Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at the 2019 Fleet Safety Conference, organised by Global Fleet Champions. I was asked to share my thoughts on effective leadership, which is key when introducing policies and procedures relating to the emotive topic of safety. Here I’ve taken another opportunity to summarise my personal thoughts and experiences.
All too often we hear phrases like “That’s not my job!”; “I’m not a mechanic, it’s not my job to carry out vehicle checks.”; “I’m too busy, I don’t have time to write a risk assessment for my journey.” But while we are all standing around pointing fingers and trying to delegate responsibility, nothing is getting done. That is not effective leadership. An effective leader is accountable for the team around them and takes them on a collaborative journey, while clearly demonstrating their own roles and responsibilities.
Effective leadership is about being inclusive – it’s about getting everyone on board and showing that when it comes to safety, we are all equal. Get to know your colleagues by smiling and saying hello as you pass someone or strike up a conversation in the kitchen – it’s a mutual ground. Making personal connections now will help you further down the line when you might need the support and commitment of those around you.
An effective leader is accountable for the team around them and takes them on a collaborative journey, while clearly demonstrating their own roles and responsibilities.
Challenge assumptions. What you see or presume is not always as it appears. I am working for one of the biggest engineering companies in the world, but my degree is not in engineering… it’s in musical theatre! When I made the transition into health and safety, I had no formal qualifications, but I had a lot of transferable skills which were recognised by my previous employer. They didn’t assume that I wasn’t capable of doing an office job. They saw that I was a quick learner, reliable, organised, pragmatic and, most of all, a ‘people person’ who is truly passionate about safety.
I like getting to know people and getting them on side to work together for a common aim – safety. Yes, I have formal transport and HSE qualifications now (as well as being highly commended as the Best Newcomer to Road Safety at the 2015 Fleet Safety Awards), but if I wasn’t given that initial opportunity, I wouldn’t be here now.
Data can be really helpful in assisting us to monitor our progress, but we need to look beyond that data – to dig deeper to see what sits beneath the figures. To find the underlying causes of improvement or decline and identify how to harness these factors to help the development of a safer working environment.
There were some great speakers at the 2019 Fleet Safety Conference sharing crucial ideas about how to effectively manage fleet safety. Here are a few key thoughts and ideas I took from some of them:
Adam Hindson from Acumen: “Trust your people and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves to be great.”
This quote from Ralph Emerson really struck a chord with me. A happy workforce is a safer workforce. There are many elements to what can make an individual feel happy at work, but knowing that their employer trusts them and really cares about them is a key factor.
Lisa Dorn, Cranfield University: “Keep innovating. The world around us is constantly changing and we need to adapt to keep up. Sometimes we might get it wrong, but if we persist we will create systems that will help and support the future of our businesses and those around us.”
Rebecca Posner, Transport Research Laboratory: I was introduced to a new website which is a great toolkit for normalising conversations about Mental Health in the workplace. We want to make it a positive conversation, not a confrontation.