Improved Leadership. Competitive Advantage.

Most of the organizations that we deal with are supremely concerned about safety—as they should be. Nuclear power stations, bulk waste storage, rail lines, rail car manufacturers, shipyards—it’s all risky business. It should be of no surprise, then, that many of these organizations are remarkably skilled at marketing and communicating safety messages.

Let’s take a moment, though, and learn from exception. One leader at a fairly large organization mandated an ethics or value message be formally communicated once a week in lieu of the daily safety message. Over a glass of wine, we asked about this executive decision. He answered our question of why with a question of his own: “Can you have a culture of safety without a culture of strong ethics?” He extended his logic, “If an organization lacked trust, exhibited low levels of moral courage, wasn’t very forthcoming or transparent, and was generally viewed as unfair, could that organization possibly build a strong safety culture?” Interestingly, for years nuclear safety has been guided by the principle that trust permeates the organization, but how often have we reflected on the centrality or criticality of this? I suspect not much. After some soul searching of our own and focused coaching sessions focused on exactly this topic, we’ve reached our own conclusion. Namely, we believe strong ethics is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a solid safety program/culture. Put differently, without a bedrock of integrity or character to anchor upon, safety initiatives are doomed to fail.

What does this mean to you—the senior executive, the emerging leader? It means, perhaps, that the best way to influence safety is, first and foremost, by influencing ethics and character building. This one executive in the example shared above offers some immediate counsel: during any given week, devote one message to ethics rather than safety. Trust us, it will solidify a safety culture; it won’t hurt it.

To learn more about how ELP fuses ethics training with safety programs to build a comprehensive and revolutionary culture, reach out to Robin at robin@elpadvantage.com.