Hard Now (and It’s Hard Either Way)

You are injured at work while performing a shortcut.

Or you slow down and do the job safely.

Your knees hurt because you’ve carried 20 extra pounds for years.

Or you eat moderate portions and exercise regularly.

You aren’t hired/promoted because you lack training/education.

Or you wake up/stay up to knock out that degree.

You make minimum payments on a maxed out credit card.

Or you put off purchases until you can pay cash.

You fail a fitness assessment (or barely pass).

Or you commit to a regular plan to stay in shape.


Either way, it’s hard. Put it off and the hard is delayed (but still comes.) Do it now and the hard becomes yesterday’s memory.

So choose hard now.

Hard now builds character.

Hard now saves years of regret.

Hard now is required by values of integrity, service before self and excellence in all we do.

Three Ways to Better Feedback

Feedback is tough. It can be hard to give (up and down the organization) and humbling to receive (from subordinates or supervisors). When you are junior and give feedback, you may feel fear of retaliation. If you are senior, and held honest feedback sessions before, you’ve felt the distance created when feedback went off-track and parties became defensive.

Here are three ways to better feedback:

1. Ask: If your organization has a system of written feedback, hold your supervisor accountable. Tell them you value it and put time on the calendar. And ask for specific feedback. Enough “…you’re doing great.”

2. Cultivate: It’s said that you have a world-class team when they disagree with you. After all, if only your opinion matters, what is the team for? Tell your team they are valued (and mean it).

3. Act: Tell the person giving feedback how you’ll act on it. Whether it’s a new idea or schedule adjustment, show them by your actions their feedback is essential.


The Seersucker Theory

“No matter how much evidence exists that seers do not exist, suckers will pay for the existence of seers.” – Scott Armstrong, professor and forecasting/marketing expert

Written nearly 40 years ago, Scott Armstrong’s piece for the U of Penn rings true still today. Armstrong cites research dispelling the belief that a deeper level of expertise equates to more accurate predictions about the future. In a variety of fields, from finance to medicine, expertise and accuracy are found to be unrelated.

For EHS professionals, this should inspire much thought on leading indicators, the return on investment of being an expert in solely EHS (or in any one field), and why we hire consultants.

What are we doing with lessons of the past and present? Are we instead setting aside hard-won education for promises of better forecasting?

If we fail to direct resources to solve today’s known challenges, what hope do we have for tomorrow’s unknowns?


Comfort Zones Kill

Comfort foods elicit nostalgic feelings. Foods like pie, potatoes, and macaroni and cheese are more than just their ingredients, they fill senses with warm memories.

Our comfort zones, in both our companies and in our personal lives, are the same. These reflect tradition (military uniform), social mores (sir/ma’am, salutes), and limitations (“we don’t do that here”).

In perhaps the best definition of comfort zones, James Altucher writes these zones aren’t simply habits of familiar travel, but are “bordered with walls covered by excuses.”

Comfort zones feel warm, safe, and secure just like macaroni and cheese.

But a steady diet of comfort leads to stagnation, risk adversity, and jeans that are two sizes too small.

Listen to your excuses. That internal voice telling you why not is really telling you where your walls are.

So thank that voice (it likes to be acknowledged).

And tear down the wall.


Get a CSP and Be More Effective

Only it’s not true.

Attaining even the gold standard in safety certifications won’t make you more effective if the reason you’re currently less than effective has nothing to do with technical competency and craft knowledge.

Imagine you own a race car and you are getting beat in the corners. So you install a top-tier steering system. At the first race, watching the car carefully in the corners, you notice again they are beating you. It didn’t work!

Certifications and training are like the steering system.

If your engine needs work (initiative, motivation), or your tires are bald (communication ability), or you are racing on the wrong track (bad work culture), then an expectation of increased effectiveness due to new steering (certifications) is designed to disappoint.

Before upgrading your car or heeding a one-size-fits-all career path, take a holistic look.

What is really holding you back? How could you become more effective?

For more on the subject of effectiveness, read “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker.


Bessie Coleman, Barriers, and Seatbelts

Bessie Coleman, born 125 years ago today to sharecroppers in Atlanta, Texas, was dissatisfied. She saw her life played out in front of her in the fields of East Texas and resolved to change it.

