July 06 2020
By: Terry L. Mathis
Many years ago I contracted with a famous author, who had written several excellent books on executive and management coaching, to speak at a senior management retreat. He was wowing the C-suite folks until he made a controversial statement. He stated that a good team member "might break a rule but would never violate a principle." The idea that any leader would allow rules to be broken caused an immediate and completely negative reaction. How can you be in control if you allow anyone to break a rule?
Their fixation on rules totally obliterated the idea of principles. They had never really considered that all safety rules are based on the principles of hazard recognition and accident prevention. That level of thinking was reserved for leaders, and followers should hang their brain at the door and follow the rules. The problem with this approach is that it is impossible to address every conceivable situation with a specific rule and, even if you did, workers could not possibly remember and apply that many rules. Principles are the root cause of rules. They are the master set of decision-making tools from which all rules spring. Teaching workers the principles equips them for even the situations for which there is no rule. Rules are examples of how to be safe, and principles are why the rules work. What is in your safety training wallet?
Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.