Not too long ago, I was honored with an invitation to serve as a credentialed instructor in the innovative University of Alabama at Birmingham Voluntary Protection Program Excellence in Safety Certificate Program. Endorsed by the Voluntary Protection Program Participants' Association, this professional development program is comprised of six courses; each is focused on exploring the best of the best in the development and implementation of safety management systems.
"SYSS 261B, Management Leadership and Employee Involvement" is the second course of the series. On one of the discussion boards, I asked a very intriguing question of the students. It's a question that all of us, at one point or another, have asked ourselves during the course of our careers: "If you were the CEO of your own company, what would your vision for safety be, and how would you implement it across your organization while meeting your investor and stakeholder expectations?"
The responses were passionate, to the point and revealing. If you are a visionary leader looking to supercharge your enterprise safety program, consider these pointers from several of my students:
"As CEO of my own company, my safety vision would be to provide a safe and healthy work environment, with the belief that all workplace incidents are preventable. The safety and health of my employees would be an integral part of all processes and the first priority in all aspects of my business. I would strive to achieve my goal: All of my employees will go home every night to their loved ones. I would make sure that I lead by example, because safety starts with me. I would be committed to comprehensive safety education and awareness, maintaining consistent safe behavior and preventing accidents so each associate and subcontractor feels respected and secure in their work and their daily responsibilities. I would make sure that my leadership team recognizes their responsibility for promoting the highest standards of safety, health and environmental, and are actively seeking to develop and maintain appropriate systems, procedures and plans to achieve our safety vision. I would participate in all safety programs and encourage employees to do the same."
"If I were the CEO, my vision for safety would simple. I would instill a drive in my employees that ensured that they worked safe and were proficient each day. Our corporate culture would be one that recognized the need for a "three-legged stool." My business would exist based on employee production, quality and safety. By ensuring that an organization is led by these three core values, I would guarantee the success of my business, my investors and my employees. The best way to ensure that a healthy culture exists is to lead by example and recognize that a leader is only as good as his weakest follower. I would answer to our board of directors and measure our EHS processes and performance all the way down to how much we spend on training verses how much we spent on incidents/accidents. I also would track the cost per man hour of all losses (bodily, vehicle, product/process and theft/vandalism). I would conduct a bimonthly video presentation to discuss EHS and my expectations from all employees. I would pick a project each quarter to visit and walk through. I would never miss an opportunity to compliment our employees on their performance and to thank them for their safe and hard work efforts."
"As CEO of my company, safety IS an employee-driven program. I would organize various committees to ensure that everyone is involved. I would have monthly meetings with the committees and quarterly meetings with all committees and employees. I would make sure everyone knows that they are an important part of my company. At our employee and family company parties, the employees would be recognized in front of their loved ones to let their families know how important they are in keeping my company safe and successful. Our vision would be: The safety and health of our employees is an integral part of all processes and the first priority in all aspects of our company."
"As the CEO of my own company, I would be a leader that led by example. My vision for the company would be: Safety... it starts with ME. ME – always safe at home and at work. I would have my employees look outside and inside the box while at work and at home for a safe way to perform every task. I would implement the culture from the first day of work and have quarterly reviews with employees on the culture and get their suggestions to make it better. I would make my safety program their safety program. I would set the path and let employees add the steps and procedures to each step. I would budget safety into everything so that there are no surprises. As CEO, my vision for safety is: To ensure that ALL employees share management dedication to the elimination of occupational injuries and illness while maintaining a comprehensive safety program that is an integral part of quality and production goals. Safety is a culture and a way of life that needs to be instilled in all aspects of life."
So there you have it. Consider incorporating the aspirations of these future CEOs into your organizational goals and strategies. Anonymously ask your employees: "If you were CEO, what would you do?". The responses just might turn out to be curiously more than enlightening.
Oftentimes, we as leaders tend to build upon outdated processes and paradigms only to discover an enterprise that is bogged down by unintended consequences. We need to have the courage to innovate over the perceived security of the status quo.
Dare to think differently.