Breakfast With The Terminator

Breakfast With The Terminator

Let’s talk about DISCIPLINE

Admit it. That word just made you feel something. Some of you cringed. Others felt tingles in their happy place (don’t make it dirty, you know I meant inside your head).

I had a discussion this past week with a “leader” who was curious about some happenings on a project site. A serious near miss had occurred when an employee defeated a safety device. The “leader” (known by many as the Terminator) asked me first what had been done to discipline the employee. I honestly had no clue. I’m not in that business. No safety professional should be.

Next he asked me how I felt about the situation in general. My answer wasn’t what he wanted, so the conversation ended shortly after. I simply told him that there was more to it than the employee’s violation.

What made him think it was a reasonable risk?

How many times had he done it before without incident?

What expectations had he been given by his supervisor?

Why was the system designed in such a way that it could be easily defeated?

Those questions are all exponentially harder to answer (honestly) than simply identifying what the employee did wrong and punishing him for it. Sadly, in this case, discipline meant paperwork in the employee’s file. I doubt any of my questions will be answered.

What if it meant something different?

It’s easy to beat people with a safety stick. I’d wager that’s why so many organizations still do it. All that does, however, is create a culture of fear.

“But if people can’t follow the rules they need to be held ACCOUNTABLE!”

Sure. Maybe. Or maybe your organization needs new rules. Ever wonder why people continue to violate them even when they know better? You probably should.

Here’s a stark reality. It takes a lot more “discipline” for leaders to look in the mirror when things go wrong than it does to terminate an employee. That’s the kind of discipline organizations need. There’s ALWAYS more to the story than the stupid thing a person did. Unfortunately that information often walks out the door with the offender.

Let’s start learning

In my estimation, the discipline debate is one that will go on forever. That just means we have to prove there are better ways to “safety” than punishment. I’m up for the challenge.

If you’re one of the ones who felt the tingles at the beginning of this post, consider at least giving the alternative a try. Next time someone “violates” one of your rules, try to figure out why before you pull out your ticket book.

If it doesn’t work you can always go back to being a cop. I doubt you’ll need to though.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

HOW Matters… Leading Safety Takes, Well… Leaders

Round tables are great, but sometimes the King needs to speak

Not long ago, I sat around an oval table (maybe that was the problem) with a group of people who DID NOT agree. I’m sure most of us will sit around that table at some point. Or have already. It’s part of life.

In those moments someone needs to direct the circle. Not to agreement, but to action. A good leader will recognize those moments of distension and do three critical things: listen, process, then take action. It won’t please everyone in the group, but it also won’t produce a standstill.

The meeting I was sitting in, however, did not transpire like that. Our leader listened and processed. At least he seemed to based on the note taking. But then he opened the floor to further disagreement with a single statement:

“We all want the same thing, but how we get there isn’t important.”

Sooo… Let’s talk about basketball hoops

My family is incredibly short (those who have read my book know just how short I am). Regardless, my son believes that if he tries hard enough, a short person can be an NBA superstar someday. I went down that rabbit-hole when I was a kid and drew a different conclusion, but I’m also not a dream smasher. So, I bought and assembled a driveway hoop for him this weekend. It was his Christmas present. And my Christmas torture…

First off, who ever “designed” that shit needs to go into hiding. I wanted to throat punch everyone who had any involvement in that “easy to install” system. Pictures DO NOT explain how to put things together. Also, it’s not advisable to get your inspiration for designing instructions from IKEA.

I’ll keep the long story short

Here’s the thing: despite the terrible instructions and hours of profanity (my neighbors probably think I kill people in my garage… I don’t… Promise:), I had to assemble, disassemble, and then (correctly) reassemble that hoop three #^@*!$& times. THREE! That might not seem significant, but the little nicks and scrapes on my hands say otherwise.

What does that have to do with how we do things? Glad you asked.

The hoop is one of those adjustable ones that goes from 7-10 feet. As I mentioned before, my family is short. But I’m not a dream smasher. If there’s even a chance my son might become the next Pistol Pete, I want him to pursue it. Soooo, the hoop adjustment needs to work. The problem I ran into was trying to get these two little plastic flappy things (the “instrukshins” called them guards) to line up with a ridged piece of bur-coated metal and pin them all together with a bolt that was too large for any of their pre-drilled holes. The how-to document just said to assemble them with a picture that didn’t clearly identify their order. In my case, that meant a lot of bloody-knuckled trial and error.

