Why People Leave Your Company

You train them, they leave.

You pay them well, they move on.

You give them experiences, they now work for your competition.

David Novak, executive chairman of YUM! Brands and author of several books including “O Great One“, teaches that employees leave companies for two main reasons.

One, they leave because they do not feel appreciated nor recognized.

Secondly, they do not get along with their boss.

It’s not the money, the vacation policy, the health benefits, the free snacks in the foyer, or the endless meetings (for the most part).

EHS pros are literally professionals at noticing their environment. Use it for good! Recognize positive (and negative when warranted) behaviors, methods, and attitudes and do it every day. Find a way to recognize that is personal and look them in the eye when you thank them.

And stop being a boss. Instead, be a coach deeply involved with your team’s development. Spend more time in this area than in any other area. Maybe even cut back on a meeting or two to spend deliberate time in the coaching space.


I wish the CEO cared about safety!

This phrase is used by safety professionals to critique a perceived (or demonstrated) lack of interest in safety. In the military, I frequently hear, “If only I had more rank, then I could change things.”

Only it’s not true (and I’ve held every enlisted rank (one or two several different times)). Rank and position, even in the military, is not the answer.

The solution?

Lead up.

The phrase first gained popularity in 2001 with a book of the same title and refers to managing and leading up the corporate hierarchy or chain of command.

When you lead up, your official position no longer limits your effectiveness nor span of control.


Leading up is accomplished through influence. Engender and cultivate trust. Do your job better than anyone else, present or past. Ear the ear of your boss in important matters. Know your company’s mission and the priorities of your supervisor’s supervisor. Build capability (experience, education and certifications) in yourself and your team.


Stuck in a Rut? Change your Five

You are good. Your career is going well. Family? The relationships are working. Everything is fine.

Except you want more. A stronger marriage. More meaningful success at work. A retirement account balance you could actually retire with.

But you are good and fine. And that’s the problem.

When Toyota’s production system became the corporate rage in the 80s and 90s, many companies jumped on board. Business was good, but maybe this Toyota idea could make it better. So a new director was hired to incorporate the JIT, Takt time, 5S, and Kaizen. Good to great, right?

Wrong. Later studies would find the Toyota Production System worked best when the company was broken, bankrupt, merging, or just starting. For the majority, JIT and Takt were only talking points…nothing significant had changed. When companies were “good”, there was not enough impetus (discontent, fear, etc.) to improve in any significant way.

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” Jim Rohn

So if youre not bankrupt or broken, change your five. When you broaden your associations and identity groups, you artificially inject discontent into your present situation. The well-worn path in front of you will, seemingly overnight, transform to a high-walled rut.

And real change begins at the bottom of ruts.



Exposure: Using a Basic Safety Principle to Kill Fear

What are you most scared of in life? For some it’s public speaking. For others it’s heights, enclosed spaces, college exams, meeting new people, public embarrassment, or even dogs.

EHS professionals know repeated exposure to hazards creates, in many cases, a lack of fear. For example, when I was stationed in Afghanistan, I noticed when newcomers to the base heard the alarm for incoming hostile fire, they would immediately duck and cover. A month later, the same people would not even pause their meal at the dining facility when the alarm sounded. Safe or not, they’d learned to kill the fear.

Most of our fears do not have the inherent danger of incoming rockets. Public speaking and college exams are survived thousands of times a day.

If you struggle with fear, remember that exposure will kill it.

“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.” – C. JoyBell C.


Specialization Kills (or How the Navy Found Airplanes First)

He wrote “The Naval War of 1812” and, at 23 years of age, became the leading expert on ships and navies. Fifteen years later, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he’d push for battleships and encourage a readiness posture in the U.S. Navy not seen in decades.

But specialization kills and he knew it. So when Sam Langley launched the first “aerodromes” over the Potomac River, the expert in ships saw the future.

The Assistant Secretary of the Navy immediately wrote Navy Secretary John Long to create a board for study of these machines for use in war.

Years later, the former Assistant Secretary, and now President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, would smile as the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk and the first airplanes were delivered to the U.S. military.

As experts of our individual crafts, we must also see opportunity in other fields and in other tools, just as this expert in ships saw vast potential in airplanes.


5 Topics All Safety Professionals Should Brush Up On Before the Interview

Are you interviewing for an EHS position with a company? Are you conducting an EHS interview and wonder what questions to ask to quickly ascertain competence?

Here are five topics, summarized from “The ASSE Guide to Hiring the Right Occupational Safety & Health Professional.”

1. Training: How would you design and deliver training? How would you measure the effectiveness?

2. Inspections and Audits: What would assess on a company worksite (industry specific)? How would you use the information to correct the issue?

3. Problem Solving: If you found a worker not using PPE correctly, how would you handle it? In our industry we have (fill in the blank hazard), what is your experience with best practices to solve this challenge?

4. Metrics: DART Rate, Incidence Rate from OSHA 300 log, EMR, etc.

5. Investigations: How do you find root cause(s)? What techniques do you use?

Much more, including which safety certifications employers are looking for, at the American Society of Safety Engineers link.


