ty,” states Sharon Wood. Leaders must
prove why they need additional resources and answer these questions: What is
the standard of work? How do you measure the work of a full-time employee?
Leaders will need to show the metrics
and have solid estimates based on numbers. Partnering with planning, fiscal
analysts, continuous improvement, and
other business units is a must.
There may be times when outsourc-ing different job duties on your team
makes for a stronger structure and budget. Robert Maldonado from Northgate
Markets has found that building strategic partnerships with consultants, third-party auditors, technology providers,
and chemical sanitation companies as
an extension to his team gives him confidence in providing food safety support
to all areas of the business.
Another valuable tool is to ask food
safety colleagues to share their food
safety structures (as long as it does not
pose a conflict of interest or risk sharing
confidential information). Trade organizations also provide valuable information in this area. Never be afraid to ask.
With Power Comes
Most business colleagues are intimidated by science, especially food safety.
This intimidation can cause fear of roadblocks to innovation and product development, which results in excluding food safety from participating on these teams at
inception. “With new projects, products, and concepts, the FSQA person needs to
be brought in early with the company. The objective of a food safety leader is not to
say no but to say, ‘Let me go back and research alternatives that will help move the
project forward,” advises Ann Marie.
I think every food safety professional has heard an idea or an innovative solution
to a business problem and immediately began to think about all the problems. “Be
open to new ideas! It is better to say “how” rather than “no” as long as public health
is not compromised,” says Sharon. A quick “no” without justification can cause innovation to occur in a vacuum, without food safety being involved, which can be
detrimental long term to protecting the brand, the consumer, and business success.
Food safety professionals are looked upon as subject-matter experts and advisers
to business leaders in regulatory compliance, brand protection, accountability, key
performance indicators, and public health. Ann Marie remarks that effective food
safety leaders must develop courage: “Courage to stand up and do what is right.”
Words of Wisdom for Future Food Safety Leaders
As my recent conversations with experienced food safety leaders about this topic
came to a close, I asked each one to give me in three to four sentences words of wisdom that they would like to share with future food safety leaders. Below are “
nuggets” that new college graduates could take with them as they begin their careers in
“Gain experience in as many areas as possible: government, manufacturing, retail,
service providers.” – Robert Maldonado
“Understand the basics that need to be in place. Add simple tools. Measure per-
formance and react to metrics. Benchmark against other companies. Explore how to
push forward within the boundaries of your company’s budget restraints.” – James
“Food safety has to be built on a level of trust with other business units. Other-
wise, it is only seen as the police and not a business partner.” – Courtney Halbrook
“Conduct gap analysis and benchmark with other companies. Strive to be best in
class.” – Terry Levee
tions: How is the leadership structured? Which department is responsible for a
particular step? Is there another department that the job can be delegated to in
case of bottlenecks? Who will actually do the work? 4 The final question to ask is,
Who is ultimately accountable or really responsible for making it happen?
A food safety leadership structure first needs food safety leaders. In fact, food
safety leaders are needed now more than ever due to the constantly changing nature of food and food safety. 5 Which personality traits make an awesome
leader depends on whom you ask: Some people say that leaders are born with
the personality of a leader rather than taught to have the leadership mindset,
but most agree that seven important characteristics of a fabulous leader are
“zest, grit, optimism, self-control, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity.” 5
– Megan Doran, B.Sc.
production employees should know
and understand each and every one of
them to grasp the “why” behind what
they are doing. 3 Reinforcing the food
safety message draws an emotional
link so that food manufacturers are
more cognizant of a food’s safety and
quality. Finally, it is important to focus
on changing behavior of employees so
they think proactively about food safety.
Only after employing these concepts
can the food safety leadership structure
begin to take shape. An excellent food
safety leadership structure starts with
every individual clearly understanding
his or her role and responsibility. 4 This
enables clear handoffs between other
employees who work in different parts
of the process. Implementing a food
safety structure raises a lot of ques-
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