This is an excerpt from our free guide on helping others create and strengthen new safety-related habits.
Building new habits is a challenge. After all, there’s a reason why so many people fail to stick to their New Year’s resolutions. But when it comes to helping others build better habits, there is much more to consider than our own personal obstacles and weaknesses. It means supporting people in ways that are often tailored to their own needs and expectations while remembering that although they might be relying on our help, they’re the ones who have to do the work.
Helping others grow is a job that great leaders are made for. Seeing people progress and be successful in reaching their goals is extremely rewarding for everyone involved. It also contributes to improved organizational performance. But sometimes it’s hard to know how to help and the supervisors or leaders might not have all the relevant communication skills to support employees who need to build new habits.
This lack of skills or direction can be risky, especially when safety is concerned. So if you’re considering helping your employees build new habits (in safety or otherwise), consider the suggestions below. And although any of these ideas will be helpful, combining and using them all would be most effective.
Be a champion for change
You should be showing the qualities and behaviors you want others to have, not just telling them how they should change. If employees are struggling with the habit of using PPE, make sure to be a PPE advocate and lead by example.
This is especially important if some other leaders feel they’re above the rules. If everyone is required to follow certain guidelines, you might not be able to do much about one of the directors disregarding the rules. But, if the circumstances allow for it, champion the importance of leading by example among the management to ensure that they also showcase desirable and safe behaviors.
Define clear goals
Defining the goals is helpful but it might not be enough to keep workers motivated. Especially because the further away the goal, the less energy people tend to put towards reaching it. Establishing short-term goals will provide some satisfying payoffs along the way towards developing a new habit.
If filling out near-miss reports for all close calls is the new habit you want, then filling out just one per week could be a smaller and achievable goal. The more this is done, the closer you get to the ultimate goal. When workers remember to do it once a week, they will be more likely to remember it at other times.
But whatever you want to achieve as a company, you should involve your workers in setting their goals since they’re the ones who need to reach them. The expectations need to be realistic to them and the goals should be achievable and clear (clarity is especially important because, often, when it’s not clear what we need to do, we choose to do nothing).
Once the long-term and short-term goals are clearly defined, help employees remember them. Come up with inventive reminders to stay on task and then share and celebrate reaching each goal.
Create a supportive environment
The more people are engaged and invested in creating the process, the more likely they will be to follow it, which will also help build a community of like-minded individuals committed to the same goal. This is important because support networks are what keeps people going when they struggle with new habits.
So make sure you meet regularly to discuss everyone’s progress and the process itself. People should also feel encouraged to bring up ideas regarding improvements to their environment or the obstacles to achieving their goals. These discussions can be a part of your regular safety meetings and should include sharing stories, failures, successes and tips. The more employees share their thoughts on the process, the more likely it is to remain top of mind. What’s more, conversations help build relationships and create support.
But remember, you can’t just tell people to be supportive of each other. This is something that will only work in an organization or department that already has a good culture. If this is not the case, the chances of any initiative succeeding are low.
Advice on building new habits might be more appreciated if it’s coming from an objective party, so consider hiring an outside expert. This willingness to invest in expert advice from someone who’s not just trying to meet company targets could also demonstrate the organization’s dedication to the new initiative and to its employees.
Read the rest of the guide on helping others build new safety habits, which includes a handy checklist and covers additional suggestions such as “Establish Trust”, “Make It Convenient”, “Implement Fail-safes”, “Be Proactive” and “Provide Feedback”