By Glyn Jones
Safety practitioners need to consciously build their brand to gain sufficient non-hierarchical influence to drive change. Building a brand takes time, and establishing credibility with a growing audience requires real effort and focus. You will need to be seen as a savvy collaborator and it works like this: collaborators get the opportunity to build their brand; people with strong brands have influence; influential people have power; and power is required to drive transformational change.
So, how do you do it? Simply follow these 11 steps.
Get out of the office. Talk to the rank and file, get your boots dirty and reach out to lend a hand. The “me” people spend more time in the office with the door closed. The “we” people never seem to find time for office work because they are always out collaborating, helping others or volunteering to take on more jobs.
Be a prolific networker. Seize every opportunity to connect with your colleagues in the office, the field and out in the region. Volunteer to take the lead with a special project. Show them that you know what you are doing and you are willing to work hard.
Be a great listener. Great leaders are great listeners. If you’re talking, you’re not listening; if you’re not listening, you’re not learning; and if you’re not learning, it’s only a matter of time before you say something you’ll really regret. Listening more than others is a brand differentiator, a superpower and a top trait among major influencers.
Be known by the existing influencers. Make a list of the most influential people in your company, including hierarchical leaders and non-hierarchical leaders. Get involved with their projects and your currency will grow — and soon you will be thought of as one of them. If you can help them grow their value and influence, yours will grow too.
It’s OK not to know everything. Don’t be afraid to show others that you don’t know how to do something but do make sure to show them that you care. Showing your weaknesses is not actually a weakness in itself; rather, it’s a strength. Others may see your willingness to be open as proof that you “know yourself” and that’s a strength that can help you build bridges and strengthen networks.
Acknowledge the contributions of others. By spending more time giving credit to others and letting them shine, you may, by association, be seen as the real contributor — or at least as a collaborator. This behaviour will enhance your connection to the people you hope to gain influence with. When people around you are adding value to what you’re trying to accomplish, appropriate acknowledgement (publicly, semi-publicly or privately) will help you build better relationships.
Be consistent and get active. It may sound boring, but consistency will be rewarded and your brand will grow. Any activity that gets you out there and allows you to connect with more people — so they can learn what you stand for and hear your message — will help grow your brand. Consistency is associated with strength and intellect.
Be authentic. Make sure your brand is real. If your brand is truly defined by who you are, who you serve, why you are different and what your style is, you should see everything through the lens that is your brand. You can’t fake it without everyone knowing. Being consistent and authentic in your voice and methods will build trust. How you respond in everyday situations matters as much as in the heat of the battle. Manage your brand even when you think nobody is watching.
Articulate your return on investment (ROI). People need to know that working with you and, in fact, following your lead will have a tangible ROI for them. Brand strength is all about your capacity for ROI. People need to know that working with you and interacting with you will create a benefit to them, whether it is tangible or intangible.
Maintain your alignment with the company. Your brand will grow fastest when it is aligned with the corporate brand. Your strategic vision and mission need to reflect that of your organization. Reinforce your brand where you work. Create value where you are allowing your personal and professional brand to thrive simultaneously.
Stand out. To stand out in a crowd you must be distinct and unique. The best way to achieve this status is to dominate in the world of safety and brand yourself as the top safety expert. Lead the safety discipline inside and outside the organization and your brand will grow.
If you take the time to build your brand, you can become known as a thought-leader in the safety field. A key ingredient in driving change is your capacity for influence, and an impactful step in creating influence is building your brand. As safety practitioners, we need a strong brand to drive transformational change.
This article originally appeared in the June/July 2019 issue of COS.
Glyn Jones is a partner at EHS Partnerships in Calgary. He is a consulting occupational health and safety professional with 30 years of experience. He also provides program design and instructional support to the University of New Brunswick’s OHS certificate and diploma programs. You can follow him on You can follow him on Twitter at @glynjones_ehsp or he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.