In the manufacturing industry world, there is a common thread everyone, and I mean everyone, attends safety-training classes. The classes may vary in length, focus on new information or it could be a refresher class. However the process of providing employees with safety training is mostly driven by a compliance requirement. People usually sit politely and listen to an instructor or run through a computer based training (CBT) module to review what they are supposed to do. Subjects range in intensity from emergency response for catastrophic situations to reporting instructions for a sprained ankle. Once they sign off that they attended the course, many see themselves as done and in compliance.

It is a typical event that takes place almost every day when we are constantly challenged with making a choice of utilizing the “official procedure” we were taught, or modifying the approach – because we feel it would be better, or just not following it at all. If we choose not to comply with the written word, we realize there may be consequences, from the company discipline policy, to initiating an investigation, to harming ourselves or someone else. Most people that choose this option believe it won’t happen to them.

The real question is “How do people decide when to apply what they have learned? How do they decide what risk they are willing to take?” If we were to review statistics of a root cause failure analysis (RCFA) of a safety incident, it most often would boil down to a poor choice by the individual/s involved. Their intentions may have been admirable, but their choice was dismal.

What makes people choose to follow procedures, or act hastily, or just drive the speed limit? It really is based on making good choices the first time. If we could truly answer that question, then I believe safety incidents would be on a downward spiral heading to the ultimate “ZERO”

How do we as leaders help people make good choices?

Leaders need to have a culture that allows people to make good choices. If there is back lash, taunting, fear, or monetary rewards that interferes with good decision-making; the result will be injury, environmental events, or even death. All have a domino effect to people and communities.

Culture is revealed through people’s behaviors, which means those of the leaders, peers, and employees. It sees no hierarchy. If leaders expect the members of their organization – at all levels – to embrace four simple behaviors, the culture of making good choices will grow exponentially.

1. Listen to your Colleagues This means truly listen. Make sure you have given them your undivided attention. You have to put down your phone, closed your laptop, turn and faced them so you can look them in the eyes. There are classes that will provide techniques you can practice so you can really hear what is being said. A key to making sure your colleagues know you are listening is simply to follow-up. If you follow-up in a timely fashion, even if it is to tell them you are working on the issue, your colleagues will accept that you really heard what they said.

2. Look for the Good in People
People do not wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, ”Today I really want to screw up.” Everyone want to do a good job, they want to feel valued by their boss, colleagues, friends and family. How can you let them know you value them? A couple ways;

a) Delegate and show them you trust their judgment and ability to complete the task without interfering. (And make sure you do not interfere).

b) Solicit their opinion and act on it. Many techniques to engage people say to ask people their opinion, but if you never act on what they say, don’t you think they will feel like their opinion does not really matter? Hence, the result which is so prevalent in workplaces is employees feeling less valued. Has that happened to you?

3. Have Fun
You can take your job very seriously with a smile on your face. I think people have the belief in their DNA that if you observe people laughing, joking at the end of the hall that they are not working hard enough to meet the needs of your organization. That is really far from the truth. Did you know that “having fun” can increase creativity and innovation tenfold? Do you know that the health of your employees will actually improve, due to reduced stress, physically lowering blood pressure and other health related issues? Did you know that if people enjoy what they do it results in their full commitment to achieve success for their department/company?

One last tip! If you are the leader, you must “participate” in activities. If you only agree to an amusing skit to be performed during the monthly safety meeting and you are not in it; then many of your employees are still going to look at you so see if it is ok to laugh. Participation is the key.

4. Say Thank you
Most people have been told that you need to say “Thank you” to your employees. Most people will attempt to do this as a last minute thought. The unfortunate fact is unless the interaction meets several criteria, the effort falls into a black hole.

Here is a technique to help you remember an approach to deliver an authentic “Thank you”.

T stands for Timely; Set a target timeframe to deliver your “Thank you” within 48 hours. You may have to change up your schedule, but delivering a timely “Thank you” does amazing things.

A stands for Authentic; If your interaction does not start from the heart, people can see right through it. It will actually have the opposite effect as they will take it negatively.

P stands for Personable; Understand how the employees accepts recognition, do they thrive in a public approach, or prefer a small, face-to-face thank you recognition? Make ensure the person you are recognizing is comfortable.

S stands for Specific; You should be able to state with some level of detail why you are thanking the individual. A generalized thank you that lacks specificity silently turns into a reduction of respect and trust people will have for you.

Four simple behaviors; I call the Leadership Code of Conduct; where embraced by all will result in a reduction of safety/environmental events as well, drive positive results for your organization.

What are your thoughts in driving a culture where people make good choices?

Written by Carey G MacConnell
Author of Leadership Code of Conduct; Culture Change Made Simple
Managing Partner of Voyager Leadership Training LLC