Most environmental and safety managers know it isn't getting any easier to ensure regulatory compliance and meet company objectives. The environmental and safety profession continues to be increasing in dynamic complexity and there is no sign of regression. It isn't acceptable, beneficial or valuable to cajole or baffle superiors with calculations and knowledge of the regulations and rules. Progressive companies realized years ago that leaders with the ability to influence, evaluate, plan and successfully implement programs are the answer.
Your approach has to be one of leadership. For a start, here are some general questions to ask.

Who are your allies?
Leaders are influencers and therefore look for other cogent influencers within the organization. They rely on these people for insight, assessment of current conditions, planning, and successful implementation. Influencers are easy to identify. They are usually people with a high degree of integrity, understand the company purpose, and are good listeners. Someone with influence is capable of accomplishing things even without position power. Influencers generally do not commiserate; they instead are driven to navigate the road ahead by prioritizing objectives and tasks while avoiding common traps that slow progress. Be wary of the manipulator in influencer's clothing. A manipulator strives for personal reward. Influencers strive for company purpose and mission.

How have you determined what should be accomplished?
The ability to assess your company's environmental and safety needs is critical when mapping a plan. Information should be solicited from a variety of internal and external resources. Include data from production, budgeting, maintenance, marketing and administration; while at the same time glean insight from consultants, regulatory agencies, attorneys, and trade associations. The objective of the assessment is to not only identify tasks, but to gather information on company purpose, morale, and paradigms that form individual perceptions of how the company functions.

What are the obstacles?
It is normally the obstacles that are not easily identified that can lead to significant setbacks. Often times when I'm asked to evaluate a company's environmental and safety program,the company confuses program evaluation with compliance auditing. A compliance review serves the purpose of identifying regulatory exposure. It is intentionally myopic because, in most cases, it isn't designed to identify underlying causes of program stressors or failure. Good program assessments look not only at compliance and company objectives, but also at implicit data that could effect outcome and performance. Going through the exercise of pinning down underlying obstacles usually leads to the identification of potent levers that will be used in the planning and implementation process. This action will also provide the assessor with a deeper understanding of the mental models at work within an organization.

Does your plan and implementation process address obstacles and outcomes?
Strategic planning and implementation can be simultaneously empowering and debilitating. Effective planning outlines specific goals, measures and metrics that address strategies to overcome obstacles. There is much to be said on strategic planning; however, it is often useful to borrow ideas from successful initiatives accomplished in other areas of the organization. Talk to the influencers in these areas and build on their planning and implementation techniques. More often than not, you will discover that their processes work for specific reasons and actions. Incorporate these into your planning and implementation process and you will discover a format that works best for the influencers in your organization.

Do you measure quantitatively and qualitatively?
Most executives respond to empirical data that can be easily equated to share holder value. Although this data is critical and should always be a part of benchmark measurement, it is not all-inclusive. We are drawn to quantitative scientific analysis because of our desire to apply deductive and inductive reasoning. Statistically-based rational reasoning empowers the researcher by providing a sense of predictability and therefore a sense of control over the outcome. The missing piece in quantitative reasoning is the ability to search for meaning through interpretive and critical research. This type of qualitative information is efficiently gathered by learning more about the core values and drivers of the workforce and then educating and facilitating discussions that can lead to behavioral changes.

Environmental and safety leaders can be made. The secret is a changed approach that is concerned less with daily tasks and maintenance and more with innovative leadership. It's a challenge, but once you learn how to influence the influencers - you'll never look back.