I just wonder how much blood I would have saved if, say, the pieces had numbers on them and the instructions said something like: place 1 inside of 2, then wrap 3 around both and secure with the 7″ bolt. The point is incredibly simple. How matters. A lot.

Meanwhile, at the oval table…

Nothing much was ever accomplished at the table when how didn’t matter. We just kept fighting because everyone thought they knew better than the person next to them. The funny thing about it, though, was that only one subject was ever approached in that fashion. Every other area of the business had a plan for how. Operations had a plan, utilities had a plan, maintenance had a plan, but for some reason it didn’t matter how safety was accomplished.

I have seen more than a few organizations struggle with this issue unfortunately. I think (although I can’t say for sure) that managers feel pressured to think they need all the safety answers. Because no good manager wouldn’t know how to do safety, right? Wrong. None of us have all the answers.

But there are quite a few places that have some amazing resources. They’re called safety professionals. If you’re not sure who that is in your organization, go find the weird guy that collects gloves and safety glasses and has a bunch of weird looking climbing gear in his office. Then take the (metaphorical) handcuffs off of him and let him help you plan some work. Preferably before it starts.

Of course, most of you reading this are that weird guy (or girl). If you’re stuck in an organization that doesn’t value your input, get from under your pile of glasses and gloves and go prove your worth. But start with the workers. The people sitting around tables aren’t the ones getting it done anyway.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

Do YOU have what you need?

There are plenty out there who don’t

Full Disclosure: this isn’t my dog.

OK, so I’ve started this post four separate times now. One was philosophical, one was analytical, one was statistical, one just sucked. So rather than try to solve the world’s grand problems and offer profound insight I’m going to address this topic with two perspectives: What I need/What my dog needs. Simple enough even I can tackle it.

It’s a bit of a broad topic, but one that has huge implications. So, do your employees have what they need? You can take that question in a thousand different directions… But only if you ask it.

In my observation, many leaders are terrible at asking questions about needs. Maybe they’re scared of the answers, or maybe it’s just a hard thing to address. Like I said, a thousand directions. So let’s look at two.

What do I need?

Lavish praise and adoration… and millions of dollars (you can Venmo that part to me). I joke (only a little), of course, but positive affirmation is always nice. What I actually need, though, is a little deeper. I need fulfillment. Or, in other words I need to feel as though my work has meaning. Since I work in the safety profession, that means I need to know that my work has actually contributed to someone’s safety (if even one). That’s why I have such an aversion to pointless activities done in the name of safety.

Not everyone is motivated like I am though. Some need to make a good living so they can afford nice things for their family. Some may need to work hard with their hands (body) to get that same sense of accomplishment. A little perspective can help, but the best thing you can do as a leader is ask (then actually listen). And that leads me to my dog.

What does my dog need?

Aside from the obvious choices (food/water), my particular dog NEEDS to have her ball thrown. I’ll fully admit that I’m not a huge dog person, but Snickers has grown on me over the years in spite of her needs. To me that’s a funny thought, because growing up I always thought the reason I wasn’t into dogs is that I never had one that liked to play fetch. Now that I have one, I can empirically state that was definitely NOT the reason.

When it comes to fetching, Snickers is the most persistent creature I’ve ever met. If the ball isn’t in her mouth, it’s sitting at someone’s feet as she nudges it with her nose. She’ll then look up at you as if to say, “there’s my ball, I brought it to you, why aren’t you throwing it, it’s right there, pick it up, it’s not hard, do it, it’s a ball, see, it’s the round orange thing with slobber on it, come on…” You get my point.

That dog WILL NOT leave until the ball is thrown. Even if it means she goes and finds someone else to throw it. People do the same thing (and no I’m not comparing us all to dogs… only some). For me, the lesson to learn is that people won’t stick around without getting what they need. That’s as true at home as it is at work.

So, I’ll ask again, do your people have what they need?

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

Why You Should Manage Safety With CPR

Just not the mouth to mouth part… HR won’t approve

“Jason!” our new safety manager, Wally, hovered over my desk and studied my name tag. “Your name sounds familiar.”

