Making Success the Focus

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

When I say safety culture, what comes to mind?

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.


The Superstar

The Evader

The Accepter

The Burnout


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.

Measuring SQDC in Safety

For a safety department to be its most effective, it requires the evaluation of the group along similar metrics as others. I have been fortunate to have had some really good mentors in my career that have helped me to craft the way I look at running a safety department and measuring success.


In most major industries there are four key metrics that they are responsible for. I have seen this same method/metrics in automotive, food, and chemical. It is a positive process as it shows the balance that must to struck to have a successful business. These metrics are Safety, Quality, Delivery, and Cost or simplified as SQDC. A business can run without these metrics in harmony, but they are rarely highly successful.


So, what does it mean to measure to SQDC in a safety department? Here are some of the ways I have found make it the most meaningful for the team and larger organization.



This is what we do, so it should be simple, right? Yes and no. I have always thought about what is the safety metric for a safety team. First and foremost, a safety team should not get hurt. They should be cautious and aware.


Beyond injuries, this metric for me has always been more about the message that I am carrying with me every day. What is the thirty second elevator talk that I would give that day to communicate safety to anyone. One lesson that I have always found to be true in safety is that you cannot overcommunicate a message. People need to hear a safety message as much as we can get in front of them.


Examples could include:

“Did you hear about the near miss yesterday? Here is how to stay safe”

“I read in the news of an injury happening. We have that hazard. Here is how to stay safe”

“Did you know we have not had ‘insert event here’ in a long time? Here is what we have been doing right.”

“Some bad weather is moving in today, remember our evacuation plans for bad weather.”


It is important that communication is a big part of how we define success in safety every day.



Quality for a safety professional is based on our policies and procedures. Are they up-to-date? Are they relevant? Do they help those who they are meant to service? Have they been reviewed on some basis?


Where we help to maintain the high standard of quality is through assuring our processes and procedures are in good condition and help set the basis for accuracy, precision, and consistency.



Delivery is the service we provide to our customer. These can be in the form of audits that help find ways of improvement. It is the time that it takes to answer questions about the policies. It is also the metrics that we report out as part of the standard work. Each day the safety professional is called upon to deliver any number of these styles of items to the organization.



There are a few ways to look at cost in the safety department. The first is helping to create and maintain a working budget. Be accountable to predicting big projects and special needs. Communicate early and often when there will be misses. Help the organization see where you need funding to help sustain and create strong processes to make the site safer.


Some organization also measure workers’ compensation costs. These can vary from state to state and are very reactive. They still, though, can heavily affect a company’s bottom line. It is important to measure and manage this process.


Overall, running a safety department with key metrics that match and mirror other departments helps to build transparency and trust into the system. These processes are valuable as they can help the internal team and the organization to see that there are processes that can be measured, implemented, and improved.

Building Meaningful Work Relationships: Part 3

In this series of posts, I have been looking at how you can build meaningful work relationships. A theory of adult attachment can give some strong insights to how that process works. In the last post, I made a good description of my most common roadblock of building those relationships as someone who fits a dismissing typology. In this post, I will look at opposite side of the spectrum of someone who had a positive model of others and a negative model of self. This is commonly called “preoccupied.”

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The phrase preoccupied is a good description of this typology and is a concise description of the condition that leads to not building meaningful work relationships. The negative model of self creates an environment where someone is constantly second-guessing or focusing too much on inadequacy to interact in a meaningful way. They person is so focused on the negative model of self that they fail to engage the other groups in any meaningful dialog or activity.

There are three keys ways that someone behaves when encountering information that may not fully understand. The positive behavior of this situation would be for the person to ask intelligent questions, read the relevant policies, try to learn the information, etc. Another behavior would be to ignore the information and substitute one’s own opinion or information. This would fall more into the category of dismissing (positive self/negative others). A preoccupied person would shut down because they would feel that could not comprehend the information or even engage in the conversation in a relevant way.

Someone in the preoccupied typology would have difficulty building meaningful work relationships because there would be a lack of people willing to engage in the activity. If someone who needs information knows that when they ask the question, the person may or may not answer based on the comfort of the situation, slowly they will find other methods to gain their information. People will seek a path of least resistance. If they think they may or may not get a response, they will find a better path that will give them a higher chance of getting an answer the first time. This can create avoidance and thus more preoccupation with the negative model of self. Ultimately, this is a spiral of constantly losing confidence.

A preoccupied typology could also be considered someone who lacks confidence in their work. They can seem defensive or aloof based on how they normally react to an uncomfortable circumstance. There are more aspects to this typology than just what happens at work. In a very broad sense, self-confidence is not something that is bred and nurtured in a work environment. Self-confidence is a behavioral trait that needs growth and presence outside of the workplace. Self-confidence, or the lack of, has larger implications of both nature and nurture. If this were a root cause analysis, I would categorize this as “other causal paths would be more beneficial”. Solving self-confidence is not something I can or am willing to tackle. There are ways that someone can become more confident in their work environment, though. Forbes posted a really nice article that gives some nice examples of how to build self-confidence in the workplace (click here).

The information revolves around slowing growing into a method of making decisions and being okay when making those decisions. Self-confidence at work comes from accomplishing tasks that makes the person slightly uncomfortable and building confidence with those tasks. For example, someone has trouble fitting in with the quality team because the measurements are overwhelming. It becomes important that they have more time to ask questions and work with the tools of department until they gain more confidence with the process. They are doing something familiar but forced to be slightly outside their comfort zone in a safe way they helps them learn. The key is that they have to feel safe even thought they are uncomfortable and most importantly there has to be knowledge sharing.

In a similar context, I have also found that becoming a teacher of a topic is a great tool to increase confidence. For someone to teach a subject, they have to know that subject along with answering questions and having to convey the subject in a meaningful and relevant way. I am not saying that someone in this circumstance should be required to teach an auditorium full of people on a topic they do not know. I will speak from experience that when I started in the safety profession, I had to gain certainty in conducting training. I started with small classes and topics that I have a relative comfort with. The engagement with the classes helped me to become a better mentor and better acquainted with the topic. There are still times that while conducting a training, someone will ask a question that I do not know the explicit answer to. I have to research the topic and respond back later with an answer. This is a system of continual growth for learning and engagement. Through becoming a teacher/mentor/training someone can gain self-confidence in a topic. Most of all they are building strong working relationships with those people who are being taught/mentored/trained. This is one of those times where a solution can help in two ways. It helps in creating a better sense of confidence in a topic along with helping to build meaningful relationships with various members of a team.

Even though self-confidence is not just a single aspect behavior, there are some methods that can be taken in the workplace to help someone with a negative model of self to build really strong work relationships. It is important to start small and to start in an area of relative comfort. The goal is to not shock someone in to a positive model but to help guide them into feeling more comfortable and secure in their abilities.

The background information comes from the Third Edition of Broderick and Blewitt’s textbook “The Life Span.” The photo of the chart is taken from the same text. The theory is Bartholomew’s Adult Attachment Typology Model.