Ask the Board: “How do you encourage proactive problem-solving in your organization?”

Rick Taylor

You have to create that atmosphere of empowerment and engagement. And a little bit of excitement. If you sit here and say, ‘I want you to have an energy control program and I want you to do a job safety assessment’ and you’re very prescriptive with what they have to do, then they just go about doing it. And they just do it because they’re being told to do it. If they don’t, in their heart, think that it’s something that’s important, then they’re not going to do it. However, this is not easy!

It’s almost like you’re driving your car down the road and you see the sign that says, ‘If you don’t wear your seat belt, you can be fined $100 by the police.’ So you put your seat belt on because you don’t want to be fined by the police. But if you’re driving your car down the street and your ten-year-old daughter is sitting in the backseat and is saying, ‘Mommy, please put your seat belt on because I love you and I don’t want to lose you if we get into a car accident.’ It’s a little different motivation, right?

So what we try to do is we try to say, ‘How can we hit that place where it’s going to be the behaviors because they want to do it, as opposed to they have to do it.’ We try to make a connection to what you’re trying to accomplish with something that might be personal. More work but more embracing the concept.

Let’s say you’re trying to promote a safety program at a plant where you want people to stop doing unsafe behavior. So you ask each person to bring into the building, a picture of somebody that’s really important to them. And then you take all of those pictures and you put them on a huge board and you put it over the door they walk out and in every day. And then you say, ‘Please don’t be unsafe for these people here. Not because I’m telling you and if you don’t do it I’m going to write you up. Do it for that person that you think is so important in your life.’ It’s 100 times more powerful.

With a team it’s all about empowerment, giving a challenge to a team member and saying, ‘Look, this is really important to us. I’m going to give you a white sheet of paper. I want you to shape it. I want you to develop it. Come to me periodically and show me how it’s going and I’ll do all of the blocking and tackling for you, but I want you to create it.’

If you get out of the way, and you make sure that they have a clear vision statement, then they can do great things. If you get in the way and micromanage, it can slow down the process and you lose the sense of ownership.

About Rick Taylor

Rick Taylor is Vice President of Environment, Health and Safety for Parker-Hannifin Corp., and is a member of the NAEM Board of Directors.

View all post by Rick Taylor »

1 Comment
  1. Mervin Brown

    April 17, 2014

    Rick Taylor,
    You make some important points. I do agree with you that we have to make workers feel that doing the right thing is not a request type situation, but one they do because it is important to them also. I am an EHS Management major at Rochester Institute and I anticipate going out there to implement ideas like what you shared in this post.
    Well done!

Leave your comment