Getting Safety a Seat at the Executive Table

February 12 2024
By: Shawn M. Galloway

Safety trying to get a seat at the executive table is like trying to squeeze into a crowded elevator during rush hour. You're standing there, trying to make your way in, but it feels like everyone is blocking your path. You're waving your arms, saying, "Hey, I've got something important to contribute!" But it's like you're invisible, and no one is willing to make room for you. Finally, after some persistent elbowing and maybe a few accidental foot stomps, you manage to squeeze yourself in, and voila! You've secured your spot at the table, ready to share your ideas and be a part of the decision-making process. It might have been a bit of a struggle, but hey, at least you made it! Now, how do you keep getting invited back?

Safety is sometimes seen as a separate entity from the core business functions in some organizations. In order to truly create a culture of safety excellence, it is essential to integrate safety initiatives into the overarching business objectives. An infographic version of the text in this blog. What follows are some tactics that have worked for me in my work with clients or coaching safety leaders to get themselves invited to sit at the executive table, where decisions are made and strategies are formulated.

Link Safety to Business Goals: Clearly articulate how safety initiatives align with and contribute to overarching business objectives, emphasizing the impact on the organization's success.

Quantify Results: Use data and metrics to demonstrate the tangible outcomes of safety programs, showcasing cost savings, productivity improvements, and risk reduction.

Speak the Language of Executives: Frame safety discussions in terms of business outcomes, using financial metrics and key performance indicators that resonate with executive leadership.

Cultivate Relationships: Build strong relationships with top executives and key decision-makers, fostering trust and demonstrating the value of safety leadership.

Participate in Strategic Discussions: Actively engage in discussions about organizational strategy, demonstrating a keen understanding of how safety integrates into broader business considerations.

Educate on Legal and Ethical Implications: Emphasize the legal and ethical implications of safety, showcasing the potential risks and consequences if safety is not prioritized.

Benchmarking and Industry Standards: Utilize benchmarking data and industry standards to highlight how the organization's safety performance compares with peers, positioning safety as a competitive advantage.

Showcase Continuous Improvement: Demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement in safety processes, showcasing an evolving and proactive approach to safety leadership.

Risk Management Integration: Integrate safety considerations into broader risk management discussions, demonstrating an understanding of how safety impacts overall organizational risk.

Provide Solutions, Not Just Problems: Present solutions and proactive strategies rather than focusing solely on problems, showcasing a leadership mindset that contributes to organizational success.

By employing these tactics, safety leaders secure a seat and remain at the executive table by positioning themselves as integral contributors to the organization's strategic discussions. Safety is not a separate entity but a critical component of organizational success. Sometimes there is indeed the lack of interest from the leader, sometimes not. If you are not getting invited, maybe it’s not them — maybe it is you. Are you behaving in an invitation-worthy manner?

"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." — Henry Ford

"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results." — Andrew Carnegie

"My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other's kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of its parts. That's how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people." — Steve Jobs

Shawn M. Galloway

Shawn M. Galloway is CEO of the global consultancy ProAct Safety. He is a trusted advisor, professional keynote speaker, and author of several bestselling books on safety strategy, culture, leadership, and behavior-based safety. He is a monthly columnist for several magazines and one of the most prolific contributors in the industry, having also authored over 700 podcasts, 200 articles, and 100 videos. Shawn has received awards and recognition for his significant contributions from the American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council's Top 40 Rising Stars and Top Ten Speakers, EHS Today Magazine's 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS, ISHN Magazine's POWER 101 - Leaders of the EHS World and their newest list: 50 Leaders for Today and Tomorrow, Pro-Sapien's list of The Top 11 Health and Safety Influencers and is an Avetta Distinguished Fellow.

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