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All About You: Be a valued part of the team: 3 tips

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.

“No man is an island.” That profound phrase is still as true today as it was when John Donne, a renowned 17th-century English poet, published it. It has a powerful message: We all need others to survive and thrive.

As safety and health professionals, we can’t be successful without co-worker collaboration.

When people work together, we can accomplish fantastic things. That’s why teams can be so effective. They’re the epitome of us cooperating to reach common goals and solve problems.

No doubt you’re a team member at work or in your community. For example, I’m part of a demolition team at a decommissioned nuclear facility. I appreciate every chance I get to contribute to the team’s success and work hard to be an active participant who helps us excel.

I’d like to share a few ways that I accomplish that – particularly during our team meetings – in hopes that they’ll help you do the same on your own teams.

It’s not about you

“There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team,’” the saying goes. It may be overused, but it’s still worth taking a moment to really think about. Your ideas and contributions should come from a desire to help the team, not stroke your ego or make you stand out.

When I suggest something and the team agrees, great. It makes me feel good. Then the team moves on to the next item. However, if the team decides not to use my idea, I don’t pout about it or waste too much time arguing my point. Even if I think my idea is better than what the team plans to do, being stubborn and creating discord isn’t in the team’s best interests.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give evidence to show that your idea is viable after it’s turned down. Some team members may not fully understand what you’re proposing. However, after explaining the concept in fuller detail, if it still isn’t accepted, give it up. Too often, I’ve seen teams argue for an entire meeting about a rejected suggestion that a member won’t let go. It’s counterproductive.

Give team members your full attention

Whoever is talking during a team meeting gets my full attention. That includes facing the person who’s speaking, making steady eye contact, taking brief notes when needed, and asking questions about what they’re describing when I don’t understand something or would like more information. I remind myself that looking at my phone or away from a team member while they’re talking isn’t polite and can make the person feel like I don’t care about what they’re saying.

Be on time and come to meetings with a positive attitude

Arriving on time shows you value a team meeting. So, I’m always early for my morning team briefings. Coffee cup in hand, I look forward to usually being the first in the room so I can write an inspiring saying on one of our whiteboards before everyone arrives. Sometimes the phrases are serious or profound (like the one that started this article). Other times they’re humorous. One of my favorites is, “Always give 100%, unless you’re giving blood.”

As each member arrives, I meet them with a broad smile and a hearty “good morning” or a fun greeting. My goal is to give the team some energy, make everyone feel welcome, and signal that the meeting will be productive and a good time. I’m not the team leader (he’s a beloved, fun-loving person who encourages my “antics”), so I’m not obligated to arrive early or do other things to lift my team members’ moods. But I know it makes a difference when I do.

You can uplift your team, too. Your style may differ from mine, but by bringing your best attitude and as much natural enthusiasm as you can, your team will value you as a teammate.

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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