By Bill Dampf, C.S.P.
Let’s Talk Success Presentations
It wasn’t long ago when my youngest son invited me to play a round of golf. It had been nearly 20 years since I had swung a club, and my play on that day reflected it. In fact, it didn’t take too many holes for me to remember why I gave up the game so many years ago. No matter how I adjusted my grip, my foot position or swing, the ball just didn’t want to find the fairway or green. I did get a great deal of practice hitting out of tall grass and around trees.
I do, however, remember one swing where the ball seemed to explode off of my driver. It was the straightest and longest drive I had hit all day. My son quickly exclaimed, “You hit the sweet spot on that one.” It was that one drive that brought me back to the course to play another day.
For those not familiar with the term sweet spot, it is the spot on the club that allows the ball being struck to absorb the maximum amount of force, and it leaves the club with a greater velocity than if struck at any other point on the club. The best golfers strive to hit the sweet spot every time.
Now, I have always been a person who believed that through hard work you can accomplish anything. That being said, no matter how much money I invest or how much I practice, I will never become a Rory McIlroy. You see, golf is not my sweet spot. It’s not and never will be one of my strengths. I do, however, have other strengths. These strengths require my constant attention. You see, if I fail to invest in them, they will disappear over time.
What are the sweet spots or strengths of your safety process? If you can’t identify them, spend some time doing so, because these strengths are the foundation of your success.
Many companies are striving for safety excellence, and they devote a great deal of effort in identifying their shortcomings. Strategies are developed and resources invested in an attempt to turn their weaknesses into strengths. The problem with this approach is as they are working on their weaknesses, their strengths begin to weaken. In his book “Leadership Gold,” John Maxwell refers to a person’s “strength zone” when it comes to career development.
He states, “Do you know what happens when you spend all your time working on your weaknesses and never developing your strengths? If you work really hard, you might claw your way all the way up to mediocrity! But you’ll never go beyond it.” Maxwell was speaking of the strengths of the individual, but the same is true for organizations. As they work to improve their weaknesses, their strengths are sometimes neglected and the greatest potential is never reached.
To ensure your journey to safety excellence doesn’t get derailed, identify your strength zones or safety sweet spots and commit to performing one activity to improve each one. A few examples might be:
• Strength - Strong safety leadership within all levels of the company.
• Action – Determine way for your senior leaders to have more direct face time interacting with the workforce. Offer a leadership development seminar for your informal leaders.
• Strength – Having employees who are willing to report near misses.
• Action – Show the benefits of near miss reporting by showcasing information learned from reported near misses. This could include reviewing the improvements in a safety meeting, publishing information in a newsletter, or posting information on the safety bulletin board.
• Strength - A highly involved employee safety committee.
• Action – Plan a recognition event for your safety committee. This could be a luncheon or sponsorship to a local safety conference.
• Strength - A job planning process that addresses all hazards.
• Action – Perform field audits of job briefings to both provide positive recognition to workers for strong performance and continue to find areas of potential improvement.
• Strength - A participative job safety observation process.
• Action – Have observers accompanied by employees not normally involved in the observation process. This allows for a better understanding of the process and encourages volunteers to join the effort.
• Strength – A high level of safety awareness is being displayed by your workers.
• Action – Schedule frequent events to maintain this awareness. Host a safety day. Invite a guest speaker to share a safety message with your workgroup. Conduct a safety stand down when a safety incident does occur.
Just as a professional golfer hires a coach and hits thousands of balls at the driving range to maintain and improve his or her game, we must invest in our safety sweet spots to maximize their potential benefits and to ensure these strengths don’t weaken.
Bill Dampf is the retired Director of Corporate Safety and Health for a Midwest electric and natural gas utility. He has been in the safety profession for 36 years and an international speaker for 15. He has acquired both his BS degree and Masters degree in Industrial Safety, is a Certified Safety Professional and published author. In Bill’s spare time, he gets to travel on behalf of his own company, “Let’s Talk Success Presentations,” where he shares his passion for achieving personal success and success in safety with workers, companies, associations and at conferences across North America. Bill would welcome the opportunity to share a safety message with your workers. To contact Bill, call 573-230-3910, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his website at www.ltspresentations.com.