In my mind I flashed back through the half dozen or so times I had introduced myself to him at various company events through the years. At least one of those times he had spilled his gin and tonic on me, so his lack of recollection wasn’t any surprise.

“We’ve met, Wally.” I said. Then I bit my tongue and decided against saying anything else.

Wally was a corporate guy who had outlasted his usefulness. The company had closed his region and needed a place for him. Our project was a nice, quiet corner to tuck the old drunk into. As a bonus perk his best drinking buddy (The Tongue) was already there.

Shortly after our “introduction,” Wally assembled the staff for a meeting and announced there would be substantial changes to our operation. At the end of his speech on of the clerks raised her hand and asked when we could expect the changes to start. He didn’t need to take any time considering his answer.

Tomorrow…

We all thought he was joking. As it turned out, the joke was on us. Wally reassigned everyone in the department, demoted our supervisor, and put his drinking buddy in charge of the safety team. It was a nightmare.

In the span of just a year, the changes he’d made proved so damaging that nearly 60% of the staff had left to find new jobs. All of us were actively looking, too. It was a shame, because we worked for one of the best companies around. I eventually left as well ( that crazy story is in my book, and worth getting a copy just for that one section)

Any decent leader knows that going into a new environment guns blazing isn’t a great proposition. Still many think they know more than everyone else and feel the need to assert their dominance. Every time I’ve seen that done it’s been a sure path to poor performance.

There’s a better way though.

Look, Listen, Feel

If you’ve been through the American Heart Association’s CPR training, you’ll likely recall that mantra. It’s what you do when you find a victim who potentially needs resuscitation. First you look to see if the person’s chest is rising (are they breathing?). Next you listen for sounds of that breath. Then you feel for air movement. Finally you (firmly) tap them on the shoulders and loudly ask “are you OK?” It’s a simple way to distinguish between passed out drunk or dead.

The idea also works for leadership. When you take over a new area of responsibility figure out what’s happening and how your style fits. Here’s how:

  • LOOK at the way things happen in your new environment. Be critical, but keep your mouth shut so you can do the next thing on the list.
  • LISTEN to the things your people say. Are they negative, positive, apathetic, passionate? If you take the time to listen, make sure you actually hear what they are saying.
  • FEEL your way into your new role (figuratively… don’t be creepy). Ask around about what people expect, but more importantly what they need.
  • ASK your new crew how they’re doing and how you can deliver on what it is they need.

Wally was an ass, don’t be like Wally

If you’ve never had a gung-ho know it all manager like Wally, count your blessings. But also do your best not to become him. You might have the greatest ideas in the world, but if no one respects you, they’ll never get any traction. Build relationships first, then use them to change the world.

Being on good terms with your staff will also make it more likely they won’t hold it against you when you spill your drink on them and forget their name. Here’s to being good leaders!

BUY IT HERE!
Please follow and share Relentlessly:

Park Backward… Or Else: How to Incite Maliciously Compliant Safety

Read and heed if you want to avoid death threats

Everyone who’s worked on a construction site has met the iron-fisted superintendent in this story (figuratively at least, I’m sorry if you’ve ever met the real guy). We’ll call him… Craig. Just like the villain in some of my previous posts. My apologies to any nice guys named Craig.

Anyhoo Craig, as you can imagine, was a special kind of awful. He was tall, massively built, and intimidating. But only in a physical sense. Intellectually he was a rather small man. His authority was borne only from the fear of being walked out the gate should you test him.

He and I didn’t cross paths much because I worked on the operational part of that particular plant. His crew was in the commissioning phase of the project and due to mobilize out within a year or so. I mostly just rolled my eyes whenever I happened upon him belittling someone or making some stupid, arbitrarily rule. Seldom did his reign of terror affect my team.

Until one day…

Craig’s administrative assistant was walking in the parking lot (looking at her phone), when a car reversed out of it’s spot. You guys, she totally, almost, DIED! According to her. To be fair, I didn’t see it happen, but I imagine it was not the near death experience it was made out to be.

Over the next several weeks parking lot safety was the thing. There were reports of similar occurrences and a band of do-gooders rallied for change before someone was killt (not the garment). Then came the all too familiar “solution” when one of Craig’s henchmen suggested that “people always back into parking spots” where he came from (which may as well have been Narnia as far as I’m concerned).

