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Taking a stand for safety

March 1, 2004 By    

We all admire those who take a stand, as long as they’re not in our way.

Life is too full of cautious types who float their values in the sea of current opinion. Their boat is always leaking because they can’t agree on whether the holes are a good thing or a bad thing. Destiny on hold is a ship sure to sink.

I say it’s time we all make a stand.

American history has many examples of people who made a stand. We had Jack Kennedy and his commitment to putting a man on the moon. Kennedy motivated a nation to make that stand with him and the goal was ultimately achieved.

We also had Gen. George Custer. Custer made what my buddy calls a bad stand with insufficient information, and his troops paid the price. The actual quote from my buddy is, “A good retreat is better than a bad stand.”

It’s hard to know when to make a stand. When to move forward and when to retreat are critical considerations in any endeavor. That’s why we must list our priorities and gather up our values.

I stand in recognition of accomplishment or in appreciation for a job well done. I stand out of respect for vision, authenticity and courage in the face of adversity. Much of my work is done standing.

An unpopular stand can cast a tall shadow and the unmotivated will surely complain about the shade. This is why purpose and goals are so important when implementing strategy. Sometimes strategy validates goals and objectives. Sometimes assessing feasibility mid-stream can prevent being lost in the flood.

United we stand, divided we fall. Getting the divided on board with strategy can mean the difference between success and failure. It’s imperative to listen to the divided and weigh those concerns against goals and objectives.

For Custer, ignoring the right scouting report was fatal. Time spent listening to employees discuss strategy is time well spent.

As a safety leader it is your role to facilitate those discussions. I call it “earning the right to be heard.” Always listen with goals and objectives in mind. That fertile field of consideration can grow metric tons of enthusiasm in support of those goals and objectives.

Don’t let distractions determine your fate when it comes to safety. While up to our britches in alligators, someone must remember we came to drain the swamp.

Is it possible, metaphorically speaking, that we spend so much time looking for imaginary alligators that we have forgotten what the real ones look like? Could general distraction be overwhelming specific objectives?

In terms of safety, what do you stand for?

If your list comes up short, close your eyes and focus on the four core issues that drive your company’s safety concerns. Leave space under each topic for additional strategy that will support each major issue. Your insurance loss run might be a good place to start. A review of industry incidents can also bring those imaginary fears into focus.

This is a great equity protection exercise for owners. It’s a great job security exercise for managers and a good safety meeting topic.

So get up out of that chair and take a stand for safety. Share the message, listen to your scouts and cultivate communication designed to achieve safe growth.

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