He was the eye in the hurricane.
In a major exercise, designed to test emergency and safety response, the colonel stood surrounded by 30 subject matter experts, ringing phones, and frantic radio calls.
He listened, asked a few pointed questions, and calmly stated the next steps to take.
The developed quality is also referred to as “sangfroid.”
It’s why Thomas J. Jackson is still known as “Stonewall”.
And it’s the single quality that separates the EHS technician from the professional.
It’s not OSHA classes, the ability to determine the ergonomic equation or restate Boyle’s Law, the graduate degree, nor the host of acronyms on the business card.
Because in EHS, you KNOW every day does not go as planned. People are hurt and equipment is destroyed. Spending time after the incident being surprised, acting on emotion, and biting your top lip is time wasted.
The ability to mentally rise above the din, act on logic and reason, and make a decision.
I saw it in the warehouse.
It couldn’t be missed. Sixty foot across, the banner hung high on the ceiling.
The unit’s safety representative was proud of the new sign. She’d worked hard with the director on the funding approval.
But safety wasn’t first. Their role was to stack, sort, inventory, and deliver parts. Their annual appraisals were written with this in mind. They wore PPE as trained, at first, but after the first few months only when someone was around. They knew where the exits were because two of the doors had to be locked to prevent “inventory loss”. The workers also knew their safety representative …as she was also the equipment custodian, records manager, computer tech, vehicle POC, and official travel rep.
The banner was a deadly choice because it allowed them to show they were safe…and act differently.
Then a worker fell through the building’s skylight. Right past the banner and onto the concrete floor.
During in-processing at my fourth military assignment (RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom), a British local advised the audience to “Not wait for a sunny day to explore the country, but simply go, rain or shine.”
So in our off-duty time, we explored. And it was, more often than not, cloudy, rainy, misty, drizzly, foggy, and murky. Yet it didn’t keep us from Edinburgh Castle, Loch Ness, Dorset, Cornwall, nor the Lake District.
Many others would wait. They’d wait for a sunny weekend. Or otherwise rationalize the day away to other (indoor) pursuits.
And so it goes for the EHS professional. In this work, it will rain. The path ahead will get misty and murky. And many afternoons the fog won’t burn off.
Remember, “weather or not” you must show up. Sun, clouds, or rain.
Therein lies the difference between the professional and the casual passerby.
NOTE: A colleague sits for their CIH exam tomorrow. He’s studied constantly (whether or not he’s felt like it all the time). Proud of him.
It’s the ingredient and single characteristic that differentiates teams from work groups and randomly selected clusters of employees.
What’s the secret to encouraging, strengthening, and sustaining trust in a team?
One simple phrase.
“We will figure it out.”
Strong teams use the expression when presented with challenges, exponential growth (profit or loss), unexpected delays, and any situation that tears apart other collections of colleagues.
The “We” signifies community-minded cohesiveness. The “will” represents confidence in the result. And “figure it out” embodies a default towards solution finding.
When teams come together and believe in each other and a positive outcome, they become unstoppable.
And trust builds in momentum.
The next time you’re faced with a big challenge, use it to further trust. Don’t solve it yourself or delegate it to your go-to rising star. Show your team you trust them and their shared trust is a requisite for your shared future.
You spent only 5 minutes with them and it felt like not only that you’d known each other a long time, but you walked away with a renewed and/or deeper purpose in life.
Most of life’s interactions aren’t like this. Walk byes at the coffee pot, weather talk before meetings, and polite complements about fashion accessories do not commonly reveal new depths to one’s soul.
How can you create amazing engagements with clients and colleagues?
1. Presence: Be here. Smartphone away and out of site. Eyes on the other person and not over their shoulder.
2. Active listening: Respond without interrupting. Nod and acknowledge. Listen without waiting to speak. When you speak, summarize what they said.
3. Deep Questioning: Ask “And what else?”, “What’s your biggest challenge here?”, and “And what else might be possible?” (Thanks to M. B. Stanier for these questions)
4. Empathy: Recognize emotion in others. Put yourself in their position. Suspend judgment. Be flexible and encourage.
It’s asked, almost reflexively, by airplane passengers.
The brave ones ask in the first few moments of the flight, while many more ask politely upon landing, as if to limit the conversation to the 5-minute gate taxi.
It’s asked to spark conversation, to be friendly, and to competitively assess the socioeconomic value of the other person.
Does being a lawyer, doctor, or engineer make one a better person? If not, why do we ask about their job?
What if we are more than our job title, alma mater, favorite sports team, certification, place we live (or place we are going to), and net bank account value?
What if we’re not?
What if you were asked “What are you excited about in life”?
How would you answer?
Or forget that. Just go back to the job title. It feels more comfortable.
“Be sure that whatever you are is you.” – Theodore Roethke
One day is not enough.
The daily practice of writing down three things I’m grateful for has kept me sane during rough spots.
All of the things I’m grateful for today, I’ve taken for granted at other times. Family, work, relationships, health, writing, reading…all of it. The daily practice of gratitude is a reminder of fragility.
An exercise in gratefulness: Imagine your life ended today. It’s over. Done. Sit with that thought for a minute with your eyes closed. Now open your eyes and live your life as it should be lived.
Interested in further developing your thankfulness today?
Visit Seth Godin’s Thanksgiving site to download “The Thanksgiving Reader”. It’s a short piece meant for the holiday table. To spark and extend a conversation on gratitude. http://www.thethanksgivingreader.com/
NOTE: A quick reminder for Black Friday. It won’t make you happy.
Ten years ago, while stationed on a small Portuguese island, I learned to make bread. I’d find a recipe, follow the directions, mix the ingredients, and await the results.
If I wanted a different bread, I couldn’t simply think harder, read more about bread, or talk about it.
I had to use a different recipe.
In EHS, many organizations bake bread too. They call it “incident investigation”, or even “site inspection”.
And they have the best of intentions. They’ve read the latest studies. Hired consultants on the newest behavior-based science and root cause analysis. And joined the most prestigious EHS associations.
Then they go back and use the same recipe.
Over and over.
Expecting different bread.
It’s said in jest, as a way to almost excuse a lack of competency with technology, by the generations that precede Gen Y and Millennials.
And it’s a terrible defense.
I frequently engage with senior safety directors who are trying to bridge a generation gap in their talent pool. Many of their employees are either 20-30 or 50-65 years old, creating a large gap. The more senior employees are filled with experience and the more junior ones (and the organizations they work for) desperately need the transfer of knowledge.
Yet some of the most experienced say things like “I’m not good with computers” and “I don’t use smart phones”.
General Patton, as a young officer, loved the cavalry, the horses, and even the smell of the leather saddles. He was abhorred upon his assignment to a tank unit. But he adapted. Didn’t give excuses. And later would drive those tanks over the enemy.
Leaders must know their environment.
Inside and out.
Tanks or computers.
A few days ago, a dear friend of mine broke their leg.
He’d fallen off the roof of his house while performing maintenance. He should have quit.
Maybe we all should quit.
Quit telling ourselves we’ve done it before and gotten away with it.
Quit believing it’s the only way to do it.
Quit the self-deprecation when someone offers a compliment.
Quit insisting we have limited talent.
Quit eating food that makes us sick.
Quit anything/anyone that takes more than gives.
Quit vowing to change…and actually change.
Quit accepting that who you were is who you are.
Oh…and back to fall protection.
Quit leaving good work practices at work.
Because gravity follows you home.
And it doesn’t quit.