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"Safe and Caring Leadership: The Art of Being a Steward of Human Beings"

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

In today's fast-paced world, safety programs have become an essential aspect of many workplaces. However, the focus has primarily been on the implementation of safety protocols and ensuring compliance. But it is essential to understand that safety programs are not just about rules and regulations. They are about the people that the rules are meant to protect. It is crucial to humanize safety programs to ensure that they are effective and successful.

Early in my career I had the pleasure of managing a group of drivers who were in various terminals all over Western Colorado. These drivers varied in experience, age, and tenure with the company, and came with all different types of backgrounds. One driver stood out to me as my biggest challenge. He wasn’t your typical defiant or outspoken driver. He had his own ways of expressing frustration, concern, or dissatisfaction with the job. On many occasions, this driver would refuse to drive certain trucks, pull certain loads, or just be plain defiant to the task at hand. For many weeks I struggled to figure out how I was going to get through to this driver. It quickly became my reality; I was going to have to ride with this driver and get to know him. I spent the next 5 days riding with this driver back and forth from Grand Junction, Colorado to Denver, Colorado. I learned about this individual’s family, his wife and his kids. I learned about his earlier years as a horse trainer and rancher. I learned about the funny stories of him getting bucked off broncos, and how he overcame the many struggles of immigrating to the United States. I learned how he learns, what motivates him, and how I could best connect with him when I needed something done. He became more human to me, which, in turn, allowed me to be human with him. I later was able to provide this driver with all the tools necessary to be successful in his job. He became a loyal and valuable team member.

Humanizing our workplace means treating people as individuals with unique needs, strengths, and weaknesses. It means acknowledging the impact that work-related challenges or incidents can have on their physical and emotional well-being. By humanizing our workplace culture, we can build a community of trust, care, and respect for each other's well-being, leading to better outcomes and stronger relationships.

"Being human with your employees means recognizing their individuality, understanding their needs and motivations, and creating a workplace culture that supports and empowers them."

Here are some steps you can take to humanize your safety program and become a steward of human beings using empathy and compassion:

1. Understand Your Employees' Needs

To create a safety program that is effective, you must first understand the needs of your employees. What are their concerns, fears, and challenges? By having an open and honest dialogue with your employees, you can learn more about their unique needs and experiences. Understanding your employees' needs will enable you to develop safety programs that address their concerns.

2. Empower Your Employees

Empowering your employees to take ownership of their safety is critical. Instead of simply providing them with a set of safety rules, involve them in the safety program's development. Encourage them to speak up if they see any safety concerns, and provide them with the tools and resources they need to make the workplace safer.

3. Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in creating a safety culture. Rather than punishing employees for safety violations, reward them for following safety protocols. Positive reinforcement can include recognition, incentives, and other forms of acknowledgement. Celebrating safety successes can also help to reinforce the importance of safety in the workplace.

4. Train Employees on Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence training can help employees understand how to navigate difficult or stressful situations, such as accidents or injuries. By providing employees with the tools to manage their emotions, you can create a culture of empathy and compassion in the workplace.

5. Provide Support for Injured Employees or Employees in Recent Accidents

In the unfortunate event of an injury or accident, it is essential to provide support to the affected employee. This support can include financial assistance, emotional support, and access to healthcare resources. Providing support to injured employees can help to build trust and strengthen your safety culture.

Reflect on your experiences with leaders who have taken you under their wing and how they made you feel. Did it make you a better employee? Now think about leaders who lacked compassion. How long did you stick around? Remember, humanizing your workplace will set you apart from the competition. By prioritizing care and compassion, you will create a culture that lasts a lifetime. Your struggles managing employees will disappear, and your operation will become more profitable. Being human with your employees means recognizing their individuality, understanding their needs and motivations, and creating a workplace culture that supports and empowers them.

Written by Jon Stanley- CEO Synergy-Solutions LLC

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