“Right is right even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong even if everyone is for it.”
The quote above – by William Penn – is a favorite of mine. It speaks to me of the personal accountability and courage it takes for us, as individuals, to do the right things in life – no matter how difficult that might be, because that’s 100 percent within our control 100 percent of the time.
As safety leaders, we take ownership for engaging, inspiring and motivating others to work safely. The foundation for these “outward-reaching” actions, however, is built upon the bedrock of the “inward-looking” attributes of personal accountability and courage – the commitment we make to ourselves, as individuals, to practice safe work behaviors and do the right thing … even if no one is watching (personal accountability) and no matter who or how many are watching (personal courage).
Those who “walk the talk” when no one is watching and irrespective of who is watching are the most credible, unassailable, unimpeachable safety leaders, and those who work with them and for them (who can spot a “fake” a mile away) take them for the “real meal deal,” listen to what they have to say and emulate what they do.
I think safety leaders are like decathlon athletes. In the same way that a decathlete hones specialized skills on a base of physical strength and speed, the safety leader assembles a specialized skill set on a base of personal accountability and courage.
It’s not easy for individuals to meet the personal accountability and courage standard 100 percent of the time. If we’re honest with ourselves and others, we might admit that we all “fall off the wagon” periodically. Is there any magic that will keep us “on the wagon and out of the ruts” a greater percentage of the time?
While it might not be magic, I propose that a daily, early-morning reaffirmation of the “inward-looking” attributes of personal accountability and courage can help. It’s a way to stare down that apparition looming before us in the mirror – puffy eyes, no makeup, “dragon breath” and stifled yawns all notwithstanding – and telling the man or woman staring back that you will do the right thing today whether you’re working alone, alongside your boss or in a work crew.
I think safety leaders are like decathlon athletes. In the same way that a decathlete hones specialized skills (running, hurdling, jumping, vaulting, throwing, etc.) on a base of physical strength and speed, the safety leader assembles a specialized skill set (communication, empathic listening, coaching, setting clear expectations, recognizing positive behaviors, taking responsibility for safety, resolving conflict, building trust, etc.) on a base of personal accountability and courage.
In both cases, the more robust the base, the better the overall performance and outcomes.