Josh Williams

Soft Skills Training for Leaders: An Investment in Your Culture

Soft Skills Training for Leaders

By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Soft skills training is needed at all leadership levels to improve communication, listening skills, and empathy. It also involves increasing the quality and quantity of safety recognition which is often found to be one of the lower scoring items on our safety culture survey. Increasing recognition improves safety culture and increases the probability of safe work practices in the future. This reduces the risk of serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs).

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Get Employee Input… and Close the Loop

Get Employee Input and Close the Loop


By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Leaders need to get more input from employees before making decisions that impact safety.
Better decisions are made when employee input is solicited. Participation rates are also higher. Years ago, we implemented a behavioral safety process in a manufacturing firm as part of a NIOSH grant. Half of the group designed their own card and rules for use (“participation group” ). The other half were given a card with instructions to follow (“compliance group” ). The participation group that designed their own process completed 7 times as many observations as the passive compliance group. In another organization, field employees were heavily consulted when revamping their pre-job brief meetings. During assessment activities, we were told that a) the process got much better, and b) people really appreciated leadership getting their input. This is good for safety and morale.

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Self-Motivation Styles of Effective Safety Leaders

Self Motivation Styles of Effective Safety Leaders

By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Effective safety leaders have self-motivation styles which help them accomplish organizational goals. Four self-motivation styles (Steers & Porter, 1991) are relevant for understanding the self-motivation of safety leaders.
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Using the “High Six” to Improve Leadership Skills

Using the High Six to Improve Leadership Skills


Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Psychologists use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnosing mental and personality disorders. This classification and diagnostic tool identifies issues that disrupt people’s ability to maintain relationships, achieve goals, and experience fulfillment.
But what about a tool to diagnose and identify success and contentment?

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Promoting a Learning Culture in Challenging Environments

Promoting a Learning Culture in Challenging Environments


By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Creating and sustaining a “learning culture” is critical for optimal safety culture and performance. Unfortunately, this can be challenging with organizations that have a history of “old school” cultures. In other cases, new leaders may legitimately need to establish a baseline of accountability to clean up messes created by overly lenient past practices. Overly lenient cultures often result in “looking the other way” and increased risk-taking behavior.
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The Power of Peer Feedback to Prevent SIFs

The Power of Peer Feedback to Prevent SIFs

By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Peer-to-peer safety feedback is an integral way to improve safety culture and prevent serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs). Unfortunately, employees often fail to speak up when they observe coworkers’ risky behaviors even though they want to. Survey research shows that more than 90% of respondents believe employees
should caution others when they’re operating at-risk. And yet, only 60% say that actually do provide this feedback. Ironically, people underestimate others’ willingness to receive safety feedback. Specifically, 74% of respondents confirm they welcome safety feedback from peers but only 28% believe their coworkers do. This is an enormous misperception that may cost lives. Most SIFs occur with other employees around. If someone had simply spoken up, lives could have been saved.

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How Are Your Safety Systems? A Short Quiz

How Are Your Safety Systems


By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

One of the most important aspects of safety leadership is providing effective safety management systems and a safe work environment. Employees are more likely to be injured if the organization has safety management system failures such as inadequate manpower, unreasonable production pressure, excessive overtime, faulty equipment, insufficient safety training, unclear safety policies, non-existent safety meetings, poor safety communication, and blame-oriented discipline procedures. Leaders improve safety culture by optimizing these key safety management systems:
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Sheriff, Diplomat, Investigator: Which Style are You? (Trick Question)

Sheriff, Diplomat, Investigator


By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Leaders with effective communication skills are better able to constructively express their vision, relate to employees, and achieve their own work goals compared to leaders with poor communication skills (Poertner & Miller, 1996). This directly impacts employees’ attitudes and behaviors for safety.

Unfortunately, communication with employees is sometimes strained, confrontational, or non-existent. Some interpersonal communication problems may be caused by incompatible communication styles between people. The following classification model may be useful (and fun) for understanding your communication style. This includes the sheriff, diplomat, and investigator (adapted from Poertner & Miller, 1996). A person’s communication style is a mix of all three components although one component (or two) is often most pronounced. Read More...

