You ARE The Culture!

I have worked in manufacturing plants for more than 25 years. As a result, I spent a lot of time and energy on improving safety. What better way to show employees you care than to continuously improve their likelihood of going home healthy and whole. My blog Safer By Choice is a collection of ideas and actions that could help improve safety where you work – or maybe even the safety of you and your family. Here is a post from 2009 about culture, which in my mind is one of the most overused and misunderstood words in the business world today.

Company Culture. Our safety culture. The culture of the team. These are all frequently cited as the reason programs succeed or fail. And yet many safety programs are aimed at affecting the culture. Changing attitudes and actions.

Culture is, in a way, a misleading word. It is a collective noun. It represents a collection of attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, rituals, totems, and whatever else one tries to look at to define a culture. In business, this includes results.

The most important part is you. By your leadership, your actions, your statements, and your attitudes you communicate your personal part of culture. I could work for a company with a strong culture of safety controls, but that doesn’t define who I am. Maybe I have even stronger (or weaker) views of controls.

When you have an idea, an innovation that can bring a higher level of performance, people want to hear it. They want to understand the value of the idea, and they want to know what it takes to implement it. If it involves substantial change in what is expected of people, we may use “our culture” as the excuse to not proceed. But what about “our culture” can we tap into to make the idea work?

One of my blogging HR friends, Trisha McFarlane wrote an interesting post earlier this week regarding the legacy we leave with our workplace. For me, it’s not so much about what got done, but how I did it and what that means for the future of the company.

It’s not as important to me to measure how many people got hurt while I was a supervisor. It’s more important to me to know we eliminated several causes of recurring injury. It’s more important for me to know that when I left a role, the team’s view and ownership of safety was better than it was before. I don’t care if they credit me with that change, I just care that it happened.

What’s your safety legacy? Are you generating expertise that will be better than you?

Thanks, and let’s be careful out there.

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