Over the past two months we have examined how to effectively Stop an unsafe action that we observe and how to Ask in the right way to determine why the unsafe action was occurring. These skills are part of the overall 4-step SafetyCompassTM process involving:
Stop = When you see something, say something
Ask = Find out why
Find a Fix = Fix the underlying reason
Ensure the Fix = Keep an eye on improvement
In this edition of The RAD Group newsletter we will examine what to do to Fix the underlying reason, or reasons for the unsafe action. As we have discussed before there has been a lot of research that demonstrates that when we see someone else do something unsafe, or undesired we tend to attribute personal characteristics like motivation as the primary cause. This causes us to try to light a fire under the person to get them to perform the way we think they should. But as we saw last month there are many possible contextual reasons for the unsafe action and they may have nothing to do with motivation. If we have Asked effectively, then we should have the information that we need to help the person create a fix that they are both motivated and able to achieve. We have identified four skills to help us do this:
If it is a motivation issue then:
1. Bring Consequences to Life
2. Connect to Self-Respect
3. Connect to Respect from Others
If it isn’t motivation, Facilitate
1. Invite ideas
Let’s look at each one of these skills individually. Sometimes we are just not aware of the potential consequences of our actions and it is the job of the SafetyCompass to help bring them to life. This is best done through questioning rather than telling. Let the person discover consequences by asking questions that lead to insight rather than being told the answer. While losing his job is a possible consequence of continued unsafe actions, it should be used as a last resort because punishment and threat of punishment typically increase the desire to get even and can create even more problems. Besides, you may not have the power to fire the person anyway. An even more effective technique is to tell a personal story about how either you or someone you know suffered undesirable consequences because of engaging in this unsafe action. The more personal you can make it, the better. By the way, research has also shown that citing statistics is not a very effective technique for changing behavior.
By connecting the persons action to his self-respect, you are showing the person how continuing to engage in this action will be inconsistent with the type of person he wants to be. The idea here is really simple.....when you learn that what you are doing is inconsistent with the kind of person you respect and want to be, you want to stop doing it. To be effective here you must have some knowledge of what the person values. This may be something that you already know, or something that you discover in conversation with the person during the Find a Fix process.
Another good motivation technique is to connect their actions to respect from others. All of us want to be respected. If we can see how an action that we are engaging in can make others think less of us, then we are more likely to stop engaging in that action. Make sure that you show respect to the person when helping him understand this connection. One way to do this is by stating what you do and don’t mean. For example, “I don’t mean to sound critical; but I do want to help you understand how your actions are viewed by the other people around you.”
So what if it is not a motivation issue? How do you find a fix for other types of contextual reasons for unsafe action? Maybe the person just doesn’t know how to do the task safely. Maybe he wants to meet production standards that are beyond his current skill level. The key here is to facilitate a fix; don’t tell the other person how to fix it. Facilitation is making it easier for something to happen; in this case find a fix that will work and that the other person will accept. Helping the other person find the fix will lead to more commitment on their part to sustain the change that is needed. Facilitation involves asking appropriate questions and listening completely. It also involves inviting ideas from the other person. Simply asking “Do you have any ideas for fixing this?” can have a very positive impact and may lead to solutions that you would not have thought of on your own.
The objective here is to Find a Fix that addresses the real reason(s) for the unsafe action and that the other person accepts and/or owns so that they are more likely to sustain change going forward. There may be times when a fix is beyond your control (e.g., an incentive system needs changing). If this is the case, then make sure that you let those who do have control know what you have discovered. That is how we can help improve the context in which we work and help make the workplace safer.