Safety Professionals face stigma for the jobs and roles they have the responsibility to perform on and off the worksite. One way to combat this is to show up and gain trust by demonstrating the hard and soft skills of a best-in-class safety leader.
Safety professionals deal with a stigma that often puts them at odds with the rest of the team. They struggle to do their jobs because of pushback from their team.
Safety Professionals have the ability to make meaningful change that has a lasting effect on the people they work with. We are the team that gets workers onboarded and through necessary orientations, we help our companies achieve COR or SECOR which translates to money in the bank and workers going home safely, we mentor, we teach, we care. We make sure company assets are maintained through preventative maintenance programs, we try to get workers to see how the worksite impacts the bigger picture and their loved ones through behavioural-based safety programs. This list goes on and on. Being a Safety Pro is one of the most challenging jobs out there.
Being a safety leader was challenging at many times in my own safety professional career. Not everyone values safety and pushback is common. Being a leader meant working to change the mindset of some and show others that safety adds value to their day. It also meant entering into difficult conversations with your managers, supervisors, and workers with a clear purpose and strategy to change their minds.
Years ago, I had one of these difficult pressure cooker conversations. This experience was a perfect example of how important these skills are to gaining trust and buy-in to our role as a Safety Pro in a team. When it started I knew that the outcome was to either change his mind or there was a strong possibility that I would be let go.
The conversation lasted for 2 hours and he was one of the toughest people I have ever faced but in the end, I won his grudging respect and over time turned into a great working relationship. If I had not had the right soft skills, I would not have been able to demonstrate that I had the technical knowledge to do the job or even know what he was looking for reassurance on.
To become a safety leader you need to build your knowledge as well as your soft skills. All safety leaders adopt a continuous improvement mindset. With this in mind, there are two major areas that you should focus on.
- Hard Skills - quantifiable technical knowledge gained through education, training, and certification.
- Soft skills - professional habits, behavioural interactions, or people skills, such as communication, teamwork, time management, and conflict resolution
Hard Skills give you the technical knowledge required to be a strong and trusted resource which your team will count on to give them the technical information about safety requirements.
Soft Skills are what will move you into the leadership category. Without soft skills, you are just a technical resource for the team.
Here is a shortlist of where to start:
- Communication - this is the strongest skill you can develop. Focus on spoken and written communication. Find opportunities to practice your communication with the intent of getting better. Ask for feedback from your peers on your communication skills. Find communication training for areas that you need to develop. This is a lifelong commitment so start learning and practicing now.
- Integrity - start by practicing integrity in the things that you do. Find a mentor that shows integrity and learn from them. Integrity means that you are honest, trustworthy, and reliable. The old saying Practice what you preach comes to mind. Own up to your mistakes, don’t hide them, and don’t blame others for failure. We have all had a boss that makes coming to work horrible, so be the person that people want to work with.
- Active Listening - Start building your skills as an active listener. We have talked about active listening in the Personal Safety Involvement methodology. Start by asking questions that require in-depth answers. Listen to what the person is saying and don’t spend the time formulating your response. Watch their body language and stay present in the conversation. This is a great skill to learn so read up on it and start practicing today.
- Leadership - Start studying the art of being a great leader. Great leaders have integrity, honesty, humility, and communicate their vision to others. They inspire the best in everyone and they work hard to help their team succeed.
Listen to David dive into this topic in the video below:
Leaders are born, not made. I remember in my first leadership course, telling my instructor when he asked if leaders are born or made, that I thought they were born. Boy, what a surprise it has been to learn just how wrong I was.
Great leaders work hard every day to become who they are.
If you want to start your continuous improvement journey - download our free guide on how to perform Personal Safety Involvements on the worksite and elevate BBO's into an experience-sharing exercise.