So parking backward (backing in) became policy… lest ye be written up. It was one of those perfect examples of trying to eliminate a hazard by creating more. Because, to put it lightly, we SUCKED at parking backward. What had been a relatively calm patch of dirt with rows marked by railroad ties became a thunder-dome of horns, thirty-point turns, and screeching brakes.

So Craig did exactly what you’d expect he’d do

He doubled down. And I don’t mean just a little. The backward parking remained and a new requirement was added. Beginning one Monday at 5 PM, only one row of cars was released at a time. It started the at the front of the lot (at least that part was fair considering they got there first) and went row by row. After one day of it union grievances began flooding in for all of the unpaid time people sat parked in their cars after they had clocked out.

That’s where I got tied up in the mess. And I don’t regret it one bit… because it was hilarious. At the time, I was making a series of safety videos for the operations team. With my manager’s permission, Craig sequestered my services to film the exodus. His intent was to dismiss the grievances, but it had exactly the opposite affect.

I perched myself on top of a tower overlooking the parking lot with enough time to capture the guards take their places. At quitting time, the herd rushed out in a flurry of middle fingers and foul language as Craig stood on a balcony just below me. I was too far up to be noticed, but even if anyone saw me I don’t think they cared. They all wanted to murder Craig. No one was shy about voicing that desire either.

In the end money won

Craig lost his grievances with the union. Apparently my two-hour video of cars waiting to leave a parking lot was not proof of fair treatment. The backing rule was never “officially” reversed, but it was never enforced again. Soon no one remembered. But safety took a huge nosedive in those final months of the construction phase. It was something the workforce had to do, not something they wanted to.

I’ve stated many times before that legal compliance and people safety are two distinctly different objectives. Craig was a perfect case study for that. Compliance is required… no one’s arguing that. But OSHA isn’t what keeps the average worker awake at night. Having a life is. Figure out what that life is about, invest some time in teaching them why safety will make it possible, and help them understand when risk is unacceptable. That’s how real safety works.

As an added bonus, far fewer people will want to punch you in the throat.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

You’re Young, You’ll Get Better – False Leader Logic

Titles don’t equal wisdom

What do you call a doctor who got D’s in medical school?… Doctor.

“Well, Sergeant. I don’t know what’s wrong with you. But you’re young. You’ll get better.” Those words will echo in my head for the rest of my life.

The phone call I had two years later with the same Air Force Major who said them to me was even more astounding. He was the only podiatrist on base and had been “treating” me for what he considered phantom foot pain.

“I told you, Sergeant. There’s nothing we can do. You’re still young, though. You’ll get better.”

“You’ve been saying that for two years, doc,” I replied. “You need to do better than that.”

“How dare you talk to me like that! I’ve been practicing medicine since before you were born.”

“Well, I’m not getting younger and I’m not getting better. So I don’t think your strategy is working.” With that I hung up on an officer for the first and only time in my military career.

I immediately told my boss, expecting the backlash to be enormous. It wasn’t though. My boss directed me to the patient advocate at the base hospital (affectionately know as the “medical hobby shop”). The advocate sent me to a civilian doctor who actually cared about her patients. She diagnosed me with tendonitis in my right foot. After some rehab and custom orthotics, my pain subsided and never returned.

Hope isn’t a strategy, neither is denial

Those who haven’t known me more than 15 years hardly believe that I was once an avid runner. Considering that I probably wouldn’t run now if I was literally on fire, that’s understandable. But I was. And I was fast.

Reminiscing about that time in my life now, I think it’s actually when I became a writer. My regimen consisted of 5-10 miles a day with a long run (13+ miles) every weekend. It was my time to reflect and process. It also destroyed my knees. But I digress, this story is about my foot.

In high school I stress-fractured my left leg running. That injury was compounded by a foolish altercation with a kid I thought was my friend. It was a distinct kind of pain you don’t ever forget. When I felt it again in my base dorm room at age 23 the memory flooded back. I crumbled to my knees to let the pressure off and then crawled to my phone to call my supervisor. I let him know I would be heading to sick call (you don’t get to just call in in the military).

The night before, a buddy and I had been lifting weights at a gym roughly eight miles from base. I had reluctantly ridden with him in his Mazda Miata, protesting the whole time because neither of us were having a midlife crisis. I might well be coming up on one now, but I still don’t like Miatas.

