Leadership in safety – Trust


Leadership in safety – Trust

If people do not trust those leading safety change there will never be wholehearted adoption of the leaders approach. People may agree to the leaders face but do little to advance the leaders ideas, innovative ways to sabotage the leader quite often occur in a climate of minimum trust.

One organisation I worked for had a number of mechanical workshops where we trained employees in the job safety analysis technique and got them involved in preparing safe working procedures. Everything went well at these locations and we had an improved level of safety. In one workshop it was decided to get a consultant mechanical tradesman to prepare the safe working procedures with little involvement of the workers. The result was a mess. Besides from the important lack of local knowledge the workers had developed a lack of trust in the process and thought it was a management plot to devalue their work and allow the introduction of less skilled workers to do the work traditionally done by tradesmen. This sabotaged the real safety improvements we were chasing. All in all an industrial relations disaster caused by faulty process and a lack of trust

“Trust is essential for a relationship to grow and develop. In order to build a relationship you must learn to create a climate of trust that reduces your own and the other person’s fears of betrayal and rejection and promotes the hope of acceptance, support and confirmation. There is a risk involved in trusting.

In order to build a relationship, two people must build mutual trust. This is done during a commitment period in which they risk themselves either by disclosing more and more of their thoughts, feelings and reactions to immediate situations and to each other, or by expressing acceptance, support and cooperativeness toward each other. If, when disclosing they do not get the acceptance they need, they may back off from the relationship. If they are accepted, they will continue to risk self-disclosure and continue to develop the relationship. As both people continue to trust and be self-disclosing, the relationship continues to grow”

The above taken from Johnson D.W. “Reaching Out” (1990). This text is recommended reading for those leading safety change.

The only constant in the safety business is change. Australia has significant safety challenges and we must change to improve. Change is difficult at the best of times, if people do not trust the safety change leaders there is very little chance of success.

From my study of Management of Organisational Change I have adopted the motto “When initiating change, Remember, People support what they create” My simple advice is be open & honest with everybody (Australians can smell a bull-dust artist a mile away), involve your people, get your people talking, get your people doing things, show you are interested in, care about and are responsive to their opinions, if you do this most of your trust problems will disappear.

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