Safety Leadership: It’s About Leading EQUITABLY, Not EQUALLY

Safety Leadership: It's About Leading Equitably, Not Equally in Your Safety Management Plan--Call to Action!Leading people effectively requires we lead them differently.  Employees with differing levels of engagement and performance do not respond the same.  And the greatest value in understanding safety-leadership styles is that they help us know how to lead people of varying levels of engagement and performance in a safety culture. [content_protector password=”sls-06″ identifier=”sls-06″]

Recall that there are six safety-leadership styles.  They are: Coercive >> Authoritative >> Affiliative >> Democratic >> Pace-setting >> Coaching.

Differentiating Your Team

Think about your low performing or disengaged team members.  Which do they need more from you?  Freedom and autonomy, or clear direction and supervision?  Chances are, if you do the former they’ll never raise the level of their game.  This group requires a “directing” leadership style in your safety management plan.

What about those on your team who are solid performers but may have varying levels of commitment and engagement on the job?  Will they respond better to hand-holding, or do they need extra motivation to get to the next level?  This group typically requires more of a “motivating” style.

How about your star players–those on your team who are both higher performers and highly engaged on the job?  This group would likely revolt in short order if in your safety management plan you resort to lots of direction and supervision.

The point is, our leadership must match our employees’ performance, and that means we have to learn how and when to adjust our leadership styles to accommodate each situation.

Applying Our Safety-Leadership Styles to Each Situation

We’ve taken a brief look at all six safety-leadership styles in previous articles in this series.  But it’s not necessary to commit these six to memory as long as we know which basic leadership types they are.

Both Coercive and Authoritative are what we call “Directing” styles because the goal is to provide direction to low performers and the disengaged.  It’s important to note here that while your disengaged employees may seem to be identical to your low-performing “C” players, they are not exactly the same group.  It’s possible to have a C player on the team who is extremely engaged.

For instance, a brand new employee may be considered “engaged” because she is enthusiastic and willing to learn anything and do anything you need her to do with your overall safety management plan.  But because she is new, her performance level can’t be very high, so she falls into the category of C player.

On the other hand, you may have those on your team who can run the entire plant by themselves.  They are very good at their craft, but they want nothing to do with you or your team.  Since they are disengaged, we may need to lead them with a Directing style until they raise their level of engagement.

Similarly, there is a close correlation between your B players and your unengaged players, though not exact.  Some of your B players will be highly engaged, while others not so much.  But they are all solid contributors, so we’ll need to lead them with a Motivating style, such as Affiliative or Democratic.

Finally, there is a close correlation between your A (“star”) players and your fully engaged.  But we’ll pare this down even further to your star players who are also highly engaged.  For this group we’ll need to exercise a “Deploying” style of leadership, such as Pace-Setting or Coaching.

Be sure to view the video below for more information about all this.  In our next issue we’ll elaborate on this and outline a course of action for each level of employee.  But that’s it for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Until next time.



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.