When we finished the workout I felt great and told him to head back without me. I was going to run home. He shook his head in disbelief, but got in the tiny car and drove away. Everyone knew I was serious when it came to running.

That night I made great time. I was back on base in just under an hour. I showered, ate some fried stuff with four bean salad at the chow hall, and was in bed before 8. Less than 12 hours later I found myself at sick call explaining to a med-tech that I believed I had stress fractured my foot. Her response?

“That’s not possible.” I’m guessing that since I didn’t have one, she felt validated.

Thus began the saga

Initially, my doc friend did typical thing and issued a PT waiver so I wouldn’t have to run. It killed me not to, but by the end of six weeks my foot actually felt a lot better. Then I ran for ten feet and it all came rushing back.

We played that game for a few months until I earned an MRI. The airman running the diagnostic checked me in, strapped me to the table and inserted half of my body into the magnet tube. Then over the speaker I heard a crackle and a question.

“Uh, Sergeant, could you remind me which foot hurts and where?” I imagine I made the kind of face some bosses do when they’re upset (The kind where their lips shrivel up and resemble a cat butt more than a mouth).

“It’s the right one,” I said as I rolled my eyes.

“Could you show me where it hurts?”

“No. It’s in there,” I pointed down the tube.

“Just show me on your hand.” I obliged, realizing it was futile to explain to him that hands and feet are different. And so, I was given the world’s worst MRI. Even my doctor admitted it wasn’t readable. But he couldn’t order another one, because… you guessed it… he didn’t know what was wrong with me.

I was young though…

Thanks for sticking around for the moral of the story

Although I’m sure you get it, the message here is simple. My problem didn’t go away on it’s own. Whatever you’re faced with probably won’t either. Whether at work or at home, it’s tempting to turn a blind eye and hope things will get better. But, as we all know, hope isn’t a strategy. Action is.

Whatever it is that you’re facing, look it straight in the eyes. Stare it down and take a few deep breaths if you have to. But then do something about it. If you’re afraid of making a wrong move, just remember that no one ever got anywhere by not moving.

And don’t wait for someone with more experience to tell you how. There are plenty of experts out there who don’t know the difference between hands and feet. There’s also plenty who don’t realize that problems don’t go away because they’re young.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

Kicking Your Good Dog Will Turn It Into A Bad One

Chill… it’s a metaphor. Don’t kick dogs.

This is a tale of two Jasons. One was me. The other was… another guy named Jason. Henceforth I will call him #2 (or The Deuce).

#2 and I are still friends to this day, and this story isn’t really about him per se. Regardless, though, at the time this happened he was a pretty big slacker. We both worked in the support office of the Precision Guided Munitions shop at an Air Force Base which I’ll leave nameless. Our job was to maintain parts, consumables, and test equipment that was used to keep our fleet of missiles and trainers combat ready. It was a coveted position because we had… internet.

And EBAY was the place to be

Our boss, who will also remain nameless, was an avid car accessory shopper. He constantly browsed for new rims or a new exhaust kit for his hideous Chrysler 300 (and I’m not just saying that because it was a Chrysler 300). #2 was not quite as avid, but he was exceptional at supervisor manipulation. As such, he became a car part shopper as well. The two of them spent hours each day ogling over all the cool things they wanted to buy for their hoopties.

I have never been a car person, and looking at things I can’t afford just frustrates me. So I didn’t join in. The result? I got to do all the work. I’m not just saying that to complain either, the boss was pretty open about it.

A few months into the saga he actually transferred one of #2’s core programs to me because it “wasn’t getting done.” I was fed up and let him know.

“This is crap,” I said (although I probably used many other colorful words as well). “You let The Deuce sit there all day playing on EBAY and I’m stuck doing all his work.”

“Well,” he replied. “It’s kinda like that ‘Kick your good dog’ theory.”

“What?” I glared at him.

“You know, if he sees you working hard maybe it will motivate him.” To this day that is still one of the dumbest leadership ideas I’ve ever heard. Not to mention that he completely got the dog kicking metaphor wrong.

“Ok, then guess what,” I sneered. “You don’t have a good dog anymore!” With that I went to my computer and pulled up MySpace (anyone else miss Tom?). He seemed surprized, but not enough to drop the issue.

