The Art of Safety: C5 Leadership
C5 safety leaders care about their teams and focus on what they can do to prevent harm and encourage growth.
The Art of Safety is understanding, leading, developing and protecting people, including yourself. It’s how to lead safety and work safely. We excel at the science of safety, things like ergonomics, electrical theory and fall protection. I can calculate, for instance, gravity and acceleration during a fall and how much force would be involved in hitting a lower surface. I know electricity is going to take every path to ground, and I can use Ohm’s law to determine current, voltage and resistance. I understand why trenches collapse, and I can calculate soil weight. In other words, the science of safety allows us to quantify and predict hazards.
Given the predictable nature of hazards, how and why do incidents occur? Think about this: If I know the winning numbers ahead of a lottery drawing, it’s simple for me to be 100% successful at winning the lottery money. So, if we know exactly how hazards are going to act and how they cause harm, why aren’t we 100% successful at safety? It’s because we don’t fully grasp and utilize the Art of Safety.
That’s why I wrote the book “Frontline Incident Prevention – The Hurdle: Innovative and Practical Insights on the Art of Safety” and why I will focus my 2023 Incident Prevention articles – and their corresponding free webinars – on the Art of Safety. So, let’s get started and discover how to effectively lead and protect people rather than managing robots and pleasing systems.
C5 Safety Leadership
Step one in The Art of Safety is optimizing culture and relationships, which involves being a C5 safety leader. C5 leadership is about strategically using positional authority while growing personal influence. It’s critical to understand that everyone has dual roles in safety as a leader and a task performer. C5 safety leadership is a simple, practical, effective approach to improving safety leadership skills. Below, I’ve outlined the five components of this type of leadership.
Competence is how well you can do a job and the amount of subject matter expertise you have. For practical purposes, it’s your ability to develop solutions and solve problems relating to the work your team performs. When people perceive you can do that, you gain influence, and they will come to you for input, coaching and feedback. I cannot stress enough how much better that will work for you as a safety leader than trying to force input, coaching and feedback on your team.
Commitment is how passionate you are about achieving individual and team goals along with developing yourself and others. The key is to remember that the only time your leadership should be about you is if you are looking for someone to blame. You can tell what someone is committed to by their calendar and their checkbook. Since you don’t have full control over budgets, the practical action item is to invest time in your team.
Caring is how much you want to help prevent harm and encourage growth. It’s in the middle of the C5 list because everything should revolve around caring, and rest assured your team knows how much you genuinely care. Here we need to differentiate between liking and caring. We also need to recognize that favoring liking over caring promotes incorrect actions, while favoring caring over liking promotes courage.
Courage is how often you act, and I don’t mean brave and reactive courage – I mean safety leadership courage. Brave and reactive courage is responding to an emergency or a threatening situation. Safety leadership courage is having difficult conversations, stopping when unsure, reporting, correcting, reinforcing, delegating, allowing your team to fail safely and promoting safety when it isn’t popular. This involves accountability for expectations and achieving performance over comfort and convenience.
Credibility is how trustworthy you are and how willing you are to trust others. It is at the bottom of the C5 list not because it is the least important component, but because it is the foundation of safety leadership. You will discover two things to be true. One, the more competence, commitment, caring and courage you demonstrate, the more credible you become. Two, your team will initially give you credibility based on positional authority, but that can only be maintained and increased through personal influence.
As we discuss culture and leadership, focus on the impact you can have on your team rather than your organization. I hear too much A-B-C-D-E (accuse, blame, complain, defend and deny, excuses) from safety leaders about what they can’t do. Competent, committed, caring, courageous and credible C5 safety leaders care about their teams and focus on what they can do to prevent harm and encourage growth.
Lastly, the words in this article will not save lives, but what you do with them can. On March 15, attend the free webinar on this topic and learn how to turn these words into action. I look forward to seeing you there. In the meantime, I encourage you to get your copy of “Frontline Incident Prevention – The Hurdle: Innovative and Practical Insights on the Art of Safety” and to enroll in The Art of Safety course now available at https://ip-institute.com.
About the Author: David McPeak, CUSP, CIT, CHST, CSP, CSSM, is the director of professional development for Utility Business Media’s Incident Prevention Institute (https://ip-institute.com) and the author of “Frontline Leadership – The Hurdle” and “Frontline Incident Prevention – The Hurdle.” He has extensive experience and expertise in leadership, human performance, safety and operations. McPeak is passionate about personal and professional development and believes that intrapersonal and interpersonal skills are key to success. He also is an advanced certified practitioner in DISC, emotional intelligence, the Hartman Value Profile, learning styles and motivators.
About Frontline Fundamentals: Frontline Fundamentals topics are derived from the Incident Prevention Institute’s popular Frontline training program (https://frontlineutilityleader.com). Frontline covers critical knowledge, skills and abilities for utility leaders and aligns with the Certified Utility Safety Professional exam blueprint.
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