Key Skills of Highly Successful Safety Professionals (What’s Missing?)


What if you were in charge of the training and development of over 750 safety professionals?  What key skills are missing from traditional EHS education and training? How could you make this outstanding team the best in the world?

That’s the question that I had to ask myself when I was hired as the Air Force Safety career field manager three years ago.

I brainstormed these questions with a colleague. Here are a few areas of skill and knowledge we came up with:

Negotiation, personal/professional development, marketing, value creation, strategic planning, change management, networking, and statistics.

If every safety professional could blend their existing skills and knowledge of EHS with the above subjects, they’d be unstoppable!

That’s when we got stuck. What resources existed in these areas for the already busy EHS professional?

We couldn’t find one.

So we created one and it’s premiering at ASSE Safety 2018. We’re teaching a full-day course (Session 405 “MBA Essentials for Busy EHS Professional”) on the above topics (and more).

CAUTION: It’s not for everyone. But if you’re looking to make an impact in the profession, pursue significant opportunities in 2018, and collaborate with others like you, this might be for you. There are limited seats available.

You can sign up here (discount rates apply before 28 Feb 18.) For blog subscribers, if you let me know when you sign up, you’ll earn the chance to win a free copy of The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business when you attend on 3 June 2018 in San Antonio. (Subscribe fast here-no spam ever)

Want to know more? Email me at

The Problem with a Good Listener (and the contest winner)


“This is the problem with dealing with someone who is actually a good listener. They don’t jump in on your sentences, saving you from actually finishing them, or talk over you, allowing what you do manage to get out to be lost or altered in transit. Instead, they wait, so you have to keep going.”

― Sarah Dessen, “Just Listen”

Try this today. Listen to just one conversation. Not the one in your head that is eager to respond. Not the one formulating the next question or argument. Listen to only what the other person is saying (their words, tone, and body language.) What they say may just surprise you.

Congratulations to Nick Hall who was selected as the winner of the most recent contest. He’ll receive a copy of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Modern Library Paperbacks), which is one of my two favorite books on the value of persistence (the other is Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage.)

Thank you to everyone who sent me a note on their favorite post of 2017! Nick, send me your mailing address and I’ll get the book right out to you!   



Hyper-Masculine Culture Unsafe?

Twenty years ago, we’d stand on the aircraft parking ramp and freeze. In temperatures below freezing and wing gusts of 20-30 mph, we’d launch aircraft and try to smile while we shivered.

We were cold because we wore thin camouflage Gore-Tex coats and we were proud of it. We were issued heavy arctic parkas but didn’t wear them. Office people wore them…and we’d laugh when we saw those people with cubicle jobs scurry from their cars to the front door with the parkas.

We were tough.

We carried 200 pound aircraft brake assemblies and had contests to see who could install one by their self; lifting the brake the required 24 inches to the axle without needing help.

Those who couldn’t hack it were ostracized and relegated to support roles such as tool box issue and office administration.

We were stupid.

It’s changed now right? We’re more inclusive, assertive, welcoming of diversity, and more understanding.

Except we’re not. We still wear the thin jackets and freeze in many professions.

An article in the Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health outlines a “tough guy” culture in firehouses that undervalues speaking up about safety. If you’re a man or woman in a traditionally male profession, it’s a must read for a rarely-voiced perspective on how a hyper-masculine culture effects safety and organizational learning.


Do You Need Me In Your Meeting?

It’s a new week and your schedule is filled with meetings. The experts are invited, along with the process owners and those responsible to document the communication.

But you might be missing the most important person.


I’m ignorant- I’m new to this industry and especially this process, so I’ll ask a lot of questions, ask you to spell out those acronyms, and make the group use sentences a 7-year old would understand.

I’m a complainer-I’ve never bought in to this service or product. I won’t bring a solution, but that’s why you get your paycheck. Your idea is too complicated, too expensive, and only works in a perfect world. I’ll make the group broaden their target demographic and look at this from another perspective.

Do you have me in your meeting this week? If it’s important, you’d better find me.

(Don’t know where to look? I’m either new to your organization or the one you’re hoping retires soon. You pass me in the hallway and rarely make eye contact. If I’m new, simply encourage me to speak up. If I’ve been here a while, show me you value my contrary opinion.)

Would you write yourself a letter?

As a part of a gratitude practice I’ve built into my routine, I hand-write a thank you letter to someone every Monday morning. It helps me remember the truly inspirational people I work with all over the world and makes an outsized impression on the recipient…we just don’t write letters anymore and a note in the mailbox means a lot.

But I’ve never written myself a letter.