“So you’re going to finish this work, right?” he asked.

“Nope. Go kick him.” I eyed my counterpart who was trying unsuccessfully to blend into his desk.

Resilience only counts for so much

That instance isn’t the only time in my career that I’ve gotten burnt out by poor direction and bad leadership. But it was an eye opener. I learned my threshold. I realized that I can take a lot of kicks but eventually my enthusiasm to show I’m the best or just do an OK job wains. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for accolades for the work I do, but I’m not willing to toil away for nothing when I have no support.

I think a lot of workers feel that way. Sometimes that feeling is self inflicted. Sometimes it’s the very real result of working for someone who doesn’t have your back. Being bitter about it is a choice, and one that we should avoid. But working without support is soul draining. Leaders should never expect that of those who work for them.

If you lead people, make a difference in their life and help them get the fulfillment they seek from their work. You might be able to accomplish that by simply asking how their day is going or if they need anything to make it better. The key is helping them get what they need once you find out what it is.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

Don’t Lose Your Turtle, It Might Be Illegal

It will also make your turtle sad 🙁

That title begs for context, so here it is. I don’t sleep anymore. At best I just hang upside down in my cave for a while and try not to stare at the clock. That gives me plenty of time to go looking for the end of the internet. I think I’m close.

Last night I ended up on nextdoor.com. I usually don’t stay there longer than it takes to get the local crime update or hear about some strange happening in the park. Yesterday I got caught up in a different type of thread altogether. The post read “This is a long shot, but did anyone loose a turtle near Mesa St.?”

From there I learned about box turtle conservation, turtle habitats, what stresses turtles out, and how to help a turtle cross the street. I also learned that WAY more people than you would think have lost a turtle this week (there were three). Then the best comment of all popped onto the thread: “If its a western polka-dotted samurai turtle it’s probably illegal to keep it.” I embellished that description a bit, but it was a ridiculous comment nonetheless.

It’s not illegal BTW (I Googled it)…

The rest of the thread was a debate about the lawfulness of owning wild tortoises. As entertaining as it was, it got me thinking. Believe it or not the “legal” comment reminded me of how we often approach workers.

For some reason people are conditioned to find fault in the actions of others. I’m not sure if it’s a defense mechanism, or deflection, or just negative thinking. I catch myself doing it all the time. I key in on what’s wrong rather than seeing the good in what people are doing. In the case of the turtle, some nice neighbor was trying to get a pet back to it’s loving (albeit careless) owner.

Just as I wrote in THIS POST, I think it’s critical that we get a grasp on what’s driving people to do the things they do. Accusing them of breaking the law (even if they are) is just going to put up walls and make it harder to drive your point home. Consider that the next time you are out in the field and find someone in need of a little coaching. A little grace and understanding will go a long way.

Don’t ignore what’s happening by any means. But if no one is in immediate danger, consider taking your time and establishing a connection before you call someone out for their egregious violations.

That’s all from me tonight. It’s late and I have to head back to the cave to hang upside down and pretend to sleep.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

The BUNNY! A Perspective Story

“KIIIT-TEEEE!” My son froze in his tracks as he growled the word as deeply as any 18-month old can. I looked up, half expecting to see our British Shorthair (think gray Garfield) skittering across the back yard. My gaze was only met by my landlord’s giant toy-hauler RV.

“There’s nothing there, bud. Let’s keep walking”

“KIIIT-TEEEE!” He growled again, this time raising a finger to point.

“That’s Mike’s trailer,” I said. He kept his finger pointed out in front of him.

Then it clicked. I slowly bent down, got onto one knee, and looked from his level.

My line of sight changed, so did my perspective

As I aligned my eyes with my son’s fingertip and looked ahead I could see the ground on the other side of the RV. In the shadow cast by the trailer, a large jackrabbit stood on it’s two hind feet staring back at my son and I. He was on alert, fully aware of our presence. My son finally shifted his gaze and looked at me.

“Kiddy,” he said more quietly.

“That’s a rabbit,” I replied. “The kitties are inside.”

That moment had a big impression on me. It was one of those incredibly simple, yet deeply profound happenings. For me, it’s a stark reminder of the differences we all need to account for in our professional lives.

