By: Jim Morris, CSP
“It doesn’t matter if they like me, as long as they work safe.” “I’m not a safety cop.” “I’m not here to make it easy, I’m here to keep you safe.” Have you said any of these things? I know I have, and I believed them too. Especially earlier in my career, but the reality is that the longer I spend as a manager I have learned a few key lessons that have changed me from a manager into a leader; regardless of the actual authority my job title gives me. Having influence and being admired are the most important qualities anyone can have and if you are sacrificing these qualities, in order to be the ‘smartest’ person in the room, or to be ‘right,’ you are setting yourself up for an uphill battle that will never end.
My first experience with influence was with a contact on my LinkedIn account, Dino Bice. Look his account up, he is an excellent safety representative and a mentor to me whom I look up to and still speak with to this day even though it has been several years since I have worked for him. His influence over my professional and even personal life has been evident to the point that he is specifically mentioned as an example in an article about influence. When I met him, I wasn’t impressed. Dino never told me he held a CSP, degrees, or long list of safety certifications, but instead shook my hand and invited me to have a cup of coffee with him. We talked about work briefly then he ensured that I would be having dinner with him (assuming I had no other plans). I traveled a lot for this organization and every time I passed through the corporate office Dino wanted me to come to his office to have a cup of coffee and catch up; not to talk about work but to ask me how things were at home. He knew when my birthday was, my anniversary, how I took my coffee (black), and treated me with respect. I realized something one day, he treated everyone this way, no matter how rough his day was, how stressful his professional or home life had become. Dino seemed to make us all a priority in his work life and won our respect and was able to influence our every behavior.
I want you to think about this for a second, wouldn’t you like to be able to change behaviors of employees, managers, contractors, and even change an entire culture with your words? Let me rephrase this, wouldn’t you want to create organizational change with your influence? I can try to make one small change at a time and say to myself, “I don’t care if you like me, but I will
MAKE/FORCE you to work safe,” or I can influence you to work safe… I influence you by getting you to like me, selling you my ideals. Now, I can try to teach you people skills, but that is such a complex topic that I’m honestly not sure how to do this in an article for LinkedIn. There are many YouTube videos you can watch, literary sources, clubs, and a multitude of books on the subject. Or I’ll happily meet with you, lets have coffee and chat and practices our people skills (remember, I like black coffee unless your buying and then I want the most expensive coffee on the menu). But show a genuine interest in people, show them respect, and give them your honest dedications regardless of your position and you’ll see your influence grow.
Remember, being the smartest person in the room doesn’t help you make an organization change. Forcing one person to work safe changes one behavior one time. Learning to get people to like you and gaining influence over them can change their behavior on a consistent basis, and that my friends is how I choose to define behavior based safety. Just my opinion. Have a safe day friends!