What makes a great EHS professional?
Most people can practice safety if given a basic set of rules. But the difference between average EHS employees and true leaders is a set of habits that keeps the whole workplace geared toward success.
It’s about more than just safety skills: it’s about the way you approach your work. Here are three good habits to cultivate with your team.
Hint: it’s about more than showing up to work every day.
Many companies have a safety culture problem that they don’t even realize. When managers don’t listen to their employees or don’t pay attention enough, it has a subtle yet undeniably toxic effect on your workplace culture.
For EHS professionals, this is even riskier. You can’t do your job and keep your workplace safe if you don’t listen to what employees are trying to tell you. Worse, if employees know that you aren’t listening when they talk to you, they aren’t going to bother bringing up issues at all.
This requires focus and discipline, but most of all, a regular commitment to get out of your own head and prioritize others first.
Start with the basics: become a more effective listener. Ideally, practice being an active listener. Show up to every conversation with the intention of learning something. Instead of trying to get your two cents, ask follow-up questions and keep an open mind when you hear the answers.
Leading by Example
This brings us to our next point: leading by example. In other words, be the kind of leader that you want your employees to model in the workplace.
People learn more by observing management that they ever admit – often more than they even realize. The way management behaves is key in establishing what’s important in the workplace. After all, you’re the boss, the disciplinarian and the key to future promotion.
What you do (and what behavior you reward) sets the tone for everyone under your purview.
Don’t pull a, “Do as I say, not as I do,” because that’s a one-way ticket to resentful employees. Don’t ever excuse yourself from the rules, even the smallest details like hearing protection. Yes, even if you know you won’t be in a department long enough to have a detrimental impact on your hearing.
Solicit (and Reward) Participation
Finally, be prepared to solicit (and reward) employee participation.
Safety only works if everyone is on board. After all, you can’t be everywhere at once, and you don’t experience the job in quite the same way as other employees. To that end, get in the habit of asking for suggestions, concerns, and complaints.
Remember, employees are the ones on the front line, which means that their complaints are highly informative of what is and isn’t working. Plus, they may come up with suggestions that are better than the ideas you came up with.
However, be prepared to follow through. Employees won’t offer participation if they know it won’t go anywhere.
So if an employee makes a suggestion, take steps to see it through, even if upper management decides not to go further – the key is trying to maintain safety trust. And if an employee contributes to safety, offer praise for positive behavior. It shows that you’re paying attention and sets the tone for everyone else.
Becoming a More Effective Safety Leader
Becoming a more effective safety leader starts with a willingness to learn. Learn your job, learn your employees, learn your risks, learn how to lead. If you’re always willing to learn, you can always find ways to improve.
And if you’re looking for more great ideas to learn something new every day, make sure to check out our blog for more great posts.