by Stacy Frederick Spector
We all might remember the popular game show from the early 2000s called “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader.” What great entertainment to watch firsthand, the way in which adults can overthink things and forget the basics. These same criticisms can be made about the way we answer the question of how we make jobsites safe or safer. So, what exactly made those fifth graders so successful in comparison to their adult competitors? It’s the “basics.” Their ability to keep things simple, be vulnerable, and look through growth mindset lenses.
Catamount Consulting, LLC follows a simple formula for achieving the highest levels of jobsite safety which is based on the concept that safety is a byproduct of a strong culture. The basics of a strong culture include connection, trust, and a shared vision or purpose. This simple or basic approach toward risk reduction and risk management is backed by droves of scientific research and data.
It was Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist best known for his work around human motivation, that identified a hierarchy of innate needs that a person must have met to reach their fullest potential. When pursuing a high standard of safety, Maslow would contend the two most essential needs are belonging and esteem. Catamount Consulting has identified the tools for activating belonging and esteem within the individuals of an organization. Have meaningful conversations with each other, let people know they are valued and appreciated, and learn your “common stories.” It is that simple. When members of an organization feel accepted, appreciated, valued, and share a common story or purpose, they are highly engaged. A highly engaged employee is a much safer employee. Gallup’s 2016 meta-analysis study showed that business units with engagement scores in the top quartile of Gallup’s employee engagement database had 70% fewer safety incidents compared with bottom-quartile units. Unfortunately, Gallup also reports that only 36% of employees in the U.S. are engaged.
Let’s come back to the fifth grader’s inherent willingness to show vulnerability and adopt a growth mindset, two extremely important qualities which become easily eroded with age and experience. Children in their early years do not overthink situations and over analyze their emotional exposure possibilities. However, most experienced adults avoid situations which involve emotional exposure, the inability to control an outcome or involve a high potential of failure. However, these are the situations in which connection, trust and a purpose are most readily grown.
To share an example of this mindset, during a routine onsite training, a senior supervisor of one of the companies we work with refused to demonstrate a relatively simple task related to forklift operation, despite his over-qualified ability to do the task. Why? He was fearful of being exposed, or in other words, being vulnerable. What if he made a mistake; what if the team members poked fun at him or made comments? Clearly the culture he worked in was not one of connection, trust, and shared purpose. If a senior supervisor is not willing to be vulnerable in a situation like this, imagine the mindset of the rest of the team working under that supervisor. It seems the argument can be made that those team members would spend a significant amount of time and energy trying to “fly under the radar.” We would argue that you could not be more disengaged as an employee when you are trying to fly under the radar.
So, at the next jobsite safety meeting when the question is asked: How can we improve our safety? Raise your hand up like a fifth grader and answer: culture! When your company invests its time and resources in providing training and initiatives that focus on the basics – connection, trust, and purpose – the return is a more engaged, productive, and safe team.
Stacy Frederick Spector is a coach and facilitator with Catamount Consulting, as well as a practicing attorney.