Picture the O.C.E.A.N.: Learning from the Big 5 to Support Safety

Learning from the Big 5 to Support Safety



By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Want to be a better safety leader? Picture the ocean. Not the Atlantic or Pacific but the acronym O.C.E.A.N. This stands for the Big 5 personality traits of Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Before addressing each trait in the Big 5, here’s a bit of history into its development.
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Increasing Employee Safety Commitment: Considerations for Leaders

Increasing Employee Safety Commitment


By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Effective leaders continuously look for ways to increase employee safety commitment. Employees who feel committed to the organization are more likely to work safely, caution others for safety, and get actively involved in safety efforts. Those who aren’t committed rarely go beyond the call of duty for safety or anything else. In fact, they may have more serious issues such as non-compliance, absenteeism/tardiness, and confrontations with others. Organizational commitment consists of (Saal & Knight,1995):
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A Safety Leadership Quiz: How Well Do You Stack Up?

How Well Do You Stack Up

By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Previous blogs have addressed numerous ways leaders need to “show up” for safety. Unfortunately, leaders sometimes inadvertently encourage at-risk behavior by failing to praise safe behaviors, ignoring at-risk behaviors, over-emphasizing production, and modeling risky behaviors. Here’s a quick summary:
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Four Communication Styles for Safety: Which One Are You?

Four Communication Styles for Safety


By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

There are many ways leaders “show up” for safety. Effective communication is near the top of the list. Leaders show they understand and care through thoughtful, interactive conversations with employees. This includes strong listening skills and authentic responses to issues that arise. This is the essence of empathic communication and is vastly different from these maladaptive patterns: dominant, passive, and passive aggressive (adapted from Brounstein, 2001). A brief review of each style is provided below. Which one best reflects how you lead and interact with your employees?
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Safety Leadership and Sports Analogies

Safety Leadership and Sports Analogies


By Josh Williams, Ph. D.

Fellow sports fans are lamenting the lack of televised sports in the COVID era. In fact, some are suggesting the lack of sports are actually creating low levels of anxiety and depression in more passionate fans. “One of the first things to recognize is that, yes, sports is a form of entertainment. But it is also a source of social connectiveness with family, friends and with a team,” said Dr. Mark Terjesen, a professor of psychology at St. John’s. “For some, the absence of sports compared to everything else may seem frivolous. But, for the rest of us, it’s a way of life. Many fans have a deep, personal history with teams and with fellow fans." (Gross, 2020).

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Setting the Right G.O.A.L.S. for Safety

Setting the Right GOALS for Safety


By Josh Williams, Ph. D.

Leaders need to make sure they set intelligence safety goals to improve performance and prevent SIFs. Proper goal setting helps field leaders and employees understand the value of a unified greater purpose. They also set objective, actionable behaviors which should be integrated into daily activities. Research demonstrates that there is a statistically significant reduction in injuries when leaders effectively articulate a compelling vision and inspire employees to work towards goals that meet that mission (Hoffmeister et al., 2014). Also, a 10% improvement in employee’s understanding of organizational values and goals results in a 12.7% reduction in safety incidents (Gallup, 2017). The G.O.A.L.S. acronym is a helpful heuristic to set smart safety goals for the organization. Safety goals should have these elements:
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Leadership Competencies and COVID Re-Entry

leadership-competencies


Drs. Josh Williams and Madison Hanscom

Leaders are looking for direction to manage employees during COVID re-entry. Leaders need to juggle business realities, employees’ physical safety, and emerging mental health struggles that people are facing. Our leadership competency model is a useful framework to guide leadership behaviors as we begin getting back to work.

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Moving to the Growth Zone During COVID-19


Growth Zone

By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

The following model was forwarded to me by a colleague and it’s an excellent way to visualize our collective responses during COVID-19. The diagram is divided into different zones which represent our response to this terrible pandemic. This includes the fear zone, learning zone, and growth zone with the objective moving towards to the growth zone as best we can. Doing so helps ourselves and others during this time of crisis.
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RIP Paul O’Neill: Safety Champion

Paul O’Neill

By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

The world lost a great safety champion last week in former Treasury Secretary and Alcoa Chairman and CEO Paul O’Neill. O’Neill was a fierce advocate of employee safety and took big risks (and won!) going “all in” on injury prevention. He took the bold step of saying there were no budget constraints for safety at Alcoa, even if that meant lost revenue and an unhappy Board of Directors.
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Gearing Up for the New Normal: Leadership Preparation Post COVID-19

crisis-management

By Dr. Josh Williams

Leaders are desperately working to address financial, health, and remote working challenges associated with COVID-19. Managing the immediate crisis is imperative to keep operations running. However, leaders also need to start thinking about next steps when social distancing restrictions ease. Until a vaccine is developed, getting back to “normal” will be a gradual, staged process unlike turning on a light switch. Leaders need to hit the ground running with new plans and protocols to manage various waves of returning to normalcy. This includes safely managing employees and working with clients.
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Supporting Your Community During COVID-19

support-your-community


By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Constantly refreshing CNN.com and other outlets for the latest updates on COVID-19 can create enormous distress as the number of people infected and killed by this terrible outbreak steadily climbs. More coverage is now also focusing on the massive number of small business owners and employees that are losing their jobs and income streams due to the pandemic. Small business is the backbone of our communities and it’s in real trouble.
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Staying Connected: A Lesson for Leaders During COVID-19

Staying Connected


By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Executives are dealing with a myriad of challenges during this pandemic. Mass layoffs have resulted in consumer spending grinding to a halt. Retailers are scrambling to adapt to the rapidly changing consumer habits. Many big box retailers are on the brink of collapse. What steps can be taken now to connect with the public when money simply isn’t flowing?
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COVID-19, Leadership, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslows-Hierarchy-Of-Needs


By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

One of the most well-known models in social psychology is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This simple classification of human needs, introduced by Abraham Maslow in 1943, outlines intrinsic human motivation (see diagram). Read More...

Executive Messaging During COVID-19

leadership_communication


By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

The true test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis.” – Brian Tracy

The Importance of Large-Scale Communication
Executive leadership skills are tested in crisis. Senior leaders are facing challenges now that not only threaten the survival of their companies but the lives of their employees and those they serve. As you may have noticed, leaders are now sending mass emails out to the public addressing their response to COVID-19. These email blasts represent a great opportunity for leaders to connect directly with the public to share their vision and values during this crisis. Unfortunately, many of these messages feel canned and generic and simply miss the mark.

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Nine Tools for Leaders to Manage Extreme Pressures and Mental Wellbeing through the COVID-19 Black Swan Event

business-people-with-stress-and-worries-in-office


By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

It is critical that leaders pay attention to their mental health during this pandemic and share information to employees on this topic. The extreme stressors leaders are dealing during this pandemic can bring mental health issues like stress and anxiety to the forefront. Leaders should be commended for their proactive efforts during these times. There are numerous examples of executives doing the right thing by their employees which will be detailed in upcoming blogs. This is especially commendable as financial perils threaten many organizations. Executives are dealing with unprecedented economic uncertainty while managing stressors in truly uncharted waters.

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Leading During COVID-19: A Time for Compassion


business-leader-speaking-to-team

By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Leaders face a new world of challenges influencing employees during COVID-19. Everyone is under tremendous pressure with the uncertainty of tomorrow. Many people have loved ones they may not be able to see or speak with directly because of social distancing. Others know friends and family that have lost jobs as the economy reels. 401K’s are tanking. Critical home supplies are increasingly scarce.
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Working from Home: Tips and Considerations

Family man working from home at kitchen table copy

By Josh Williams, Ph.D. & Julia Borges, M.A.

Amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, more organizational leaders are making the challenging and responsible decision to shift everyday work to be done remotely by employees. While this can support the slow of this pandemic, this work style can present a host of organizational challenges, stressors, and increase levels of uncertainty. If organizations are going to shift to remote work, it is important that they gather and implement best practices to make this transition as seamless as possible: Read More...

Beware of the Blanket Policy

safety-glasses


By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Organizational leaders are understandably frustrated sometimes when employees are injured on the job. Of course, their primary concern is the well-being of the affected individual. However, they may also feel like they have policies in place which, if followed, would have prevented the incident. This leads to a common occurrence where an injury is almost immediately followed by a new rule or blanket policy that applies to everyone. Sometimes these policies make great sense as people were unaware of a risk. It may even save a life. Too often, however, these policies are applied poorly and don’t apply beyond the specific area or job where the incident occurred. This leads to irritation and, occasionally, odd responses. Read More...

Safe Production Leadership Competency Series: Drive Thinking and Speaking

Leadership competencies


By Kelly Hamilton, Madison Hanscom, & Josh Williams

A key responsibility of leaders is creating an environment where people can do their best work. To do this well, leaders must be able to drive thinking and speaking—in other words, to foster a climate in which people feel they can speak up without fear of negative consequences, known as psychological safety. Leaders drive thinking and speaking by creating an environment of psychological safety, getting employee input for safety solutions, encouraging system thinking, and reinforcing teamwork and collaboration. Leaders who effectively create this environment increase employee engagement and decrease the likelihood of serious injuries and fatalities.
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Safe Production Leadership Competency Series: Recognize and Foster Growth

Leadership competencies


By Kelly Hamilton, Madison Hanscom, & Josh Williams

A critical skill all leaders must develop is the ability to provide high-quality feedback to their team members so they can perform their jobs well and grow and advance in their careers. When leaders do this well, it can fuel employee motivation and commitment, as well as positive safety outcomes. Read More...

Safe Production Leadership Competency Series: Build and Live the Vision

Leadership competencies


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. Read More...

Safe Production Leadership Competency Series: Walk the Talk

Leadership competencies


By Kelly Hamilton, Madison Hanscom, & Josh Williams

It is not uncommon for leaders – who are pulled in many directions at once – to take shortcuts when it comes to safety. This can be detrimental, however, to safety culture and employees’ safety behaviors. In fact, research has shown that when employees perceive their leaders are not acting in ways that align with the company’s stated safety values, it leads to a decrease in safety compliance, a decrease in prioritization of avoiding accidents, and an increase in injuries.

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Safe Production Leadership Competency Series: Active Caring Promotes Positive Safety Culture

Leadership competencies



By Kelly Hamilton, Madison Hanscom, & Josh Williams

A common complaint of employees is that leadership doesn’t dedicate enough time to listen to and respond to their needs. Over time, this can lead workers to believe their leaders don’t care about them or their concerns, which can erode safety culture. Active Caring is a core leadership competency because it demonstrates organizational support and fosters a sense of support and trust among employees, leading to positive outcomes for employees, the team, and the entire organization.

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Blog Series: Five Core Safe Production Leadership Competencies that Drive Safe Production Culture

Leadership competencies

By Kelly Hamilton, Madison Hanscom, & Josh Williams

In today’s increasingly complex workplace, organizational leaders must be equipped to effectively deal with the relentless demands of daily decisions, challenges, and opportunities that impact all aspects of business, including safety. It is increasingly important to make intelligent decisions for safety in order to advance safety culture and prevent serious injuries and fatalities at work. Read More...

Speak Up for Safety: Using the Power of Conformity

care-and-speaking-up-for safety


Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Employees can prevent serious injuries and fatalities by speaking up when they see coworkers operating at-risk. Unfortunately, social norms and pressure may prevent this. Many organizations have created culture that reflect the famous Hank Williams song refrain, “Mind your own business and you won’t be minding mine.” The power of conformity, not speaking up in this case, is powerful. An illustration from social psychology demonstrates this.
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The Power of the Mind: Using Cognitive Psychology to Prevent SIFs

human-brain-and-worker

Josh Williams, Ph.D.

