A Safety Influencer Never Has To Tell People What To Do

During meetings, it feels right to tell others what to do and how to solve a safety problem. Because not only does it boost your ego once the solution is approved, but you also feel like you’ve done your job as a safety professional.

But, telling others what to do, especially the management team, will hinder the progress and success of our safety programs. It feels counterintuitive right? So, let’s talk about the reasons why and what you can do about it.

Our Brain Naturally Rejects What Others Tell Us to Do

You see, it is the natural tendency of our brain is to reject ideas that came from others. Many studies have proved that and there are various reasons why.

So, if you come up to that meeting, present the safety issues that you’ve found, and then tell them what to do, members of the management team will naturally reject the idea. Some signs of rejection might be obvious but most are not. And they might approve the idea but don’t give out the necessary support in order for the solution to succeed.

Remember That You’re a Leader, Not the Problem Solver

To correct this approach, and prevent ourselves from telling others what to do is to change our mindset. Remember that although you are the safety expert, you are also a leader.

Great leaders don’t tell others what to do and boast about what they know, instead, they show their knowledge and expertise in the process. So, what this means is that you don’t really have to go out to meetings and dictate to them what to do. Instead, as a leader, you’ll have to guide them throughout the process of coming up with the proper solution.

Make Them Come Up with Ideas for The Solution

I know what you’re thinking. How? That is a valid question because even if what I said about leadership sounds great, it might seem impossible to put it into practice. So, let’s talk about some simple yet effective steps on how to do this.

Remember what I’ve previously said that leaders guide them on the process. You’ll need to be ready in guiding them, that is the first step. Like an experienced guide, you’ll need to prepare for the journey and make them reach the desired destination. And to prepare, you’ll need to collect data, create a compelling story that they can’t ignore.

The second step is to present the collected data and the story you’ve created in a way that the management team will understand. In a way that they will relate to. To do so, talk about the impact to the company and the costs involved.

Lastly, as a leader, lead the management team in coming up with a solution to the problem. Make them think it’s their idea, when in fact you’ve just led them to that solution. Because once they think it’s their idea, they will be fully invested in the solution and cooperate as much as they can to make it succeed.

Take Action

So, there you have it. Stop telling your management team what to do. Instead, as a leader and safety influencer, make them come up with the solution. This way, your safety programs will have the complete support of the management team.

A Safety Influencer Never Has To Tell People What To Do

Safety Brye: [00:00:00] I would be willing to bet that at the last manager's meeting where you presented a safety issue, you followed it up with how you're gonna fix that problem. Am I right? Do you owe me a drink? If you really wanna improve your safety program and get the results that you're after, the practice of telling your management team of what they need to do to improve safety has got to stop.

Let me tell you why.

Hey there, safety friends. Welcome to the Safety Geek Podcast. I'm Brye Sargent CSP and 20 year safety professional. After spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation and creating safety programs from the ground up over and over again, I am now sharing my processes and strategies with you.

At the Safety Geek, you will learn how to manage an effective safety program that increases your management, support, and employee engagement,

[00:01:00] all the while helping you elevate your position and move up in your career. If you're ready to step into the role of a safety influencer and leader, you're in the right place.

Let's get to it. Hello. Hello. Hello. My safety friends, for those who celebrated, I hope that you had an amazing Thanksgiving. I have a very small family, so Thanksgiving for me just seems like dinner every other night, and we don't like Turkey, so it's kind of weird. But anyway, I hope yours was much more eventful than mine was.

I know that we are like in the whole Black Friday, cyber Monday thing, so if you haven't been on the Safety Geek website in the last few days, you may wanna pause this podcast right here, unless you're driving, of course. Then just go ahead and drive and check it out. There is a link to a Black Friday Cyber Monday promotion that you won't wanna miss. I don't put my courses

[00:02:00] on sale that often, so if you've been eyeing joining one, I may have a deal that you won't wanna miss. And if Safety Management Academy is on your list today, we are actually gonna be talking about one of the concepts that I stress to my students, and that is about changing your approach to get more support for your safety improvement.

A lot of times we are doing everything right like 90% of the time, but it's just little tweaks in our approach and our strategies here and there that can make a huge difference in getting the support that you need to get your safety initiatives out there to get your safety improvements out there to start changing behaviors and get changing that safety culture and getting support for safety.

So when we take on our roles in safety, what happens is we are seen as the safety expert, right? We look at it as our job to create

[00:03:00] safe work practices, to create policies, procedures, and you know, we're striving to hit that zero incident rate and we are constantly like finding hazards and implementing improvements and corrective actions or training people we're watching behaviors.

