One of the things about being human is that we have a deep desire to feel connected to others (even if we deny it!).
At the heart of what we do, is the need to seek approval, help people and feel like we're part of a tribe. After all, tribes are the basic building block of any large human effort.
As Brendon Burchard says in the book, The Charge, neuroscience has found that we feel more alive when certain drives are activated. These being 1) To have control of ourselves and our environment, 2) to have competence in our environment, 3) congruence (to live in integrity with who we think we are), 4) the need to be caring (to care for people and be cared for) 5) the drive to feel connection (to connect deeply with others).
We feel happy when we have a sense of connection to others and when we are able to interact happily together.
And while some of us might deny that they need to feel accepted by their workplace peers, the truth is that job satisfaction is high when you have close friends in your workplace. Those who don't have any friends, don't stay at the job long. There's not enough to anchor them to the business.
Likewise, having a connection to your manager or supervisor is another sign that you will stay longer at your job. Research discussed in the book, First, Break all the Rules by Marcus Buckingham, found that when staff have a good relationship with their manager or supervisor they are more engaged at work and stay longer at their job.
Interestingly, in the great book Tribal Leadership by Logan, King and Fischer-Wright, they believe that great leaders actually develop triads within companies. When you talk to someone one on one, the relationship is called dyadic. In business, having lots of these actually works against creating a great culture.
Instead, the more evolved leader has lots of triadic relationships were they talk to two other people at the same time. These leaders introduce other team members to each other and get them working together. There's also no perceived back-stabbing or under-hand activities going on, when you create open relationship with three or more people.
So it's no surprise that companies that perform well at safety also have open and regular communication about safety. They also have safety leaders that are experts at creating genuine personal connections with other members in their team, as well as bringing other people together.
In fact, what you find with people in safety and management (supervisory) leadership positions that value connecting with others is that they do the following things:
- Encourage sharing of information - Again, back to the book, Tribal Leadership, those that don't like to share information with others are typically a Stage 3 leader. They believe that knowledge is power, so they like to hoard information and not share. However, the real power is in the sharing. Research has found that companies with supervisors and safety professionals that openly share safety information, have much better safety records.
- Like and respect everyone - Being able to accept people for who they are (and not judge) is a sign of a good leader. It also means that when you pull somebody up for poor safety behaviour they are less likely to take it personally (and therefore, actively resist your message).
- Bring a sense of fun and humour - Great leaders are enjoyable to be around. While they would never "horse around" and do safety processes intentonally recklessly, they make jokes, smile and create a friendly atmosphere. You'd never hear them walking around cursing and blaming others.
- Are genuinely interested in others - This is especially true for people who are new. Great companies make sure that everyone checks in on the newbie on a regular basis and never lets them feel alone or unsupported. Great safety professionals and supervisors ask new starters and even regular staff questions such as " Do you need anything?" or "How you doing?". They even remember stuff about peoples' kids and hobbies.
- Treat people equally in meetings - It's not about leading a group by hearing the sweet sound of your own voice. Great safety leaders ask more questions than any one else and speak less than everybody else. They include everyone - regardless of gender, age or colour.
- Put the team first - Great leaders aren't about "I" or "me". They're about "we" every step of the way. All of their decisions are based on what is good for the company (or tribe). All company projects and activities are fueled by the company values with the company vision used as a tool to align everyone to the same goal.
- Provide praise and feedback -When it comes to enhancing performance and motivating staff - the best reward is positive feedback. It might seem a bit strange, but we all like to hear we are doing a good job. And we're not likely to cheat or exhibit unethical behaviour, just to hear our boss give us a good rap. So long as the feedback provides useful information. Rather than saying "Wow. You designed a great safety poster". Instead, give meaningful and specific information about how the poster met the objectives such as " Wow. That poster you designed really hits the mark. It clearly communicates how to walk down stairs correctly" (read more about this at How to Reward Staff for Better Safety Performance).
In our Workplace Safety Culture Model, we discuss how people feeling appreciated by their company is so important for a high performing culture. Even if you don't feel valued by you direct manager, start treating others how you want to be treated and see how your team changes.