How to Coach Safety Leadership Performance and Behaviors

Last year we began a series on Building and Leading a Sustainable Culture of Safety, and there we looked at ways to train all levels of leadership—from the CEO down to the front line supervisor—on how to lead and communicate safety as a core value, and how to engage employees in a way that gets them to think differently about safety and gets them to take ownership for driving that safety culture in their own world. But how do we ensure the skills we’ve transferred through that safety leadership training actually develop into the competencies we need to sustain the safety culture over the long haul? [content_protector password=”coach-01″ identifier=”coach-01″]

Well, that happens only through continuous field coaching of operational leadership (and especially front-line supervisors) after the training is done. And one of the best ways of doing that is by using the G.R.O.W. coaching method. G.R.O.W. stands for Goals, Reality, Options and Way Forward. And G.R.O.W. works as a tool to help you coach improvements to behaviors and performance that you have personally observed.

Let’s say you’ve observed a safety engagement led by a supervisor or other leader who has gone through safety-leadership training. This engagement could be a safety meeting, a tailgate or toolbox meeting, or a personal conversation with an employee about a safety situation. The point is, they’ve already been trained in safety-leadership skills and your job is to reinforce those skills and develop them into a competency. To do that you’ll want to sit down with the leader after that engagement and take him through the GROW process. FCTC Online

Start with the goal. Your task here is to remind the safety-engagement leader of the safety-culture goals—and the associated skills—that he learned in the safety-leadership workshop. We talked about the kinds of things that should be included in that workshop in an earlier series, so you may need to dig through the archives and refresh your memory about what we covered there.

Always begin your coaching session by noting one or two positive things the leader did during that engagement. This isn’t always easy if that safety engagement didn’t go so well. But try to find something you can praise about their performance. By doing that, you’ll break down the walls of defense that are naturally raised when you tell them you’d like to talk with them about how that safety engagement went.

So say something like . . .

Tom, as you know I sat in and observed your meeting this morning. I just want to say I really appreciated the clarity of the message you communicated to the team about how to work safely today.

But then clarify the safety-leadership goals . . .

Tom, as you know through the training you attended, one of our goals is to promote a safety culture through improved communication and leadership, and as you learned there meetings like this are a great opportunity to engage our workforce and to get them to think actively about safety.

By doing this you’ll immediately call to mind the safety-leadership training that leader attended and remind him of the things he should be doing to reach that goal. You’ll also have established a basis for coaching improvements to his leadership, to his communicate style, and to his message.

That does it for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Be sure to catch us next time when we continue with the next step in the GROW process. Until then, be sure all your safety initiatives are built-in, not bolted on.



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.