Attitude must be measured

May 1, 2003 By    

Have you ever tried to measure attitude? It’s pretty tough to measure, but we know it when we see it.

Let’s assume for a moment that we have an employee with a bad attitude. He is out among our customers most of the time. The only measurement we have is from customer complaints claiming this individual sees the world as an empty glass of water. We know this and yet somehow we determine that, in the grand scheme of things, it’s the least of our problems.

The other day a marketer – I’ll call him Ostrich Sam – came up to me at a break in my presentation. Sam insinuated I was full of horse manure and that nothing can keep dumb customers safe. Wow, this guy was thirsty. He only saw the mirage of insurmountable problems.

What Sam fails to embrace is the responsibility to be a safety leader.

How do we get the Ostrich Sams of this world to see the big picture, be proactive and lead safely?

It starts with respect for the hazardous nature of the products Sam sells and services. Somehow Sam sees the world as one big obstacle to his success and he fails to respect the many stakeholders in the process:

  • Customers and their families
  • Employees and their families
  • Emergency personnel and their families
  • Insurance companies
  • Vendor employees and their families
  • Suppliers and their stockholders
  • Subcontractors and their employees
  • Plaintiff and defense attorneys
  • Your company stockholders
  • The propane industry

    Recognition of stakeholders is the first step to a great safety attitude. Lulled into complacency by cheap insurance and infrequent not-at-fault claims, Ostrich Sam fails to recognize the stakeholders. He also fails to appreciate the costs and liabilities associate with his industry.For example, Sam spends $10,000 to $12,000 training a driver who climbs in a $100,000 truck with a $1 million liability limit and a second $1 million-plus umbrella limit in his toolbox.

    Sam needs to recognize that we need that driver to have a great safety attitude. That employee needs to be challenged and appreciated. He wants to feel productive. He needs to be informed, and he needs a good manager.

    Without this direction and encouragement, employees feel anxious and futile. There is a higher degree of burnout, turnover and a greater test of situational safety ethics. This is how accidents happen.

    All accidents are preventable. How do we prevent them?

    Accidents are prevented through solid safety leadership. We need to convert the Ostrich Sams of this world into Safety Sams.

    When we can convince the leadership of any propane marketer to understand the stakeholders, we begin the process of developing great safety attitudes among employees.

    There is an old saying: “Lead, follow or get out of the way.” When it comes to safety, the latter is not an option. True safety leaders must lead and trusted employees must follow.

    You show me a company that cares about the direction, discipline and attitude of its employees and I’ll show you a company with a great safety attitude. Indeed, I’ll show you a company with a bright future in this industry.

    The leadership discipline to overcome obstacles of attitude comes with practice. It comes with hours of focus on priorities and how those choices impact all stakeholders in the process. Sure, it’s hard work. But trust me when I tell you that the results are worth it.

    There is no room for negativity in the safety business and I would remind all propane marketers that they are in the business of being safe. It is far better to be accountable today for control of your exposures through a prevention-oriented attitude than to find out tomorrow you are accountable for failure to do so.

    You can’t measure attitude with your head down a hole. The next time you have a management or employee safety meeting, measure the water in your safety glass. Make note of those who have the courage to admit that they see the glass in need of safety water. Discuss the problems. Design solutions.

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