Success and failure seem like such simple ideas, but the way that we engage those two terms as safety people and as leaders make a big difference in the way our organization functions. The views in which the leaders take toward success and failure drastically shape the landscape in which we operate. It is a key influencer in work patterns and overall cultural climate. Those that lead have to be aware of how their decisions affect those that are around them. Their methods shape the way that their people will engage issues at the functional level. In safety, it is ever so critical that we are always seeking how we can improve our processes, so that we create methods to protect our people.
Hopefully, the success and failure exercise helped to gain some insight to your team and how they think about those terms. It should have also help to see who is working toward success and who is avoiding failure. Their answers can be very informative in how they perceive their work, your leadership, and the overall culture of the organization. The answers lead to the four categories of the team in regards to failure or success, superstar, accepter, evader, and burnout.
Everyone wants the superstar as part of their team. This is the one who is willing to make a mistake, but not from negligence. They are seeking better knowledge out of their desire to find the most successful route. I recently finished the book by *Amy C Edmonson called “The Fearless Organization.” In the book, there is a discussion about the types of failure, preventable, complex, and intelligent. Your superstar is making intelligent failures. These are ones categories by “forays into new territory.” They are measuring the risk and taking calculated steps into the unknown for the betterment of the organization.
The superstars are those who are always seeking success. They know through calculated failures and risk that they can learn and improve. As a manager, it a duty to allows these team members to explore and experiment. From my experience, those that create barriers or discourage the process are not usually the direct manager. It will be those that control other facets of the organization. It is our duty to help shield them and assure they get the resources they need to continue excelling in what they do. This is where being a servant leaders is best applied. Be a resource for the superstar and help them feel secure and able to get their best work done.
*Check out the book here from Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2Hfsmo1
When it comes to internal motivation for a professional, I feel that safety has some unique aspects. The discussion last month was about Success vs Failure. I had a lot more questions than answers. When it comes to working in the safety industry our customers are varied and sometimes have very different ideas of what deliverables or items are important. Our company, our employees, the environment, and the community are just a few groups that rely on good judgement, proper ethics, and proper education from the safety person. When it comes to managing or understanding the cultures that make a safety person seek success or avoid failure, there are many aspects and variables that can be evaluated and understood.
The first step to managing is understanding. Something that I enjoy doing as part of a group activity or even as a method of self-reflection is to conduct a survey of defining success and defining failure. It has been my policy to share my results with the team and allow members of the team to share on a voluntary basis with others. I do required that I get to see the results either as part of a one-on-one or through a text correspondence, which ever make them most comfortable. I even allow typed sheets with no name to be left in my office. I will say, though, that has never happened. They should feel comfortable expressing their opinions. Your team should have a level of comfort and safety with you for this to be effective. If you are a leader of others, I have found this exercise to be insightful and value added in understanding your team and their principles.
By understanding and observing the team, it becomes more apparent of their grouping in success seeking vs failure avoiding. I hope this is helpful and insightful in better engaging and understand your team. There are so many impacts that affect the life of a safety person. Culturally, organizationally, and individually, the safety person is impacted. This shapes the response to issues, the implementation of policy, and general attitude. It is should be the goal of good leadership to observe and impact these variables when possible to create the most effective HSE process.
Here is the basic format of the exercise:
DEFINING SUCCESS ACTIVITY
accomplishment of a purpose lack of success.
A key component of a lean system to work towards a goal. This is usually phrased as “what does good look like?”
Once someone knows how “good” looks and is defined, the process can be changed to become closer and closer to good through improvement.
The same can be said for success. Unless we define success, we cannot know if we achieved it.
In this exercise, I am asking you to define success for you as an individual contributor to define what you see success is for the organization in EHS.
With every endeavor there is also a chance for failure, and that must also be defined. I am again going to ask that you to define failure for you and the organization around EHS.
For each question, there should be one to three answers that are no longer than a sentence long. Success and failure should be simple, gradable metrics.
These will not be shared among the group unless you choose to share them. I will use these as part of our one-on-one discussions to help us focus on where the direction needs to be heading.
ACTIVITY: DEFINE SUCCESS
1) Using only one sentence, create one to three definitions of what success is for you as an individual contributor to EHS.
2) Using only one sentence, create one to three definitions of what success is for our organization for EHS
ACTIVITY: DEFINE FAILURE
1) Using only one sentence, create one to three definitions of what failure is for you as an individual contributor to EHS
2) Using only one sentence, create one to three definitions of what failure is for our organization for EHS
When you think of your organization approach to safety, what picture comes to mind? As a safety professional or someone who is committed to safety, take your personal opinions away. Take the 50,000 foot view of the culture. If your safety climate had a mascot what would it be? What would it look like? Was it good? Was it bad? Was it funny? Was it sad?
Your organization is a series of micro cultures of the pockets personal experience. The individuals working each day are a key determination of how that culture functions and its motivation. Here is another vision question: On any given day, how you categorize or picture the typical leader in your organization? What is their mascot? What is their theme music?
These are strange questions, but they create an interesting outcome of what your safety climate is telling you and how that culture is affecting key results.
I love the lean process. Here are a few quotes from W. Edwards Deming that will help illustrate the point that I have not yet made. 🙂
“A bad system will beat a good person every time.”
“Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting”
In my experience, there are really four key organization that are present based on the people that are leading those pockets of influence.
I hope that we can all agree that a safety person or even a safety team cannot be the key safety cultural influencers in the organization. It is the leadership and the front line supervisors that make those decisions and drive the safety climate of a site, company, or organization. Each day with each decision, the safety culture is shaped and molded into the presentation and personality of those leaders.
Now think of which of these four categories your supervisors fall into. What about the company? What about the organization? How does each feed into the other? How do these traits affect the overall safety system that is in place? What does it mean for the future of the safety system?
I have lots of questions. These are the same questions that I ponder each day. It is through understanding that we as safety people can start to make adjustments in how we manage. This drives the evolution of the safety systems.
For the next few months, I will focus more on these drivers of success and/or accepters of failure, some of the tools I have used, and some of the adjustments that can be made to help adjust, improve, or accelerate the culture of the team.