Safety at the Crossroads: Finding Your Options

Safety-Coaching Crossroads: Deciding on Options for ImprovementsIn past articles we’ve already covered the first two steps in our safety-coaching process. There we saw that we have to start with a well-known goal (GOAL), and then ask the person we’re coaching to rate him/herself in terms of their progress toward that goal (REALITY). Once they’ve self-assessed, we can then proceed to the next step in this process, which is to generate options for safety improvements (OPTIONS).

Options for Improvements

In the second step of our safety-coaching process (REALITY) we saw the importance of getting the employee to self-assess. If the rating we’re using as a basis for improvements comes from them, they are more likely to own the fact that improvements need to be made. The same principle is just as true for generating options for improvements. The ideas for improvements are far more valuable if those ideas are their ideas, not ours.

Why? Because they are more likely to act on their own ideas then ours. remember, “no one disagrees with his own ideas.” We need constantly to return to this principle if we hope to transfer ownership of these improvements to the performer.

So, once we’ve agreed on a rating (say a “7” on a scale of 1-10), we might ask questions like:

“What would a 10 look like?”


“What would you be doing differently if it were a 10?”

It will be tempting at this point to interject our own ideas, but that would be a mistake. We need to sit back and patiently (and quietly!) wait for them to bring an idea to the surface. Once they’ve stated an idea for improvement, we simply write it down, affirm the value of the idea (“Great idea; I like it!”), let them know we’re making note of it (“I’m going to write that down”), and then ask, “What else?”

Repeat this process until it becomes clear the performer can’t think of any more ideas. If you’ve done this right, you’ll have a list of pretty good ideas you can use to to create a plan of action. And the best part is, they will be the performer’s ideas, not yours.

In the rare case that the performer didn’t include the specific ideas you were looking for, it’s safe to include those at this point. Say something like:

“Tom it looks like we’ve come up with a lot of great ideas for improvements. Let me just add one or two more ideas that I think might help with this.”

You’ve already exhausted all of his/her ideas for improvements, and the performer is now actively thinking about improvements. The pump has been primed for the performer to be open to your ideas.

In our next issue we’ll look at the final step in our safety-coaching process. But that’s all for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Be sure to view the associated video below to learn more about this step in the process. 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.