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Lead, follow or get out of the way

January 1, 2004 By    

This old axiom says it all when it comes to safety leadership. After playing music with a young and very talented banjo player, Jerry Garcia declared to the rest of the group, “Gentlemen, we are old and in the way.”

When it comes to safety are you leading, following or in the way?

The first two are clearly favored courses. It is the latter course that causes most of the safety problems. In fact, inaction itself is a liability waiting to happen. A safety ship adrift will eventually find a reef.

Even worse is the cancer in any organization that actually obstructs the safety process. The path to achieving safe growth has a few obstructions, and it appears you can’t get there from here. After a while you stop complaining about the traffic and become resigned to the disparaging condition of the world.

As a leader, are you disparaged when it comes to safety? If so, you are in the way.

The best plan right now would be to pull over to the side and pull out a few safety road maps. It seems the best maps are left at home or in the glove box, deferring to gut instinct and illogical complacency. Are you man enough to read a road map?

If so, I recommend you go back and pull out the PERC Propane Safety and Training Road Map. The directions clearly remind us of why those good resolutions deserve daily attention.

While you are reading the maps, look for the part that says it’s OK to be too busy to set and implement goals that will lead to safe growth. They don’t advise it.

Cavett Robert is quoted as saying: “Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.” Has the excitement of the moment passed with your company regarding daily safety leadership?

The ultimate challenge of any safety leader is to set the example for accountability. Without such leadership we defer control to fate, customer ignorance and plaintiff attorneys.

Passive control is not a safety strategy. The safety culture of a propane company must be dedicated, convicted, compassionate and determined. With daily focus on strategic goals comes the energy to sustain the excitement of the moment. Celebrating safety successes such as safe driving awards and accident-free recognition is a great way to measure progress and keep the safety flame alive in any organization.

As a safety leader, accountability for that vision begins and ends with you. How broad sweeping is the conviction level of your company safety culture?

John F. Kennedy once asked a man sweeping the floors of a NASA hangar, “Son, what is your job here?” The young man replied, “Putting a man on the moon, sir.”

Wow! That still impresses me every time I think of the culture that inspired such a monumental achievement. That one small step for man and huge leap for mankind was supported by everyone from the president to the man who swept the floors. They understood and embraced the mission with spectacular success.

In the propane industry we strive for the goal of achieving safe growth and lasting prosperity. While we count beans, make budget and deliver products, we must continue to lead with compassion to inspire a following based on safety values. Do it with character and never let the moment of excitement pass or get lost to some less worthy business goal.

If you lead, safe practices will follow and the problems will get out of your way.

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