Build a better culture by mastering the small things
Have you had donuts at a company meeting? Were they crusty grocery store donuts or did they who brought the donuts put some effort into bringing a confection of quality? When you are in a position of leadership, culture is not something magical that you pull out of your bag of management tricks, it is you. Therefore, what you do matters. The quality of your donuts matters.
You are your culture. If you bring your people together for an “important meeting” but are too cheap to bring in some snacks, your culture sucks. If you put some thought into your meetings but the quality of how you serve your people in that setting is less than the standards you claim that you serve your clients with, your culture is mediocre. Conversely, just because you bring the most expensive donuts to a meeting does not instantly mean you have a killer culture.
I can recall one of my managers telling me, “Be careful about bringing donuts to the meeting, they will come to expect them.” My first thought was something along the lines of, “God forbid our employees came to expect ten dollars worth of dough every time we pulled them into a meeting.” My second thought was, “Who hurt you.” If you expect that your team will love you just because you bring donuts, you are disconnected with the working people.
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” - Vincent Van Gogh
Safety must be a core practice of any organization that wants to recruit, develop and retain good employees.
When an organization builds a culture of safety, they create an environment that communicates care for the employees. A key building block in the safety paradigm is the incorporation of personal protective equipment (PPE). As the governmental agency that is responsible for educating and overseeing workplace safety, OSHA has advised, “If PPE is to be used, a PPE program should be implemented. This program should address the hazards present; the selection, maintenance, and use of PPE; the training of employees; and monitoring of the program to ensure its ongoing effectiveness.”
A culture of safety saves money by keeping an organization out of trouble and keeping employees on the job. According to OSHA, “It has been estimated that employers pay almost $1 billion per week for direct workers' compensation costs alone.” In case you missed it - that was per week. This means employees are getting injured at a rate that should not be acceptable and there is great incentive for companies to invest in improving their approach to safety.
Let’s review eight keys to building a culture of safety, starting with personal protective equipment:
1.What is PPE
PPE stands for Personal protective equipment. The employer is required to identify the hazards that exist in relationship to the scope of work that they are sending their employees out to complete. In the identification of those hazards the employer must provide training to mitigate those hazards as well as personal protective equipment to ensure safety of employees.
To be clear, personal protective equipment does not remove all hazards for employees nor does it alleviate all liability for workplace safety for employers. OSHA states, “Controlling a hazard at its source is the best way to protect workers. However, when engineering, work practice and administrative controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to you and ensure its use.” Providing PPE to employees is one ingredient in the safety cake, to get the full taste there must be an effective training mechanism for helping employees to identify hazards as well properly utilize the equipment.
2.What is OSHA
OSHA is the abbreviation for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA operates as a part of the United States Department of Labor. OSHA was created by Congress through the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970
3.When is PPE necessary
The United States Department of Labor states, “If PPE is to be used, a PPE program should be implemented.” Personal protective equipment should be used in collaboration with workplace and environmental controls to reduce hazard exposure of employees. As previously mentioned, employers are first responsible to enact controls for safety through:
4.What kind of PPE is necessary
With regard to hazardous materials, OSHA 1910.120 App B covers the general description and discussion of the levels of protection and protective gear. In this section of OSHA there are four levels of personal protective equipment:
5.Who is responsible to provide PPE
OSHA has created a handout to attempt to clarify who is responsible for providing personal protective equipment. “On May 15, 2008, a new OSHA rule about employer payment for PPE went into effect. With few exceptions, OSHA now requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment used to comply with OSHA standards.”
6.How does a team member properly put their PPE on, adjust, wear and take it off
This is also referred to as don and doff. If the manner in which personal protective equipment is put on is incorrect then employees may be exposing themselves to hazards with a false sense of security. If the manner in which PPE is taken off is incorrect then the employees may be exposing themselves and their families to hazards by bringing contaminants home with them. If employees do not know how to properly put their PPE on or take it off then there is a dual threat of hazard exposure for the employee as well as liability exposure for for the employer. It is in the best interest of all parties to ensure this aspect of training is addressed.