Mac Anderson, founder of Successories and author of The Power of Attitude, wrote himself a letter as a freshman at Murray State. Mac had been hired to sell books door-to-door and his dad thought it was a bad idea. His dad didn’t think he could do it. Here’s what Mac wrote:

“Dear Mac,

This is the chance of a lifetime. You’ll find out what you’re made of. Your Dad doesn’t think you can do it. You can prove him wrong. It won’t be easy and I’m sure there will be many times you’ll want to quit. Hang in there and with every fiber of persistence that you can muster.

And at the end of the summer when you look in the mirror…say with pride…I did it.

Make him proud to say, this is my son.”

Mac went go on to rank 7th in the nation that year for sales at the company. And he had shown himself the power of a letter (and in persisting and believing in oneself.)

What letter would you write and what would it say?

Is Safety Hocus Pocus?

When I was eight years old, I attended a magic show. The magician transformed his handkerchief into doves, sawed his assistant in half and used weird words like “hocus pocus.”

In EHS we say weird words too. We use acronyms such as UST, TWA, TLV, TMS, STS, and STEL. We repeat words like incident (and cringe when others use “accident”), residual risk, and anthropometric.

Prior to the invention of the printing press in 1439, literacy was uncommon. Churchgoers in the Middle Ages listened to readings in Latin, unable to read or fully understand the texts. While passing out sacred bread and wine, priests would repeat strange sounding words. In 1674, the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Tillotson, wrote, “in all probability…hocus pocus is nothing else but a corruption of hoc est corpus (“this is the body”), [a] ridiculous imitation of the priests of the Church.”

I attended an EHS presentation last week where the majority of the audience was not in the EHS business. The speaker continually used safety-industry specific language. With each “DART” and “EMR”, audience members squinted, frowned, and eventually gave up trying to translate. In the end, it was a little too much “hocus pocus.”

How much hocus pocus is in your language?

Why Do You Say “Bless You”?

Don’t wait for the sneeze

“Bless you!”

The gesture, in response to someone sneezing, is almost reflexive. We pass the words to friends, acquaintances, and strangers in passing. And in a world of everyone staring intently at their 2”x 3” screens…the words “bless you” connect two people for a moment. It shows that you care (even for a second) and that the other person is noticed and respected. We’ve said it for years (yet nearly none of us truly believe that evils spirits enter the body during a sneeze.)

Stopping to connect is even more important today. Saying “hi”, asking how someone is doing (and waiting for the answer while looking in their eyes), saying “please” and “thank you”, and “bless you” are ways to reach out to others. Maybe even more important than reacting with an emoji or putting a hash tag before your latest feeling.

Don’t wait for the sneeze. Connect, care, and consider others.

We need less integrity (so please lie, cheat, and steal)

Overheard last week:

“I can’t do this job wearing fall protection. Don’t you know we’re in the military?”

“I have to work until I’m 65, what else would I do with myself?”

“I’m terrible at math.”

“I’m unlucky.”

“I need carbonation in my drink for lunch.”

They’re called self-limiting beliefs and they rob us of our dreams.

But since we’re people of integrity, we hold fast. We believe one thing and must therefore act accordingly. Need carbonation? Get that soda. Can’t wear fall protection? Then by all means live up to your own standard and go hide that harness.

Stop. Give yourself the gift of less integrity.

Lie to yourself. (You are unlucky but not today)

Cheat and don’t live up to that (false) standard. (You are terrible at math, but not today)

Steal back your dreams. (Put down that soda and pick up that PFAS)


When your boss is ignorant

It began with a whisper.

“She doesn’t know anything about marketing.”

The two marketing managers were discussing the knowledge level of the new VP. She’s come out of operations 6 months ago to run a new division and hadn’t yet met with the marketing team (or even acknowledged them in the weekly meeting).

The junior marketing manager inquired, “Should we meet with her and explain the value of marketing and what it brings to the division?”

“No, they either ‘get’ marketing or they don’t. I’ve tried with previous VPs and it’s always the same.” replied the senior manager.


How about safety?

What does your boss know about EHS?

If every boss knew everything about safety and understood the value and priority of every data point related to EHS, what exactly would they need you for?

Who is responsible for your boss’s ignorance?

Your fly is down

Walking through the ASSE convention floor yesterday, I stopped by a vendor’s booth. We hadn’t met before and as I introduced myself, I noticed the zipper on his pants was down. As there were others around, I waited for a break in conversation to lean in and say, “Your fly is down.”

Embarrassing maybe, but not dangerous to health.

In safety we live in a world where difficult conversations must exist. How many times have we completed incident investigations with the thought, “If only they’d have spoken up” or “If only someone had said something”?

Are we building systems where people engage on challenging issues?

This is an essential question for organization success, not only for safety, but for necessary changes in operations, marketing, business development…and virtually every other facet of the company.

-Would your team tell you your fly is down and would you encourage/reward those who do?

-Would you tell your boss?

So the vendor pulled up his zipper and shook my hand.

Now where is the booth with the hand sanitizer?