Manage people the way you like to be managed

Every so often people should take the time for a bit of self-reflection. It is good for the soul. Apparently, so is Chicken Soup if you’re to read the latest book reviews.

If you’re in the position of being a leader in an organization, it’s a wise idea to reflect on what kind of leader
you are and what kind of leader you could become.
Here’s a simple yet powerful exercise that will help you think about enhancing your supervisory coaching skills. You can certainly use this exercise during your supervisory training sessions to help your leadership team think about how they are leading your safety efforts.

Two sides of the same leadership coin
Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the centre. On the top of the left column write the words, ‘the best.’ On the right side column write, ‘the worst.’

Start to think about the best leaders you have encountered in your lifetime. It could be a teacher, a coach, a supervisor, a relative, even a co-worker. If you’ve been lucky in your life you’ve had more than one leader who have inspired you and you loved to work with.

Now list their attributes or things you admired about them. Write down the things they did that inspired you
to give them your best.

For example, the best leaders I’ve had in my life had some of these qualities and did these types of things:

The Best
•    Listened to my ideas
•    Took the time to coach me through new experiences
•    Allowed me to manage my time
•    Inspired me to solve problems and asked me to propose solutions
•    Set standards and held me
•    Thanked me for a job well done
•    Very knowledgeable, honest and direct with their communication

I’ve been doing this exercise with large groups of folks over the past two years, and probably not surprisingly, most folks come up with the same list. It seems that the types of supervisors most folks like to work for have universal qualities and attributes. Almost all of us appreciate good communicators who are honest and knowledgeable. Leaders who show appreciation for a job well done and don’t overdirect our work end up on most people’s list.

Now on the right side of the page list the attributes and actions of the worst supervisors, teachers, coaches and leaders you had. For example:

The Worst
•    Too authoritarian
•    Didn’t listen to my ideas
•    Wasn’t available when I needed them
•    Kept critical information to themselves
•    Didn’t engage me in the decisions
•    Yelled a great deal
•    Didn’t respect me
•    Told me to “just do it don’t ask questions.”

Again, not surprisingly large groups of people have demonstrated that almost universally we don’t like being led by the same types of people. Overly directive, uncaring, poor listeners are never the kind of folks we want to spend our days with.

Manage safety from the ‘best’ list
I believe the importance of this exercise is to open a discussion about how we manage OH&S in our workplaces. Far too often good companies have a tendency to manage health and safety issues more like the worst list than the best list. It’s an interesting disconnect observed when we pride ourselves on the way we manage people, but when we try to manage safety we do it in a style that isn’t congruent with our general approach.

Company rules imposed from head office and orientations that proudly state, “compliance is a condition of employment and if you break the rules we’ll fire you,” do little to fit the model of the best coaching and leadership we can provide. Unfortunately this is all too common in workplaces today. We clearly can be more successful if we lead our safety efforts like we like to be led.

Now I’m not suggesting that rules don’t need to be established, in fact a culture of safety demands that we have standards and we consistently meet those standards. If we’re to be really successful in making our places of work safe and healthy we need to lead the effort like the best we can be, not the worst. Safety efforts done TO people don’t work any better than leaders who lead by being autocratic and bullies.

Now ask yourself how are you managing safety? Are you acting like the best you’ve ever experienced or the worst? It’s not too late to change if you’re unhappy with your answer.

Alan D. Quilley, CRSP is author of The Emperor Has No Hard Hat — Achieving REAL Safety Results and president of Safety Results Ltd. a Sherwood Park, Alberta OH&S consulting firm. You can reach him at [email protected]