7.What are the limitations of the PPE being used
Personal protective equipment should be viewed as one component of a proper safety program. 360training.com has a helpful pictographic that includes limitations of PPE, “
8.What is the proper care, maintenance, useful life and disposal of the PPE
OSHA expects that employees:
Competing in the marketplace requires organizations to recruit, develop and retain good employees. Once those employees are in the door they must be trained on how to perform their work safely which includes knowing how to identify hazards, what personal protective equipment to use and how to maintain their PPE. Building a culture of safety communicates to the team that the organization cares about them. Building a culture of safety is essential to being competitive as it helps to keep players in the game and significantly reduces the cost of preventable workplace injuries or illness.
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Encouragement is an important tool in the hands of leaders who want to create a good working environment.
The dynamics of the modern workplace are challenging for leaders and managers alike. When contemplating the nature of a good working environment, another way of thinking about the nature of the topic is to correlate it with a sustainable working environment. If leaders want to create an organization that will stand the test of time, or even the challenge of tomorrow, must apply their effort to building a good culture. While many leaders feel lost when navigating the modern workplace environments, citing difficulties connecting with millennial employees, many of the most effective methodologies are also rather simple. We previously discussed the power of listening on creating a good working environment. In this article we will discuss the importance of encouragement when building a thriving team.
To create a good working environment leaders need to provide encouragement
Encouragement is defined as the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope. Those in a position of leadership (PIAPOL) have to embody and exemplify these values if they want to see them practiced throughout the organization. Too often we are people of extremes, we often engage in some aspect of leadership to the exclusion of others. When addressing topics related to culture, environment and emotional intelligence the instruction provided often gloss over the realities of management. There is a balance between encouragement and expectations so that the team vision, values and purpose are carried through in the real world.
Compliments are low cost and high yield investments in your most valuable assets.
To create an environment of encouragement leaders need to provide support
Management is not about finding a place of luxury within an organization, the role of leadership is to ensure those in their supervision have the clarity, resources and support to achieve success in their roles. Long time insurance agent and business owner Josh Gourley states that success for a team starts with everyone knowing their jobs and corresponding job expectations. The reason Josh believes investing in a clarity is that, “A good working environment will culminate in a culture where everyone is clearly rowing in the same direction.” Josh recognizes that in order to lead he must set an example, “What’s in my power is leading by example and regular meetings that reinforce the activities and values that make success possible. Managers should be excellent at identifying and acknowledging those activities that move the team in the right direction.” When we support those around us we contribute to their success, our collective success and our own, it’s a win-win-win.
“Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.” Les Brown
To create an environment of encouragement leaders need to boost confidence
Tom Los who works in city management in the public sector views listening as key to providing opportunities for building confidence with employees. “I listen to my staff and then give them projects and tasks which mixes their job up. They really enjoy it. If someone has an idea, I try to embrace it as much as possible and let them do it.” Creating a good working environment does not mean that leaders cater to their team without accountability. Boosting confidence can be accomplished even when a manager has to say no to an idea without de-motivating team members from contributing creative solutions. Tom sees disagreement as an opportunity to provide support, “If I don’t see the value in the direction that one of them is proposing, I explain that to them. Sometimes by explaining how much more work it would take and who exactly would be available to manage the change they can see the need to move in a different direction.”
Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.” Mahatma Ghandi
To create an environment of encouragement leaders need to create hope
Creating hope encompasses communicating clearly on the vision, being consistent with values and developing a culture where accountability required from everyone on the team. Long time pastor Aaron Day notes, “Early on (hiring) let them know what you expect and let them know you will model this (fulfilling the expectations) for them. Acknowledge them when they do and correct them when they don’t. If they continue to do well reward (raises, praise, popsicles) if they do poorly correct, train, discipline, fire.” Even in a faith based or non-profit environment, there is still a purpose and the mission must be carried out for the team to be successful. Clarity, consistency and accountability are as essential for a good working environment for volunteers as well as paid staff. Aaron recommends a book that he says is both good and corny called Lead For God’s Sake by Todd G. Gongwer. Hope is not something magical, it comes from having a vision and a good environment with encouragement motivates everyone to remain on purpose.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” Helen Keller
Creating a good working environment requires encouragement
The core principles that lead to a good working environment are simple, that doesn’t mean that they are easy, but they cost very little to implement. The difference between being successful in building a good and sustainable working environment is often a few small changes in perspective, effort and follow through. Investing in encouragement, support, confidence and hope is a good place to start. Author Daniel Goleman analyzed the brain and behavior in relationship to encouragement, in his book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, he shares his research results. Belle Beth Cooper recaps on such finding in her article published with Fast Company Magazine, “In one experiment, the emotional tone of a leader delivering news to an employee made more impact that the news itself. When negative feedback was delivered with a warm tone, the employees usually rated the interaction positively. On the other hand, good news, such as achieving a goal, delivered with a negative tone would leave employees feeling bad.”
Resources for leaders who are trying to create a good working environment
Our first segment in this series on creating a good working environment started with the topic of listening. We continue to interview and consult with leaders in various industries to draw out the practices that have made them successful in their roles. Do not allow fear of the navigating the modern workplace environment or difficulties with generational employees deter you from realizing your vision as a leader.
Please note this is one segment in a series related to creating a good working environment based upon brief interviews that we conducted with multiple professionals across various industries, leadership roles and viewpoints on the topic. Stay tuned for more. Shoot us an email or comment if you have something to say on this as well.
Going to do something a little different. The topic is accountability and we will present this topic in verses that relate to the chorus which will be provided by Magnified Plaid, or MxPx as they have come to be known. MxPx is a three piece indie punk rock band from Bremerton, Washington fronted by Mike Herrera and they have a fitting song entitled Responsibility, the chorus of which belts out,
Responsibility? What's that?
Responsibility? Not quite yet.
Responsibility? What's that?
I don't want to think about it; we'd be better off without it.
Think of these sequence of articles as the verses and the song (video below) as the chorus as well as the rally cry was we discuss accountability. You may find the song catchy and inspiring, something that creates a soundtrack of momentum for you and your team. In preparation for the revised chorus of content we are about to unleash upon your reading eyes, mentally swap out "responsibility" for "accountability".
Responsibility? What's that?
The song continues, "I don't want to think about it, we'd be better off without it." For many organizations, the attitude is the same with regards to a practical or effective approach to accountability. People in a position of leadership (PIAPOL) often talk about accountability as though the only measure of such is a good tongue lashing, preferably in front of as large a group of people as possible. So, let’s see if we can answer the what, when and how of establishing accountability.
Accountability? What’s that?
“If you are building a culture where honest expectations are communicated and peer accountability is the norm, then the group will address poor performance and attitudes,” says speaker and author of Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud. There is a progression in accountability, it does not appear out of thin air or materialize on its own. Accountability for a person and an organization comes from consistency in executing clearly established values.
Effective accountability traces itself back to clarity in vision, communication of values and consistent effort from all levels within the team to live out those principles. As we have discussed many times, there are causes and there are effects or there are symptoms and there are sources, leaders are concerned with finding sources so that they can eliminate symptoms (more here).
Accountability is the natural consequence of consistency rooted in clarity and conversely a lack of accountability is the natural consequence of inconsistency that stems from a void in institutional clarity. For an organization to build accountability they must clarify their vision and consistently communicate, train and discipline around their values.
If an organization says they value A and B and yet they hire candidates that value C or have leaders who believe in D then that organization cannot expect A and B to be communicated clearly, executed consistently or accountability measures to be effective.
As Dr. Cloud notes above, there is a beauty to developing a culture because one of the fruits of a clear culture is that those invested in the vision will enhance accountability by setting a standard and holding people to it.
Accountability? What's that? Accountability is the progression or fruits of an organization that has defined it's vision and consistently executes it's values. Clarity leads to consistency which lays the foundation for accountability.
Stay tuned for verse/segment 2...
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Jon Isaacson has a monthly feature column with Restoration & Remediation (R&R) Magazine titled The Intentional Restorer