By Kelly Hamilton, Madison Hanscom, & Josh Williams
One of the most important jobs of any leader is to build and live the vision for employees. Building and living the vision means painting a picture for employees of desired performance and living and managing organizational values in everyday interactions. Providing employees with a sense of the organization’s vision and mission should inspire them to align their goals with those of the organization. Research indicates that when leaders encourage employees to strive for something beyond their individual goals, this has a positive impact on safety climate, safety compliance, and safety participation.
Leaders who build and live the vision clearly define the vision for desired safety performance, live these values themselves, demonstrate the vision in daily interactions, and share the vision in a compelling way. Effective leaders should build and live the vision on a day-to-day basis.
Leaders can do this in several ways:
• Provide followers with a sense of vision and mission.
When employees are provided with information on the meaning and value of committing to safety, this increases interest in safety activities, which makes them more likely to participate in extra-role safety behaviors.
• Encourage employees to strive for bigger goals beyond their individual goals.
Inspiring them to work towards organizational safety goals should have a positive impact on safety climate, safety compliance, and safety participation.
• Convey messages related to the vision in an accessible, relatable, inspiring way.
When employees identify with the company they work for, they engage in more safety performance behaviors than those who fail to do so.
• Bring safety to life.
This can be achieved by telling stories to help facilitate a deeper understanding of the vision and using metaphors to build emotional appeal.
• Reinforce the vision with corrective examples.
If team members’ behavior falls out of alignment with the vision, communicate directly on ways they can improve.
Examples from the field:
• Leaders from a company in California together developed and instituted wellness programs to promote their vision of “Safety 24/7” (both on and off the job). This included conducting regular safety fairs where employees go with their families to eat healthy food, receive back and foot massages, and complete various health checks (e.g., blood pressure and cholesterol tests). They also built a state-of-the-art gymnasium with incentives for employees to use it and began piping in new-age music every couple of hours at work stations and encouraged employees to take brief breaks to stretch, in order to combat fatigue and repetitive motion injuries. Not surprisingly, these leaders encouraged high employee involvement for safety and very few injuries. This wellness program is one example of company leaders building and living the vision.
• In order to integrate and align the safety vision into more areas within the company, leaders within an energy company worked to embed safety into all operations instead of being perceived as a stand-alone effort. One effort was to change the wording around all production graphs. They replaced “watts produced” with “safe watts produced” for all internal and external communications about productivity. This small change had larger symbolic value of company leaders internalizing and illustrating the importance of safety.
• In one very powerful safety presentation, a manager showed a slide of a young man with his wife and two kids. The manager gave details about the man including job position, education, and hobbies. He then told the audience that the young man was killed the previous week in an explosion. No graphs or statistics were needed to discuss the importance of safety. Managers are well served to remember that safety statistics should be used in conjunction with testimonials and genuine discussions about employees’ safety. Story telling has more power than safety numbers, bringing safety to live and making it personal.
This post is part of a blog series on Propulo Safe Production Leadership Competencies. Read about the other competencies:Actively CareWalk the TalkRecognize and Foster GrowthDrive Thinking and SpeakingAt Propulo, we work with leaders to develop micro-habits associated with effective leadership behaviors. We can help your company make safety “who we are” instead of “something we do.”