In safety, advice is always given and decisions are dispensed daily. Half of the time, we’re wrong.
Researcher Paul Nutt studied 356 decisions made at medium/large organizations. Half of the decisions failed, either by being changed within two years or a lack of implementation. Why? Nutt found in a majority of the failures, leaders had limited the alternatives down to one binary choice. Either yes or no. This way or no way.
How do EHS pros avoid this trap of the binary choice?
1. Identify more than one solution: More choices increased the success rate of decisions by 30% in Nutt’s study (e.g. use the entire hierarchy of controls to build alternatives.)
2. Keep an open mind: Remember that feeling of the first day on the job? That uncomfortable feeling is what an open mind is like…and it’ll drive better options.
3. Ask questions: Delay the auto reflex to give advice. Better questions lead to better alternatives (and greater success).
Goals and dreams get sucked out of you when you tell the wrong people.
You’ve seen it. Someone asks you what you want to do in your life and then you tell them. And that look in their eyes. Like a dog watching TV (they hear and see it, but do they get it?)
So stop. Reserve your dreams and goals for those who get it. Because if you’re dreaming big enough, if you have a goal that’s worthy of your life…then 99% of people won’t get it.
You see, it doesn’t matter if they get it, if they think it’s impossible, or if they even care.
The Denver Broncos will win the Super Bowl when they convince their selves that they will. Not everyone else. There are 31 other NFL teams. Not a single one cares about another team’s goals.
When we talk less and do more, while pointed in the right direction, we win. Bronco or not.
What can pilots teach the safety professional? Plenty! Here’s what I’ve learned about becoming a better EHS pro from my time with Air Force pilots.
1. Build a framework for your important work: Pilots practice. In the simulator, on the ground, in the air, and during tabletop exercises. They know what to do because they’ve built a mental framework over thousands of hours. The best safety pros go into inspections, investigations, and even meetings having already thought through the sequence. It works in the F-22…and in EHS as well.
2. Debrief: Post-flight debriefs are how pilots build excellence. What went right? What went wrong? And what were you thinking when you pulled right? Safety pros also improve when they share, both the good and the bad. Learning comes easier when you create culture where it’s OK to debrief.
“Remember that when everything seems against you, an airplane takes off against the wind.” – Anonymous
Several years ago, I traveled to Entebbe, Uganda to teach mishap investigations to the Ugandan People’s Defence Force.
For a week, in a room next to the building famous for a hostage rescue 40 years previous, we engaged with pilots and maintenance officers and shared our experiences.
I learned that bugs can be so thick you cannot breathe. There is a spider with a name which translates to “burns like fire”. To become comfortable surrounded by people carrying machetes. Buildings are built with bamboo scaffolding and deep holes really can be dug without shielding. Monkeys steal anything and when they howl at 2 am it’s still amazing.
And even in these conditions, people want to be safe. The people that we met, whose laundry was done in a stream by hand and who dreamed of their own car, wanted to be safe at work.
Not for a bonus or a reduced experience modifier. But for a family waiting at home. To see their kids and wife again. To live.
The choice is simple but not easy.
You can choose to make this day a Monday or “the day”.
>The day when you take the first small step toward your big goal.
>The day where you begin with the most important and not the most urgent.
>The day when you choose to do what you’re proud of instead of what looks good.
>The day you start your legacy project instead of another email chain.
>The day you are present with your family instead of already at work.
>The day you write down your goals and post them to your wall.
>The day you thank the person you walk by every other day.
>The day you take that book off the shelf and open it up.
>The day when you stand in the rain and smile.
Because it’s not Monday. It’s “The Day”.
Which will you choose?
There are many reasons to attain certifications in the military. Two commons ones are civilian career transition and future earning potential (Median salary is $109k (BCSP Salary Survey 2015)).
Here are 3 other reasons:
1. You can’t work harder: You are working as hard as you can…it may be time to do it differently. The path towards the CSP encourages the use of different tools, paradigms, and systems to solve tomorrow’s challenges.
2. Connect better: In the military, the fire dept and medical community provide fire/industrial health services. EHS can be disjointed and without a clear risk picture, faulty decisions are made. Understanding everyone’s role allows you to connect the risks for senior leadership.
3. Change the business: Best practices in EHS come from every level. We cannot fix tomorrow’s safety challenges with yesterday’s thinking. Certification, if you let it, will provide new ways of thinking.
What is your reason?
With the Oct-Sep fiscal year closure in a week or so, it’s time for a review of what worked (and what didn’t).
1. Provide and support 40 safety professionals with ASP/CSP certification preparation material, resulting in a minimum of a 75% exam success rate in FY16.
Result? FAIL. While 43 safety pros signed up to prepare, only 8 took the exams. But we do have 7 new ASP and CSPs!
2. Conduct a career field training review and finalize changes by Dec 16.
Result? SUCCESS. Changes finalized Aug 16.
3. Integrate professional development into safety career field in FY16.
Result? SUCCESS. Development board held and feedback provided in Aug 16.
4. Produce monthly DCS (video telecon) to communicate globally with safety professionals.
Result? SUCCESS. Although one or two technical difficulties (operator error) resulted in only 10 of 12 being recorded.
How are your professional goals going this year?
While traveling lately, I’ve noticed that the explosion of dual monitors has reached nearly every knowledge worker.
Oh, the siren’s call of doing and seeing more, less opening of applications, and more work done! Dual screens are now continually filled with Office, Facebook, LinkedIn, Chrome, and My Documents.
Yet our “to-do” lists grow. And the important things remain undone.
And I have (had) dual screens. I should have known better. I’ve read (and loved) “The One Thing”, “Essentialism”, and “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”. Each chided against multi-tasking and the productivity-killing attention residue left behind.
But I had excuses. I’d tell myself that for my job, I needed two screens. After all, I have more capacity than just one program or one task…right?
So this morning I unplugged.
And while there are one or two tasks I do that are best suited for two screens, I’ll find another way.
And focus on the important one thing.
A social media post this week by a retired leader in my organization drew hundreds of likes and comments in support.
I couldn’t disagree more.
They wrote, “There are so many people who have been pushed to the point they no longer care.” (modified to anonymize the author)
And the comments poured in from people with bad supervisors, bad work cultures, bad experiences, and so on.
No one’s pushing you anywhere (and certainly not to care less). I’m not owed a thing. I’m not owed good leadership, support, a job, any culture at all, resources, or “good” experiences. And you aren’t either. Thinking you are owed anything is like telling your boss you’ll show up for work on time if they pay you first. Or asking for a raise and then working more effectively. It’s backwards.
I’m awed. Awed to work with professionals.
Awed to have opportunity to make a difference.
Awed to wake up and have meaningful work.
And simply awed to wake up.
Rock bottom is a place where you land and change begins. It’s the place where addicts decide and begin recovery. The place where pastors see many begin again. And if we’re smart, it’s the point at which people and companies that seek significance decide (and choose).
Choose your rock bottom.
Some gambling addicts find rock bottom when they’ve pawned their car. Others when they’re down to their last few hundred thousand dollars.
Some companies find a safety program when an employee dies. Smart companies build safety cultures before tragedy.
Some people seek counseling after one moves out. Smart people seek out counseling while the relationship is healthy and vibrant.
The secret to rock bottom is we get to choose. Before we’re at the pawn shop. Before the blood is on the pavement. Before excuses are given to families.
When we say “enough”, we make room for change.
Choose your rock bottom.