“Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.”

John C. Maxwell

I saw the two of them talking. It seemed like they were best friends and had known each other for years. After they finished, they slapped each other on the back and hugged before walking away. One of the guys was an employee of mine named, Jake. At one of my previous companies, I developed a program where we performed annual “cross audits” at each facility. I had brought Jake in from out of state to help conduct an audit on of his colleague’s facility.

When he came back, I asked him if he knew the operator or if they had gone to school together or something. He said no, but they connected. I asked him what he meant by that statement. He stated he noticed the employee doing something that seemed a little unsafe and he went to him and started a conversation, and they quickly hit it off. He said the employee acknowledged he was probably taking a chance, but needed to get the task done quickly. Jake said he talked to the guy about the risk and referenced to it being like standing on the edge of the boat and hooking onto a huge fish and being pulled into the water. The employee said he loved fishing and that he got his point. Jake also said the employee agreed to think through about his future actions and he would not do this act going forward. They exchanged numbers and are going to try and schedule a fishing trip together. Now that is a simple conversation that generated a strong commitment through the connection.

Have you ever met or been with anyone like Jake?  They just seemed to be able to walk into any situation, and immediately connect with any person, have a quick conversation, and it felt real. So many people want to increase their leadership effectiveness, but they want to rely on their personality to carry them, they don’t have a strategy to grow themselves into being a real people connector as a leader.

In the safety profession, it’s critical we connect with people instantaneously! People are already performing the task as we walk up to them or we observe them in some way. If we can not connect, how can we influence them to change their ways and think differently?

“The only way to influence a person’s behavior is to connect with them.”

Denis Baker

As leaders in safety, how does one generate a simple safety conversation where we can connect instantaneously?

Let me try and break this down into ten simple components.

1.    Use Humor – I always try to integrate humor from the very beginning while maintaining the seriousness of the situation.

2.    Be Authentic – I never say anything that I do not do or live within myself

3.    Be Confident but not arrogant – Confidence leads to persuasion, where arrogance leads to frustration

4.    Pay Attention – Be sure to pay attention to what they are saying and acknowledge their verbal and non-verbal concerns or reasons.

5.    Add Value in your conversation – Make sure the conversation is adding value to their task and job, making it easier, quicker and ultimately safer.

6.    Be Open to ideas and suggestions – Ask for their opinions and make it known you recognize they are the experts.

7.    Be Simple in your conversation – Use simple words and simple ideas. Make everything you say, suggest and instruct, simple and easy to understand.

8.    Use an Active type voice – Be bright, positive, upbeat and active in solving problems.

9.    Stay Short – Be a “quick hitter.” Make them feel like they are the most important person you’ve interacted with today and move on.

10.    Ask for Commitment – At the end of the conversation, ask for a commitment. People are most likely to adhere to their verbal commitments.

Remember, when safety professionals interact with employees in the workplace, our interactions can sometimes be interpreted as a “waste of time,” maybe they think of you as a “pain in the rear,” or simply a “deterrent to production.” That is our fault. However, I’ve found that when I have a simple conversation, I generate a quick connection with whom I am talking to, and I end up getting a sincere commitment. With that commitment, behaviors tend to change, and injuries are reduced.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Albert Einstein

My point is simple. Generate a simple conversation, connect with the person(s) and receive a commitment to doing what is safe and right and watch success develop.

Denis is an experienced Safety Professional with multi-industry experience. He is also an Executive Director at the John Maxwell Group, a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior Consultant. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical principles and relevant influencing techniques to change employee behaviors and ultimately reduce and eliminate injuries.  His unique passionate and emotionally driven style resonates with many, creating a passionate desire to become an effective leader.  

You can contact Denis at for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

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