♦♦  SAFETY CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦

In this series, I share with you my thoughts on Why Safety Is An Issue For Most Companies and the Things We Must Address If We Want To Improve Our Safety Performance. It’s time we re-examine the “power to influence” (control) as opposed to the “capacity to have an effect on” (influence) with respect to Safety Behaviour.

The Illusion / Paradox of Control

(Are we in control of Safety Behaviour?)

Illusion and Paradox of Control text as a graphic

I have written about this before – the issue of control and influence. It is such an important aspect of our work in safety that, when I read Seth Godin’s post[1] on the subject, it stimulated me to put a safety spin on what he wrote.

We have this “idea that we are in control“, that through policies and procedures we can ensure zero harm. It drives our Safety Management efforts. It fuels our “compelling belief” that this year we will reach our safety targets. It opens the door to consultants who try to convince us that if we just use their system, we’ll get exactly the silver bullet we have been looking for.

It’s like we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. I mean, the reality is that “we’re never in control, not of anything“. Instead, we should strive to view all our efforts as a means to try to influence safe behaviours. As in the “service business“, this is “a tough sell” for the safety professional.

Seth ends his post with these punchlines:

  • When the illusion of control collides with the reality of influence, it highlights the fable the entire illusion is based on.
  • and
  • You’re responsible for what you do, but you don’t have authority and control over the outcome. We can hide from that, or we can embrace it.

I would like to end my post with these thoughts:

  • Control contains a peculiar paradox. The more you impose control, the less control you have, because it removes accountability from someone who should own the responsibility in the first place. [2]
  • and
  • When you no longer push the buttons or use the tools, you should become a servant to those who do! [3]

ACTION

Think about what you do.

How much of what you and your team of safety professionals do is:

  • Tell, command, prescribe, lay down the rules / policy / procedures, set the standards, …
  • Audit / police against the above.
  • Collect, report on information to justify what already has happened.
  • Reactive to incidents, accidents, near hits (misses), short cuts, …
  • Sitting in your office behind a desk.

Or are you

  • Embracing the reality of influencing with trust and integrity.
  • Listening, supporting, helping, caring, recognising, respecting, empowering those you serve.
  • Encouraging them to take responsibility for their own safety at work and at home.

[1]  “The Illusion of Control“, by Seth Godin

[2]  from “Beyond Management“, by Etsko Schuitema

[3]  from “Life EduAction“, by Jürgen Tietz

RELATED READING

“Year-End Take Safety Home Message”

“Influence of Frontline Personnel”

“Your Safety Dream”

“People”

“Safety as a Value”

“Fire! Fire! Fire!”

“Ukuhlanya”

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