All About You

All About You: Are you trustworthy?

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.

I just got home from a dentist appointment. Bonding on my front top tooth fell off two days ago, and I desperately needed it to be replaced because I’m giving an in-person talk next week – and the tooth looked nasty! So my dentist fit me in as an earlier-than-usual patient today. He’s a fantastic dentist, and I trust him. Several years ago, I had a dentist I didn’t trust, so I switched to the one I visited today.

Trust is perhaps the most vital element that keeps our social interactions viable. And the more you trust a person or organization, the more likely you’ll rely on their services or companionship. Ask yourself these two serious questions:

  • Am I trustworthy?
  • Do the people I interact with at work and off the job trust me?

The first question only you can answer. Here are three key elements to being trustworthy:

  1. The motives behind your actions aren’t deceptive. What you portray is genuine.
  2. You almost always follow through on your commitments. (On occasion, circumstances out of your control can make it impossible to fulfill a commitment.)
  3. You listen actively to understand the meaning behind what another person is saying and respond in a way that makes them realize you value their stories and ideas.

Because you’re a safety and health professional, people trust that you know what you’re doing. Part of that comes from your training and experience. My dentist has certificates on his office walls that show he has spent years learning his craft. I like that. But on a worksite, many folks just want to feel that they can trust safety pros to give them the right advice and that we’re there to help them. Let me give you three practical examples that portray the three “trustworthy” elements I listed earlier:

  1. Your motives: If you discover a safety violation and report it because you feel it’ll improve your reputation and impress your boss a bit, you may achieve that goal. But if the folks in the field get a hint of your motive, their trust in you will suffer. I’ve often gone to a supervisor to correct a violation and purposely didn’t write up a report because I wanted the crew to know I was there to help, not just get accolades for my reporting. Of course, every situation is different, and depending on the circumstances, you may need to report a violation. Do it because it’s necessary, not because it makes you look important.
  2. Follow through: I used to carry around index cards when I was a full-time safety and health pro. When somebody reported a problem or gave me a suggestion, I’d write what they told me on one of the cards. Later that day, I’d write down what I promised to do in a database. Even if it took a long time to fulfill my promise, I carried around my data list and showed employees what was going on with their requests or suggestions. I was surprised at how much that strengthened my credibility (and trust) among the workforce. It was also humorous because some of the recommendations weren’t going to get done, and I would joke about that and show them my “NLTH” (Not likely to happen!) category.
  3. Listen actively: My dentist is a fabulous listener. He listens and remembers what I tell him. He also responds in a way that doesn’t make him sound condescending. If I question why he suggests something, I know he’ll give me a straightforward answer and not try to sell me an expensive, unnecessary procedure. At the same time, he’s also willing to answer my questions, which are probably a bit more extensive than typical.

As safety and health pros, we should be delighted when someone asks us to explain why we require a specific safety pre-caution or other inquiries, because our honest response will signal our trustworthiness.

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

Richard Hawk helps leaders inspire employees to care more about their safety and health so “nobody gets hurt.” He also has a long history of success getting safety leaders to increase their influence and make safety fun. For more than 35 years, Richard’s safety keynotes, training sessions, books and “Safety Stuff” e-zine have made a positive difference in the safety and health field. Learn more about how Richard can improve your employees’ safety performance at

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