How to Connect with your Audience Every Time

“That person looks like me.”

That’s what we look for. It’s why Jenny Craig and CrossFit built huge audiences. People see people they identify with and all of a sudden they connect.

NOTE: If you were born in either September, October, or November, this next section applies to you!

Daniel Coyle, author of “The Talent Code“, writes about a study of Yale freshmen. Researchers gave students a selection of articles to read. One of the articles, a one-page piece on Nathan Jackson, described his career as a mathematician and head of a university. Half of the students received the original article and the other half received the article with Jackson’s birth date modified to match the study participant.

After reading the articles, the researchers tested attitudes toward math and measured persistence by how long they’d work on an insolvable math problem. The students who read the birth date-matched article scored significantly higher in their attitudes toward math and worked 65% longer on the math problem.

If you want your audience to take action, you must first connect.

How can you show your audience that you are like them?

*This actually applies to everyone equally, however September, October, and November are the most common birth months. 🙂


Beat Test Anxiety: 6 Ways to Succeed on Exam Day

According to Dr. Jeffrey Lazarus, 40-60% of students have test anxiety. Tests with results that lead to career opportunities such as the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, ASP and CSP often increase this anxiety to seeming paralysis.

What can you do about it? Begin by realizing it’s normal. Here are six ways to succeed on exam day.

1. Prepare well: Foundational to reducing anxiety is being well prepared. Know the reference material, how many questions are on the test, the test duration, the question format (essay, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, etc.), and the testing environment.

I learned this when I prepared for a multiple-choice test and instead found it was essay only. Poor preparation!

2. Test when you study: If you study in the morning, test in the morning. Same goes for the afternoon. Your brain is used to this subject at a certain time and you can leverage this by testing when it’s ready for the material.

I always study in the mornings and test in the mornings.

3. Know your tactics: You train for a race before the race. So predetermine your testing strategy too. How will you guess on questions? Will you skip those you don’t know, persist through, or flag them for later?

Personally, I guess often, never skip, and rarely use flags. Find what works for you.

4. Short bursts are better: Being prepared means better studying. And better studying does not mean cramming and marathon study sessions. Brains retain and focus best when studying in short bursts. So study for 20-40 minutes and take a break.

What works for me? I study for 20 minutes and take a 10 minute break, then repeat 2-4 times.

5. Practice where you test: Does your exam offer practice tests? Take several. Also, find out as much about the testing center as possible. Take a practice test there if possible (quite often testing centers offer many different tests so take one just to get the feel of the room and the environment.)

To practice, I took 30 CLEP tests in 6 months. It was an immunization, of sorts, to test anxiety.

6. Know it’s coming: You will feel anxiety. So breathe. There will be questions you don’t know. There will be limited time. And it will be alright. Remember to breathe (again), remind yourself how much you’ve prepared, and know that others have done this (successfully) before.

And if you simply want to remember more, read “Ultimate Memory” by Kevin Horsely to learn how to remember anything and concentrate at will. It’s available free on Kindle Unlimited.


Safety is Political

Politics: “The art of science of government” – Merriam Webster

(Alternative Definition) Politics: “The good ol’ boy network, cronyism, organizational resistance to change, and power-hungry and morally-corrupt individuals”– The definition most people refer to when speaking of politics within a business or other organization.

Safety shouldn’t play politics. However, where people are involved (and people always are), politics follows.

Why? Because people carry different values, beliefs, experiences, goals, and motivations. Therefore consensus, required in a democracy, must be built.

At a point where you are sick of politics? Read “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris. The book, a Pulitzer Prize winner, should be required reading for anyone interested in making a difference on a large scale. By reading what Roosevelt went through, in New York’s legislature and as the city’s Police Commissioner, one can begin to understand the difference a single person who cares is able to make in the world, even amongst corruption.

You will know how much of a difference you are making by the resistance you feel.

Good safety often feels this resistance.

Get Better Feedback Today (with one email)

“Doing great”

“Keep it up”

“Look for opportunities to lead”

“Pursue higher education”

Assessment and advice during another scheduled and semiannual feedback with a supervisor. After a while, it all sounds cliché.

So I sent an email.

How you are perceived by others, in large respect, determines your effectiveness in organizations filled with people. And often our perception of how we are viewed is (more often than not) skewed.

There is no better way to distill another’s best and worst qualities than to think about what you’d say to a future employer when asked for a recommendation. You immediately begin to brainstorm the peaks and valleys of their performance. While what you say may be different, what you thought was your real perception.

With this in mind, I sent an email to 10 people I work closely with, asking them what they’d tell a future (potential) employer about me. Given 3-4 sentences, what one or two qualities would they highlight?

NOTE: To be effective this technique requires a high-level of trust.

The results? I learned more about the way I am perceived from this one email than in all previous formal feedbacks. And now I can course correct, improve, modify, and downplay those qualities as appropriate.

What will your 10 people say to you?