It wasn’t long ago when my youngest son invited me to play a round of golf. It had been nearly 20 years since I had swung a club, and my play on that day reflected it. In fact, it didn’t ake too many holes for me to remember why I gave up the
game so many years ago. No matter how I adjusted
my grip, my foot position or swing, the ball just didn’t
want to find the fairway or green. I did get a great deal
of practice hitting out of tall grass and around trees.
I do, however, remember one swing where the ball
seemed to explode off my driver. It was the straightest
and longest drive I had hit all day. My son quickly exclaimed, “You
hit the sweet spot on that one.” It was that one drive that brought
me back to the course to play another day.
For those not familiar with the term sweet spot, it is the spot on
the club that allows the ball being struck to absorb the maximum
amount of force, and it leaves the club with a greater velocity than
if struck at any other point on the club. The best golfers strive to hit
the sweet spot every time.
Now I have always been a person who believed that through hard
work you can accomplish anything. That being said, no matter how
much money I invest or how much I practice, I will never become a
Rory McIlroy. You see, golf is not my sweet spot. It’s not and never
will be one of my strengths. I do, however, have other strengths.
These strengths require my constant attention. You see, if I fail to
invest in them, they will disappear over time.
What are the sweet spots or strengths of your safety process? If
you can’t identify them, spend some time doing so, because these
strengths are the foundation of your success.
Many companies are striving for safety excellence, and they devote a great deal of effort in identifying their shortcomings. Strategies are developed and resources invested in an attempt to turn their
weaknesses into strengths. The problem with this approach is that
as they are working on their weaknesses, their strengths begin to
weaken. In his book “Leadership Gold,” John Maxwell refers to
a person’s “strength zone” when it comes to career development.
He states, “Do you know what happens when you spend all
your time working on your weaknesses and never developing your
strengths? If you work really hard, you might claw your way all
the way up to mediocrity! But you’ll never go beyond it.” Maxwell
was speaking of the strengths of the individual, but the same is true
for organizations. As they work to improve their weaknesses, their
strengths are sometimes neglected and the greatest potential is never
To ensure your journey to safety excellence doesn’t get derailed,
identify your strength zones or safety sweet spots and commit to performing one activity to improve each one. A few examples might be:
• Strength: Strong safety leadership within all levels of the company.
• Action: Determine way for your senior leaders to have more
direct face time interacting with the workforce. Offer a
leadership development seminar for your informal leaders.
• Strength: Having employees who are willing to report near misses.
• Action: Show the benefits of near miss reporting by showcasing
information learned from reported near misses. This could
include reviewing the improvements in a safety meeting,
publishing information in a newsletter, or posting information
on the safety bulletin board.
• Strength: A highly involved employee safety committee.
• Action: Plan a recognition event for your safety committee. This
could be a luncheon or sponsorship to a local safety conference.
• Strength: A job planning process that addresses all hazards.
• Action: Perform field audits of job briefings to both provide
positive recognition to workers for strong performance and
continue to find areas of potential improvement.
• Strength: A participative job safety observation process.
• Action: Have observers accompanied by employees not
normally involved in the observation process. This allows for a
better understanding of the process and encourages volunteers
to join the effort.
• Strength: A high level of safety awareness is being displayed by
• Action: Schedule frequent events to maintain this awareness.
Host a safety day. Invite a guest speaker to share a safety
message with your workgroup. Conduct a safety stand down
when a safety incident does occur.
Just as a professional golfer hires a coach and hits thousands of
balls at the driving range to maintain and improve his or her game,
we must invest in our safety sweet spots to maximize their potential
benefits and to ensure these strengths don’t weaken. UP
Bill Dampf is the retired Director of Corporate Safety and Health for a Midwest
electric and natural gas utility. He has been in the safety profession for 36 years and
an international speaker for 15. He has acquired both his BS degree and Masters
degree in Industrial Safety, is a Certified Safety Professional and published author.
Hit Your Sweet Spot
By Bill Dampf, C.S.P.