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Safety Leadership: Speak-up, Speak Straight But, Think Before You Speak

When leadership avoids the obvious issues, followers lose confidence in leadership.  Leaders must be slow to speak and take time to consider how their words will be received.  Moreover, we must all practice patience before we speak.
When a leader such as a supervisor is conducting a safety contact or briefing with their team it is easy to get caught up in negative behavior.  Supervisors have a formal leadership position in the organization, therefore everyone takes their words to heart.  When a worker makes a derogatory remark during a safety briefing everyone laughs under their breath, but followers want to see what the leader’s response will be.
One minute of patience, ten years of peace
~ Greek proverb
In this case the supervisor should take a breath and pause before letting words roll out of their mouth unedited.  Patience will pay dividends long after the pause.
If the leader responds with a derogatory remark, they have formally entered the point of no return.  If this leader is not good at rhetoric that seems better than the original comment, the supervisor  looses points.  If however the supervisor chooses to ignore the comment, everyone sees them as week.  What should a supervisor do then?
I always teach supervisors in my seminars and coaching sessions how to ask the right question.  In this case the remark likely has a “grain of truth” in it.  The supervisor should make a statement to recognize the truth in the remark and then ask the one who spoke a question to clarify their unwanted remark.
It is rewarding for me when a supervisor I am working with comes back to a session telling me how well this works.  They find that many times their strength lies in their patience to focus on the real job at hand; creating a workplace where it is more difficult to get hurt, and not to see who can make the winning points in the game of derogatory remarks.
Go out and have a safe day,
Carl Potter, CSP
If you are interested in improving your supervisory team’s ability to create safe work environments let me know.  Let’s schedule a Conquest for Safety: Leadership Required Workshop and begin the improvement process.  If you are open to discussing this workshop email me at:

2 Responses to Safety Leadership: Speak-up, Speak Straight But, Think Before You Speak

  • Jerry shockey says:

    I have found that thanking an individual for his unwanted comment works well, kind of “throws him a curve”, he is expecting an argument/negative rebuttal and you thank him because there is probably some truth/logic in his comment (although sometimes very small)————Thanks—————-good stuff———–Shockey

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