Everyone sees the world differently

Perspective is a uniquely personal thing. It can also be deceptive. What I mean by that is that is that it’s easy to believe our perspective is the right one. In my experience, though, no person’s view of the world is better than anyone else’s. They’re all just… different.

As leaders we cause unneeded difficulty for ourselves when we forget that the people we support don’t have the same perspective we do. It’s not that they’re dumb, negligent, or unmotivated. They just see the world from a different position. We can realize some huge benefits by taking a knee every now and then to try and see what they see.

Even if it doesn’t change your life, you may spot a bunny or two. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

Never Underestimate the Power of What You DON’T Say

Not everything is mutually exclusive

As you can imagine, I get a wide variety of comments based on the things I post here on Relentless Safety. Most of it is good, encouraging, and helps drive the conversation. Some people resort to personal attacks when they disagree. Especially when I’m feeling feisty and post things like THIS… or THIS. Don’t worry, no one has made me cry yet. I find it entertaining.

One recurring theme in the few (and I mean few in the sense that I haven’t yet had to start counting with my toes… fingers only) negative replies I’ve gotten over the past few months is that they tend to assume that because I’ve advocated for one particular thing I don’t support some other, unrelated thing. For instance, THIS POST covered my (not as controversial as I first thought) view on why we should stop measuring safety based on outcomes. In it I talked about why rates are a terrible measure of performance. One reader responded in disbelief because I “don’t care about the little things” even though that statement was never made.

My experience is people tend to jump to conclusions and make illogical leaps when they disagree but (presumably) don’t have a good rebuttal. The same thing happened after THIS POST that covers a certain type of flawed policy. The response that time was that I was advocating for a world with no safety rules at all.

Newsflash: I don’t have all the answers

Another common comment is that I don’t provide solutions to the problems I identify. Most of the time I have to refrain from replying, “did you actually read what I wrote?” Sometimes the solution is in the title (I’m sneaky like that). Do I write detailed blueprints for how to implement? No, of course not. That’s for each of us to do in our particular situation.

Aside from that, it would be incredibly vain and presumptuous for me to assume I know how to fix everything. If I find a solution that I think is particularly useful, I share it (case in point). We should all do that, but I digress.

Here’s the real meat and potatoes

Enough about me and my plight with keyboard warriors. Maybe one of them will click on some of these links and read with an open mind. I won’t hold out hope though. What I do hope is that someone will be able to take some of these lessons I’ve learned and apply them in a way that will improve their environment.

In my book, I briefly cover an episode with a supervisor who worked on a project I was a part of for a short period. He was a skilled tradesman, but a terrible leader. And not at all supportive of any worker safety initiative. I tried many times to coach him on it, but he was stuck. He would comply, that wasn’t the issue. But his delivery sucked.

Every time a new requirement or program rolled out, he would roll his eyes and sigh as he delivered the message. I don’t recall every specific instance, but his delivery usually came out something like this: “OK, guys. Corporate is making us do this crap. Make sure you sign this sheet before you get to work. Otherwise you’ll just have to listen to it again.”

What he DIDN’T say was “this will make your work safer” or “I really support this.” He didn’t believe in it, so neither did his people. As an example, I would routinely find them huddled in the break room at the end of the day filling out their pre-shift JHAs. If it wasn’t so sad, it would have been comical.

One of them would scribe and try to recreate their day hour by hour:

“Hey, Jimmy,” he would say. “What were we doing at 2 pm? Oh, right… What PPE were you wearing? Got it.” You can probably imagine that conversation in vivid detail.

Eventually they found a better corner to hide in, but their practices never changed. All because of what their supervisor didn’t say.

It happens all the time

I’m not just knocking supervisory skill here. This is applicable anyone at any level of an organization. The point is that sometimes what goes unspoken is what we hear loudest. Think about every time you watch someone doing a task incorrectly or in an unsafe manner and then walk on without saying something. What does that action say to the person who’s doing it? I would assert that it clearly tells them what they’re doing is acceptable, maybe even expected.

That’s just one of many scenarios where we have the opportunity to communicate better. Safety would benefit a whole lot by meeting people where they are, not assuming they know what we expect, and giving clear direction. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. None of us will get it right every time, but it’s a worthy endeavor to put in some concerted effort.

Here’s to some meaningful conversations.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:
%d bloggers like this: