Inigo Montoya: Safety Philosopher

Time for some real talk…

I sat in my bosses office that morning for my regularly scheduled weekly one-on-one. It was a big day. I had just spent the prior month writing, editing and designing a three hour leadership (not safety leadership, CLICK HERE TO SEE WHY) and was about to deliver it to him.

Which I did.

Then came the feedback.

“Jason, you’re a really great big idea guy,” he began. It was familiar territory. “But I really need to to work on follow through. An idea is only 2% of the work…” I’d heard it all before.

Now don’t get me wrong. He wasn’t completely off base. I’m big enough to admit that. But the irony (in a real sense, not the Alanis Morissette kind) of being told that after just delivering a completed project was kind of mind boggling in that moment.

That got me thinking

And listening.

The message didn’t line up with what was actually happening, so I decided to start listening to my boss a little more carefully. It was an experiment that I postulated only had two likely outcomes. I would either learn more about his style and grow to respect him or I would not. The result was the latter.

What I began to notice were his undertones. There was always something else in his message beside the message. For example, when a leader genuinely thanks workers for all their sweat and sacrifice in order to acknowledge that times are stressful, one does not need to end that thought with “but we have a business to run.”

Or justifying the decision to drug screen an employee for an incident by stating “well probably half of them are on drugs anyway.”

One of my favorites was “I don’t mind you doing all this writing stuff, but I don’t want you talking about anything at work.” That one made me giggle.

There were more examples of course, but I’ll leave it at that. The guy’s greed and slanted view of the people who worked for him was just gross. It doesn’t warrant the publicity.

Safety does it too

Think about your words next time there’s a “safety event.” Do you really care if someone’s in pain or are you just mad because of the extra work they just caused you? Are you interested in finding out what happened or is the employee just stupid enough to have let Darwin win? What about all those times that a leader really cares about safety by telling people that their incentive is being taken away because of a “bad” injury rate.

The long and short of it is that your intentions will always betray your words if the two aren’t aligned. Come to think of it, maybe that’s how they came up with the idea that actions speak louder.

We can always do better. Who’s with me?