give you the opportunity to listen to ideas.
- Education – in the same way as you need to continually educate your employees, you must educate yourself. By taking an active approach to attending safety conferences, reading safety publications and working on your emotional intelligence, you yet again demonstrate the importance of safety.
As a leader, you have a pivotal role in developing safety culture, but you can’t achieve it alone or without learning new things. You need to work on your emotional intelligence, aiming to empathise with those who work for you and create a positive safety culture where employee wellbeing is paramount. After all, taking care of yourself and others is what safety culture is all about, with the right leadership workplace safety can thrive.
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