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All About You: Increase your value by improving your relationship skills

All About You by Richard Hawk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

As a safety and health professional, what’s your net value? Is your employer getting more than it anticipated? Less? An even better question: Could you prove that the value of your services exceeds the amount of your present wages?

These are tough questions that may not have a definitive answer. However, two things will always increase your merit as a safety professional – how well you develop relationships and how much you contribute.

Your vast knowledge of biomechanics may have helped you pass an exam in college, but it won’t impress a maintenance manager who needs your help because his mechanics keep complaining about the ventilation in the prefab shop. All he wants is for you to work with him to solve the problem.

No matter how ambitious or capable you are, you can’t be effective without knowing how to establish and maintain productive relationships with others and help them when you can. You must know how to relate to people so they want to work with you.

That’s why it’s important that you invest time in improving skills that create results and that other people can see and appreciate.

Interestingly, these abilities are often considered ordinary skills that every professional automatically acquires. Not so.

Consider the ordinary task of being able to get everyone at a meeting to participate. Often, people don’t do it well. (If you do, you’re a refreshing exception.) Take the time to become excellent at conducting meetings, and you’ve made a worthwhile contribution to your success.

These common things you get good at will make all aspects of your life more successful and pleasurable. If you know how to give advice tactfully to an employee who isn’t working as safely as he or she should, you can use that same ability to interact with your children when they need coaching.

If you spend three hours each week keeping up with new regulations and industry trends but never spend any time improving the way you relay what you’ve learned to supervisors, managers or the workforce in general, how is this knowledge helping your image? It isn’t.

Why not use one of those hours to improve your presentation and writing skills? Or, use the time to read a book on how to better tell stories. (One of my favorite books on this subject is “Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story,” by Peter Guber.) These are the types of skills that will make you more productive and valuable. They are also abilities that get noticed.

Here’s a list of other “common” skills worth mastering:

  • Displaying a positive attitude
  • Getting along with other people
  • Conveying your ideas and suggestions clearly
  • Writing persuasive emails, e-zines and bulletins
  • Encouraging employees and giving honest praise
  • Displaying a sense of humor
  • Listening attentively
  • Improving the tone of your voice

Certainly, this list isn’t complete. I’m sure you can think of many other abilities you could work on to improve your business worth and make your life more inspiring. Whatever social skills you choose to improve will contribute to your success at work and home. But remember: No matter how vast your technical knowledge is, if you have to work with people, developing positive relationships is the best way to increase your value as a safety and health professional. By investing the time to master the “common things,” you will be an amazing asset to any employer.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps companies around the world create more vibrant safety cultures by showing them how to make safety fun. As a professional speaker, author and musician, he also inspires employees to focus better and enlightens safety leaders about ways to increase their influence. To learn more about Richard, visit


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