According to OSHA, more than 14 people die on the job every day and most of these occur in high risk work environments.1 Specifically, 21% of all workplace fatalities in the U.S. occurred with construction workers, there were more than 1500 deaths in the oil and gas industry over the last decade, and recent studies show utilities are becoming the highest risk industry for SIFs.2-4 Something needs to be done to prevent these serious injuries and fatalities from occurring.


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The “Shocking” Power of Leadership

electricity



By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

In of the most famous psychological experiments in history, Stanley Milgram set up a situation in which participants believed they were providing electric shock to a perfect stranger (who was actually a paid actor) as part of a study on memory and learning. Participants were told to shock the person, who was in another room, when he or she gave incorrect answers to various word pair questions. In some cases, the actor made a point to say he had a heart condition. Read More...

Caring vs. Compliance: The Secret Sauce to Improve Safety Culture

safety-concept

By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Organizational leaders make two common errors when trying to improve safety performance and culture. First, they overemphasize safety statistics to the point that employees believe the safety “numbers” trump genuine caring about their well-being. Second, they stress compliance with rules to the point that employees may feel like their job is to avoid breaking any rules so they don’t get fired. Clearly, rules compliance and safety statistics are important. However, leaders should spend more time showing genuine caring for employees. This is an investment in your people as well as your culture. Increasing active caring increases the probability of safe work practices and a corresponding reduction in serious injuries and fatalities.

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Beware of Incentives: When Good Intentions Go Wrong


Icy sidewalk

By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

For years, organizational leaders have used incentives to try and motivate safety. The rationale is that providing financial rewards for not getting hurt will get employees to “try harder” to stay safe. In reality, it simply encourages non-reporting which is why OSHA now frowns upon outcome-based incentives. It can also create other problems. Read More...

Promoting a Learning Culture with After Action Reviews (AAR)

After Action Review


By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

The manner in which incident analyses are handled in organizations has a significant impact on organizational culture. Empirical research demonstrates effective information sharing and incident analysis practices are significantly related to fewer incidents and injuries (Wachter & Yorio, 2014). In healthy organizations, AARs are viewed within the context of a learning environment to prevent similar incidents in the future. This includes looking at all system factors contributing to incidents. In less healthy cultures, AARs neglect to fully address these factors and may be perceived as blame oriented by employees. Read More...

Virginia Beach Shooting: Preventing Future Tragedies

beach close up of sand

By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

VIRGINIA BEACH — The resignation email arrived in the morning, and the gunfire started in the afternoon. DeWayne Craddock, an engineer who had worked for the City of Virginia Beach for 15 years, notified his superiors on Friday that he intended to quit. Then at around 4 p.m., he embarked on a rampage in Building No. 2 of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, turning its offices and corridors into a battleground. When it was over, 12 people lay dead and Mr. Craddock was fatally wounded.(1)
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New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day….“Safety Break for Oregon” Day

mining

By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

We’re all accustomed to annual days meant to celebrate important people in our lives. We have Valentine’s Day tomorrow which will soon be followed by Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and (don’t forget) Secretary’s Day. Another important day to celebrate is the “Safety Break for Oregon” day on May 8. This is an annual safety day established sixteen years ago by OSHA Oregon. Basically, it’s a safety stand-down for the entire state! Read More...

Close Call Reporting: Don’t Sweep Things Under the Rug


airport from above

By Brie DeLisi and Josh Williams



Does your organization promote a culture of reporting or a fear of punishment surrounding close call events? Recently an air traffic controller in Switzerland was actually convicted in Swiss court for reporting a near miss...
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Lessons Learned from Mining, Refining and the Cleveland Browns

workers at plant_Fotor (2)


By Josh Williams

With apologies to our friends in Ohio, the Cleveland Browns professional football team has been historically bad for decades. Their record over the last 10 years is 48-122 (31st out of 32 teams in winning percentage). It was recently announced they will be looking for a new head coach to change their culture and start winning more games. Surely change is needed to reverse their losing ways, right? Read More...