A Three-Step Process for Better Safety Leadership Walkthroughs (Pt 3: Verify)

trust-but-verifySo far we’ve looked at the first two steps for conducting a meaningful safety leadership walkthrough.  The final step in that three-step process is to “Verify.”  In this step we want to verify three things: competencies, confidence, and comfort levels. [content_protector password=”verify-09″ identifier=”verify-09″]

It’s vital to ensure that the ones who are doing the job have the competencies necessary to perform the safety-critical tasks of that job.  We can’t overly rely on the fact that they’ve been trained on those tasks–remember, “training ain’t development”; so we need to verify their competencies by engaging them in dialogue while they are doing those tasks.

Make a point in your safety-leadership walkthrough to create a conversation with them about the tasks they are performing.  And remember, we need to do this in an open-ended way: For instance, saying something like, “Walk me through the steps of what you’re doing”  is much better than asking “everything going okay here?”

Get them to elaborate, and don’t be satisfied with an abbreviated response.  It’s your job as a leader to ensure they can explain the details of the job.

But being able to recite the steps of the job in itself is not enough. We also have to ensure they’re confident with their knowledge and ability to actually do those steps.  Stop the job and probe their abilities a bit more if you sense they’re speaking with a lack of confidence or expressing uncertainty about the job they’re doing.

And pay particular attention to “red-flag” statements, such as “we had a little trouble with some things at the start, but I think we’ve got a handle on it now.”  Statements like that usually indicate uncertainty with the process.  You’ll want to follow that up with a probing question that gathers intelligence about those uncertainties.  So say something like,  “Talk to me about the things you had trouble with at the beginning of this.  What were those things?  Exactly what kind of trouble were you having?”  Get to the heart of the concern before you allow them to proceed with the job.

Finally, even if they can recite the steps of the job with complete confidence, there still may be some abnormal condition or other factor that gives them pause about doing the job safely.  Ask them straight out:  “What concerns do you have about this job today”?  Asking the question that way invites elaboration and will make it much easier for them to volunteer concerns they may have about the job but that they were hesitant to mention before.

Well, we’ve now covered all three steps of our safety-leadership walkthrough process.  Remember, to make the most of your time out in the field, or on the floor, or on the job site, you need to Prepare, Engage, and Verify.

That’s it for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS.  See you next time.

~ES

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About the Author

Eric Svendsen
Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is Principal and lead change agent for safetyBUILT-IN, a safety-leadership learning and development organization. He has over 20 years experience in creating and executing outcomes-based leadership development and culture change initiatives aligned to organizational goals, and he personally led the safety-culture initiatives of a number of client organizations that resulted in “best ever safety performance” years for those companies.