So when it comes to solving the problem and keeping people safe, we believe, and we are the go-to person. We are the person in charge. Right? And you know how I believe on this, that we are probably the most important people in the company. People just don't realize it. But one of the biggest struggles is that we don't have direct authority over the people

doing the actual work. The people that are actually doing the safe work practices or following the policies or procedures, we don't have direct authority over them. So even though we say that changes should be made, it's really up to the management team to not only

[00:04:00] agree with the changes, but to implement and enforce those changes when they come about.

And this is where so many safety leaders get stalled. They know how to fix the problem. They understand the best practices that need to be put in place. They go and prepare their data and their action plans, and then they walk into that manager's meeting and they present the problem and the solution, and then they ask for approval.

Sounds legit, right? It's like, this is the problem I identified. This is why it's a problem. Here's how we're going to fix it. Do you guys agree? And they are ready ahead of time to like debunk any objections that come up. Like they know that the manager from department ABC is gonna, you know, come up with some objection.

They're already ready and they're prepared to knock it down. And in the end they get their yes, right, they get their approval. Even if it's a

[00:05:00] little begrudgingly, right? Like you can see and feel the eyes roll sometimes, even though you get a yes, but it's like, is it really a yes? Because when they go to implement the thing, whatever that improvement tends to be, they are faced with daily pushback from everybody.

They get no help from the management team, even though the managers agreed, but they're not really doing anything to make sure it's successful. Supervisors, they get caught off guard because they might not have even known it was coming because their manager didn't tell them about it. Or they're being told a different story from their boss.

Like one of the worst things you can have happen is like, Hey, we're gonna implement this new safety initiative. And then their boss is on the sideline going, yeah, it's another one of Brye's ideas, it probably won't work. It's stupid. Definitely I've seen that background chatter that you know, hey, it's just the latest from

[00:06:00] corporate, it'll go away soon. I have definitely seen that. So what I wanna talk about is why does that happen and how can we approach things differently to ensure that it maybe doesn't always happen? So first, the reason why it likely happens is because they never bought into the safety initiative or improvement or corrective action to begin with.

They never really agreed with it. They just did the nodding at the meeting because everybody else was agreeing and it was really quiet. Nobody was speaking up, right? So they're like, yeah, sure. When we don't buy into things, What happens is that we actually self-sabotage or we end up inadvertently sabotaging it, or it comes out in another way.

So I wanna share a story with you from when I was a junior, I believe I was a junior in high school and I struggled in English. I

[00:07:00] really, really had a hard time with spelling and reading and all of those things. And my English teacher was trying to be helpful. Now that I'm older, I can see what he was trying to do, but in my mind, he was just always on my case because I wasn't doing as well as I should have been because I was a straight A student.

In every other aspect of my life except for English is just something I struggled. And he said, you know, it comes down to finding a book that you like to read, and then you'll end up reading more. And he was trying to actually get me to read more and enjoy reading to improve my comprehension and my language.

And he was showing me how when I came across a word that I didn't know how to research it and look it up and all of. But in my mind, I was like, I'm never gonna get this English stuff. That's my sister's

[00:08:00] realm. She's like the English genius, I just don't get this stuff. Give me a computer and a spreadsheet and I'm happy.

And he just kept trying and trying. And then finally he gave me Gone With the Wind and he says, read it. And I was like, I don't wanna read it. And he's like, no, you're reading it. That's your assignment for the quarter. And he forced me to read. Gone With the Wind. Here's the thing. The entire time I was reading that book, I hated it.

I hated every aspect of it. I hated everything about Scarlet O'Hara and Rhett Butler and all of it, and the whole story, and I thought the whole Civil War story was stupid and the plantations were stupid and just everything. But honestly, if I had chose to read, Gone With the Wind on my own. I would've loved it.

It was definitely the style of book that I enjoyed reading at the time. He knew that that's why he picked it, but I was being stubborn and being like, no, I don't wanna read it. So the whole time I was reading it,

[00:09:00] I was actually sabotaging myself from this amazing book. So that's how our toddler brains work and we all have them.

Some people call 'em lizard brains. I like to think of it as toddler. Who's like wanting a cookie and is constantly like, no, I want a cookie. I want a cookie. No, I don't wanna do that. Right? So our little toddler brains, we will always support ideas that are our own or that our friends like. So like if my friends were reading Gone With the Wind, or if I came up to it on my own, I probably would've read it and loved it.

That's just the way that our brains work. But when we are told that we have to do something and it doesn't feel like a choice, Sure we'll do it, especially if our boss is telling us that we have to do it right. But we'll grumble and we'll sabotage it the whole freaking way, , because that's our little toddler brain throwing its hissy fit over something dumb. So what you have to realize is that the

[00:10:00] same thing is happening at your managers meetings when you tell them what needs to be done, they may agree. But there's always gonna have that little toddler giving them resistance in their brain. So instead, you need to learn how to make them come up with the idea on their own.

