I recently posted a list of 10 phrases we should use when discussing safety (insert link). As a front-line supervisor, talking about safety was something I struggled with mightily. Of course, that’s in hindsight. At the time, I thought I was pretty good. After all, I was the supervisor. I resorted to yelling and using phrases like “be careful” sprinkled with colorful language.
The next time you feel the urge to use phrases like “be safe” or “just use common sense,” consider these phrases or questions.
- I’d like to learn more about what you do. Do you mind if I observe you? It shows you care about them and what they do every day that contributes to the organization’s success. Not to mention, the more we know about what they do, the more we can help. Front line employees are only as good as the support we provide them. Whether we are a corporate safety manager, operations manager, supervisor, or the big cheese, the value and quality of support we provide is contingent on how much we know about them and the job they do.
- What are you good at? Or a companion question, what do you enjoy doing the most? Answering these questions allows us to align skill sets and interests with the right job. Rotating a worker through different positions builds flexibility and is operationally astute. Getting stuck in a job that doesn’t leverage a skill set or interest creates an uninspired employee.
- You have worked XX days/months/years without an incident; how do you do it? Can an injury-free employee connect specific behaviors to safety results? If so, great. Share those lessons learned. If not, here’s an opportunity to help them identify and reinforce those behaviors.
- I made a mistake. Used anytime we make a mistake or misjudgment. Maybe we implemented corrective actions and inadvertently created a new hazard. Whatever the case, admitting a mistake takes courage and shows humility. Two leadership characteristics.
- Would you be willing to coach/mentor or buddy a new/junior employee? This request shows that you recognize the employee’s expertise and experience. Additionally, many experienced employees enjoy coaching inexperienced employees. Find these employees, and you have found a safety ally.
Equally as important as the phrases you use is to listen, listen, and listen some more. Some would say it’s even more critical. However, our instinctive response during a pause in a conversation is to jump in with another comment or question. You can learn more by simply pausing and listening after you ask a question or make a comment. Pausing after a comment or question allows your message to sink in, which is a tactic that good public speakers use.
Do you have a favorite phrase you prefer to use?