So Bessie moved to Chicago where she saved every penny for a flight to France. She’d heard that in France, they’d accept an African-American female student in pilot training and immediately enrolled. In 1922, and only seven months later, Bessie graduated with a pilot’s license. She was the first and would go on to inspire many more.

In 1926, during an abrupt mid-air maneuver, a wrench fell into the gearbox. The aircraft jolted and Bessie fell from the plane. She’d not been wearing a seatbelt with the idea that she needed access to her parachute.

Today in the Air Force, tool accountability and seatbelts are foundational.

And so is breaking barriers.

Thanks to Bessie Coleman and others like her who said, “I can’t do it, huh? Watch me!”


Do Not Make Lemonade, Make Charcoal Briquettes

Workers used 100 feet of lumber to craft the interior of the Model-T. But it was the unused ends of the wood that drove Henry Ford to find a use for scrap kindling.

Ford hired Thomas Edison to design a factory to intake the Model-T leftovers and output charcoal briquettes. As no market existed for the charcoal, they were sold at Ford dealerships as a way to cook after “motorized picnicking.” A new technology and industry emerged. Today the company is called Kingsford Products.

Lately I’ve felt frustration too. I’ve had a goal for two years that, in my perspective, is gaining little ground. I’m surrounded by kindling and not even making Model-Ts. The platitude of making lemonade from lemons fails in this case.

So I’m picking up the kindling and making briquettes by finding another way to use the resource.

If you find yourself with lemons, don’t just smash them and pour sugar on top.

Burn them, grind them up, press them back together, and build something new.


The Worst Advice

Advice comes to us in many ways. Some is verbal, but many times the advice we get is through the actions of others.

Here’s the worst advice I’ve personally received:

-Just blend in here.

-Don’t read. I don’t and look where it got me!

-Treat everyone the same in annual appraisals. Aren’t we all equal anyway?

-Think of yourself first.

-You know after your back surgery, you won’t run again, right?

-You’re trying too hard.

-Lower your standards.

-It didn’t work for me…it won’t work for you either.

-Some people are just bad at math.

-You know…not everyone can get a CSP.

-What do enlisted Airmen need graduate degrees for?

-You are different. So don’t expect others to perform as well.

-Professional development? Nah…I’m too old for that! Besides, I’m retiring in 10 years.

-You can’t fix stupid. (from a senior leader referring to injuries around aircraft)

-Stay in your lane.

Don’t believe it. Not for a second. You were born to win and win big.

*What’s the worst advice you’ve received?


Risk and the History of Military Allotments

The bread was baked carefully to conceal the small bottle of alcohol. In military camps and much like today, during the Civil War alcohol was prohibited in combat zones. Soldiers spent a month’s pay on the special bread, leaving nothing to send home.

Theodore Roosevelt Sr., the famous U.S. president’s father, looked for a way to serve during the war. When he saw the sutlers selling the bread, and the families of soldiers starving at home, he took the most unlikely of actions.

He created the military paycheck allotment. He lobbied Congress and then visited camp after camp for years, urging soldiers to reserve a portion of pay for their families and towards savings.

It worked. And the allotment column still exists on military paystubs today.

Why should the EHS professional care?

Because risk mitigation is not only about hazards at work.

Mitigation is about creating a buffer for future storms; financial, emotional, physical, and otherwise.


Why I Thought About Throwing Away Our Safety Training

“Why does a safety professional succeed? And what do the best (top 1%) do better?”

A colleague and I discussed these points last week. And afterwards, I wanted to toss our career field training plan in the trash.

Our current system consists of levels of training; focused on compliance, investigations, and the management of programs.

Combine these and you get the average professional.

What if you put the best pros together and ask what makes them that way…what do you get?

One quality resounds.

They are excellent communicators.

They speak eloquently and with passion. They write clearly and concisely. They actively listen and respond appropriately. They know when, where, and to whom to communicate.

That’s it.


If you pick one quality to improve on this year, make it this one. And get feedback.

Together, let’s work on our own training plans. Because just knowing the rules of compliance never made anyone safer at work.