Leadership in safety – Trust

 

Leadership in safety – Trust

If people do not trust those leading safety change there will never be wholehearted adoption of the leaders approach. People may agree to the leaders face but do little to advance the leaders ideas, innovative ways to sabotage the leader quite often occur in a climate of minimum trust.

One organisation I worked for had a number of mechanical workshops where we trained employees in the job safety analysis technique and got them involved in preparing safe working procedures. Everything went well at these locations and we had an improved level of safety. In one workshop it was decided to get a consultant mechanical tradesman to prepare the safe working procedures with little involvement of the workers. The result was a mess. Besides from the important lack of local knowledge the workers had developed a lack of trust in the process and thought it was a management plot to devalue their work and allow the introduction of less skilled workers to do the work traditionally done by tradesmen. This sabotaged the real safety improvements we were chasing. All in all an industrial relations disaster caused by faulty process and a lack of trust

“Trust is essential for a relationship to grow and develop. In order to build a relationship you must learn to create a climate of trust that reduces your own and the other person’s fears of betrayal and rejection and promotes the hope of acceptance, support and confirmation. There is a risk involved in trusting.

In order to build a relationship, two people must build mutual trust. This is done during a commitment period in which they risk themselves either by disclosing more and more of their thoughts, feelings and reactions to immediate situations and to each other, or by expressing acceptance, support and cooperativeness toward each other. If, when disclosing they do not get the acceptance they need, they may back off from the relationship. If they are accepted, they will continue to risk self-disclosure and continue to develop the relationship. As both people continue to trust and be self-disclosing, the relationship continues to grow”

The above taken from Johnson D.W. “Reaching Out” (1990). This text is recommended reading for those leading safety change.

The only constant in the safety business is change. Australia has significant safety challenges and we must change to improve. Change is difficult at the best of times, if people do not trust the safety change leaders there is very little chance of success.

From my study of Management of Organisational Change I have adopted the motto “When initiating change, Remember, People support what they create” My simple advice is be open & honest with everybody (Australians can smell a bull-dust artist a mile away), involve your people, get your people talking, get your people doing things, show you are interested in, care about and are responsive to their opinions, if you do this most of your trust problems will disappear.

George Robotham

George Robotham

George was a Legend in the Safety World who passed away in Sept 2013 but left us with a great legacy
George Robotham
I have worked in OHS for most of my working life, many years in the mining industry including over 10 years in a corporate OHS role with BHP. Since leaving the mining industry I have worked in a variety of safety roles with a variety of employers, large & small, in a variety of industries. I was associated with my first workplace fatality at age 21, the girl involved was young, intelligent, vivacious and friendly. Such a waste! I was the first on the scene and tried to comfort her and tend to her injuries. She said to me “George, please do not let me die” We put her on the aerial ambulance to Rockhampton base hospital where she died the next day. I do not mind telling you that knocked me around for awhile. Since then I have helped my employers cope with the aftermath of 12 fatalities and 2 other life-altering events. The section "Why do Occupational Health & Safety" provides further detail but in summary, poor safety is simply very expensive and also has a massive humanitarian cost. My qualifications include a certificate I.V. in Workplace Training and Assessment, a Diploma in Frontline Management, a Diploma in Training & Assessment Systems, a Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education) , a Grad. Cert. in Management of Organisational Change and a Graduate Diploma in Occupational Hazard Management. I am currently studying towards a Masters in Business Leadership. Up until recently I had been a Chartered Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia for 10 years and a member for about 30 years. My interest is in non-traditional methods of driving organisational change in OHS and I have what I believe is a healthy dis-respect for many common approaches to OHS Management and OHS Training. I hold what I believe is a well-founded perception that many of the things safety people and management do in safety are “displacement activities” (Displacement activities are things we do, things we put a lot of energy into, but which when we examine them closely there is no valid reason for doing them). My managerial and leadership roles in OHS have exposed me to a range of management techniques that are relevant to Business Improvement. In particular I am a strong supporter of continuous improvement and quality management approaches to business. I believe leadership is the often forgotten key to excellence in most aspects of life. I hold the Australian Defence Medal and am a J.P.(Qualified). I have many fond memories of my time playing Rugby Union when I was a young bloke.

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