• Jason Maldonado

Inside-Out Safety

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

Now for something a little different…

A few weeks ago I put out some feelers on social asking if anyone would want to contribute some stories of their own for Relentless Safety. The response was crazy. I’m still going through emails and trying to find places where these pieces will fit and get maximum exposure. Because they’re great.

The following is from Dr. Sylvia Lee. Dr. Lee provides management consulting services in strengths-based leadership and organizations, organizational design and development, and general leadership development.  Her program, PowerUp Leadership supports leaders in becoming strengths-based.

Safety from the inside out:

Safety isn’t just about you.

A few years ago, the concept of the triple bottom line commanded considerable attention. The idea is that business leaders pay attention to not only their fiscal bottom line, but also their social and environmental bottom lines as well. That is, leaders focus attention on their corporate social responsibility (CSR) for the impact of company operations on the environment and on society and actively measure such impact.

COVID has made CSR more than good business sense. It’s made CSR essential for business success, maybe even survival – a concept that no business leader can ignore. It doesn’t matter if your business is small or large, public sector, private sector, or not-for-profit sector. It doesn’t matter what goods and services you sell. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are. If you’re a leader, it’s up to you to provide CSR leadership. Safety is embedded deep into customer requirements for being your customers.

When you, as a leader, pay attention to safety from the inside out – the safety of your customers and community – your bottom line improves. A few years ago, a consulting gig demonstrated that completely, even though the consultation had nothing to do with safety.

The CEO of a flame-retardant clothing manufacturer called me. His executive team were fighting with each other. Marketing thought they were the driver of business; Operations thought they were. Business was suffering. Could I help? “Be as obstreperous as you like,” the CEO said, “just get them to work together.” Well, you can’t turn down a consulting gig like that!

I met with the executive team – the CEO was right – no co-operation, no collaboration, no communication. I asked them what the purpose of the company was. Not the mission or the vision, but the reason for being. The stared at me. I pointed to the mission statement on the wall of the meeting room. “To Be Number One”. What does that mean, I asked? Number one in what – sales, profits, market penetration? And who says so – you, your customers, the Better Business Bureau?

Team members couldn’t answer. So, we moved on to other things, with that purpose question always at the forefront. On the third day, one of the executive thumped on the table and said, “I’ve got it! Our purpose is to save lives!” They all looked at each other with surprise in their eyes, and then recognition of truth. The discussion turned to how such a purpose translated into operations, into marketing, into sales, into everything. With a common purpose in mind, the team members could create ways to work together, rather than trying to beat the “other side”.

So where does safety come into this? Well, a few weeks later, after I’d completed my work with the executive team, I ran into the CEO on the street. “You know what was really great?” he said. “My team started to focus on performance.”

He told me how their operations people were able to talk with the workers sewing the garments. Instead of their past practice of rejecting sub-quality sewing, they could now say, “See this seam?” pointing to one that wasn’t sewn perfectly. “That seam could kill someone. It could cause terrible burns to someone.” Now the front-line workers were paying attention to the new purpose statement for the company. They began to pay more attention to their work, feeling proud that they were contributing to the safety of their customers, rather than frustrated that their work was rejected by their supervisors. Their work became more meaningful, because the people who wore the clothes they made were relying on them to make clothes without flaws. The safety of their customers became paramount.

Performance improved, employee engagement improved.  Operations improved. Marketing started to promote their employees in marketing materials, featuring individuals sharing their pride in their work.  The CEO was sure sales would increase, employee morale would improve, and the financial bottom line would grow.  All because of a focus on safety from the inside out.

Let’s let it out.

Thank you Dr. Lee

If you have an interesting, fun, funny, sad, or otherwise engaging safety story, send it to me at Jason@relentlesssafety.com. Let’s all learn from each other!

If you’re new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Jason. I’m a safety professional, podcast host, author, and world-renowned origami artist (that’s a lie). If you’re NOT new to this blog, go buy my book… it’s like this but multiplied by the power of unicorn tears. In any case, I hope you enjoy the content here. Please like, share, and join in the discussion as we all pursue Relentless Safety.



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