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HSEQ Career: Learn How To Strategically Influence Your Top Managers, By Olawale Ogunyebi

My boss asked me to sit on his seat, type whatever I wanted from his laptop and send it…
HSEQ Career: How to strategically influence your top manager, by Olawale Ogunyebi
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Introducing “HSEQ Career Column” with Olawale Ogunyebi.
The HSEQ Career Column is a weekly article series written by Olawale Ogunyebi, a DuPont Master Coach, Besafe Super Trainer and a former Africa Regional Safety Operations Manager (Unilever). He is presently the Managing Partner at MTC ENT. Dev. Limited. The purpose of this series is to mentor entry-level and struggling HSEQ professionals, narrating and drawing out lessons from the writer’s real-life experiences in the safety industry. Catch up with the posts you’ve missed HERE.

As a site HSE Manager, I reported directly to the Plant Manager alongside other more senior HODs.

All those HODs were a level above me. They were the people that will normally sit around the table during the annual appraisal to discuss my performance.

One of the ways I get them to own and drive safety was by strategic influencing.
I remember on one occasion, I needed a very important and urgent response from the HODs on a critical safety issue.

I went to our boss, explained the situation and requested if he could help send a note to them about the issue.

My boss asked me to sit in his seat, type whatever I wanted from his laptop and send it. From that time, this became my Joker.

I can’t remember how many emails went out from me to the plant through my boss’s Laptop.

There was this high-risk activity that kept me awake at night. I did not know what to do. One day, I walked up to the MD. “Sir I need your help”.

Most of the time, when you approach senior people like that, they think you are about to ask for personal favours. They find your request irresistible when they find out it is not about you, but about the wellbeing of others or in the interest of the business.

Read Also: Emergency: What Happens When You Call 911 in Nigeria?

I explained the situation to him and requested that he visit that particular section during his Safety Walk. I told him it should remain a secret between us. He agreed and played along.

During his Safety Walkabout, he went to the site as if on his initiative and demanded action.

Occasionally in my career, I have come across very uncooperative line managers when it comes to safety. The type that will accuse you of pushing your job(safety) and KPIs to them.


The type that will never prepare for any external audit because it is the safety managers KPI. One of the ways I manage such managers is to deliberately plan them to be audited any time there is an external audit.

I will usually explain my problem to the external auditor and ask for his assistance.

Of course, I will be there during the audit but I will never come to the aid of this manager when issues are being raised.

Needless to say before the next audit the line Manager will be all over me asking for help to get ready.

Strategic influencing is your ability to exert influence with a wide variety of people, over many of whom you have no authority. Your ability to do this depends on:

1. Your expertise – you are really good at what you do
2. Your character and integrity
3. Your investment in relationships.

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