Because just like Gone with the Wind, if they had said, Hey, that's what I wanna read, they would've read the book. But if you said No, you have to read good to great business book or whatever. You know, book is gonna help you for becoming a manager, and I'm gonna force you to read it. It's gonna be like, oh, I don't wanna read it

So think about it that way. So what you need to do is get it to be their idea, because when it is their idea, they will want it to succeed. They will work to help it succeed. And they will have a vested interest in

[00:11:00] its success. So I know what you're thinking. You're like, but Brye, they hired me to be the subject matter expert.

They expect me to tell them what to do. And they do believe that. They do believe that that's what they hired you for, but that doesn't mean that you have to jump right in and become the superhero and save them and tell them what to do. We do this, we jump in to show our expertise, just to boost our own egos, and there's nothing wrong with that.

I'm not saying that as a negative thing because that is just human nature that we wanna show off our own knowledge, but I want you to be a leader and leaders have followers. Leaders don't have to boss people around or tell them what to do because those people are already following them. Leaders remove barriers as their team is moving forward. They're not actually telling them

[00:12:00] where to move forward to, and leaders demonstrate their knowledge and experience during the process. They don't have to brag about it, and leaders aim to lift everybody up first instead of themselves. Because knowing that when you lift up other people, you get lifted up in the process.

So how do you do this? How do you make it so that that safety improvement is their idea? Your knowledge and skills should be used in identifying and clarifying the problem, so you want to make sure that you're collecting a lot of data on the problem. A lot of data, right? And you wanna have a clear story of what that problem is and what that problem could lead to.

And then you wanna be able to demonstrate the cost of that problem. And as you're doing that,

[00:13:00] make sure that you're speaking in a language that they understand when it comes to the costs and the risks to the company, and then make the problem so compelling. That they cannot ignore it, and then instead of you telling them how to solve it, you ask them first, do they think it should be solved?

If you are good enough in your compelling story about the problem, that answer's always going to be, yes, of course it needs to be solved. There's a risk and a cost to the company. It was compelling enough, they're gonna be like, yes, we need to solve it. And then the next question is, what do you think is the best way that we can solve this? Keywords here

are WE right? And you're asking them how it should be solved. You're not coming in and saving the day. If you describe the issue well enough, any experienced team of managers is going to be able to give you several ideas on how to

[00:14:00] solve the problem. You don't have to jump in with your three or four idea.

And if you have some that they haven't brought up, then bring them up at the end, but likely they will bring up a couple that were already on your list. And then as a team, you decide how to proceed. Everybody has ideas on how to solve the problem. As a team, how do we proceed? This is leadership and how you're describing the problem and creating that compelling story is influencing.

When you can get good at these two things, your improvement ideas will be implemented so easily, and you'll definitely make a lot more progress in your safety program. So as we end today, I want you to walk away from this episode with two things. Number one, remember that nobody likes to be told what to do. Especially by somebody outside of their chain of command, which

[00:15:00] is what you always are, right? Think about it. If HR was telling you what you had to do compared to your boss telling you what you had to do, it comes off very differently. And number two, you need to learn to influence your management team instead of telling them what to do.

Alrighty, my friends. Happy Cyber Monday. If you are listening to this on the day it comes out, make sure that you check out the website for that special offer. That's what I have for you today, and we will chat again soon. Bye for now.

Hey, if you're just getting started in safety or you've been at this for a while and are hitting a roadblock, Then I wanna invite you to check out Safety Management Academy. This is my in depth online course that not only teaches you the processes and strategies of an effective safety management program, but how to entwine

[00:16:00] management support, and employee participation throughout your processes.

Are you ready to finally understand exactly what you should be doing and ditch that safety police hat forever? Then you have got to join me and your fellow Safety Scholars over at Safety Management Academy, just go to thesafetygeek.com/sma to learn more and to get started. That's thesafetygeek.com/sma and I will see you in our next Students only live session.

Bye for now.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • Why Telling People What to Do Has to Stop
  • How to be a Better Safety Influencer and Leader
  • Changing Approach to Getting More Support for Safety Programs
  • Your Safety Knowledge and Skills Should be Focused on Identifying the Problem

Links Mentioned:


As you end listening to this podcast, I want you to walk away understanding 2 things.

  1. No one likes to be told what to do, especially be someone outside their direct line of command
  2. Learn to influence your management team instead of telling them what to do.

And I hope that this will help you be a better Safety Leader and get more support for your safety programs.

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Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)!  I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience.  Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world.   I would love to help you too.

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