Managing Your A Players: The ABCs of Safety Leadership

a-teamIn our last Recordable INSIGHTS we talked about the importance of differentiating your employees in terms of their willingness and ability to “get on board” with your safety leadership culture.  It’s tempting for a new or untrained supervisor or manager to blur these distinctions and manage everyone in just the same way.  In fact, I’ve often heard managers brag about the fact that they treat all their employees the same, as though that somehow demonstrates their fairness.  Instead, the opposite is true;  it’s patently unfair to treat low-performing C players the same way you would treat high-performing A players. 

Remember, you’re not going to have a lot of A players.  In fact, in most organizations A players make up less than 20% of your entire workforce.  Recall that your A players are those who are both fully engaged and high performers.  They are natural change agents and innovators with an entrepreneurial spirit.  And because of that they naturally assume both ownership and leadership of your safety culture.

So how should you manage them? First if all, get them on board and get out of their way! They’ll lead the culture for you if you let them. They are self-motivated and don’t require much supervision.

If possible, as much as it depends on you, disproportionately recognize them, compensate them, and reward them.  Companies that recognize the value and contribution of their A players tend to make them central to the organization.  It should be no different for A players who are leading a safety-leadership culture.  So, publicly praise them and position them as your champions.

And if you have any influence at all in this, be sure they are rewarded well for their contributions, especially in terms of spot bonuses and annual merit increases.  High performance companies have learned that it is well worth the investment to give their A players raises and bonus that are disproportionately higher than everyone else’s–in some cases up to three times the amount of their strongest B players.

Finally, invest in ways to identify and develop them into even better leaders.  This could be through feeder jobs that act as a pool for identifying A players; and “pass-through” jobs (or job rotations) that are intended to develop the needed competencies for leading a safety culture.  Do these things and you’ll be well on your way to maintaining a high-performance safety culture.

That’s all the time we have for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS.  Until next time, be sure all your safety initiatives are built-in, not bolted on.


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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.