Harvard Business Review’s Four Qualities of Top-Performing CEOs


If you thought integrity and a strong work ethic, you’d be wrong. (Actually, 100% of the low-performing CEOs were rated high for integrity and 97% had a strong work ethic.)

In a study published in the Harvard Business Review May-June 2017, researchers poured through a 10-year CEO Genome Study to track performance evaluations of 13,000 C-level executives, to include 2,000 CEOs, when compared with 30 management competencies. The authors are also releasing a book on the study entitled, The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors That Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders.

Of the highest-performing executives, here are the top four behaviors:

  1. Decisive: Those who were high performing were 12 times more likely to be described as deciding with speed and conviction.
  2. Engage with a results orientation: They don’t invest in being liked or in shielding the team from uncomfortable decisions, but these top-performers do build confidence with their team and have a “willingness” to engage in conflict.
  3. Adapt proactively: The highest-rated executives spent 50% of their time thinking about the future, compared with 30% for their peer group. They also measured very high for their ability to deal with setbacks.
  4. Consistent delivery: In what the researchers described as “…possibly the most powerful of the four essential CEO behaviors”, reliable production was key to executive selection. They set realistic expectations, go to work, and deliver every time.

Which of these qualities could you grow stronger in? Do any of these qualities conflict with how you see a top performer?

Link to HBR article.

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 josh@connectingehs.com.



Tabletop exercises are used in many organizations to test a hypothetical situation. In brief, tabletops pretend something is true then focus resources to solve the created problem.

For example, an oil drilling company may ask, “If there was a category 5 hurricane heading our way and we had 48 hours to prepare, what’s our plan?”

Tabletops clarify roles, validate training, measure improvements, and test procedural changes.

They also work for the individual.

Instead of a hurricane, let’s pretend something else is true. Something you really want. What’s your biggest goal right now in life?

Let’s pretend the goal is to quit your job and sail around the world for a year. (Don’t like boats? Feel free to use your own method of travel for this tabletop.)

Ask yourself, “What would have to be true for me to quit in August of 2019 and sail for one year?”

  • You’d need a year of living expenses. How much would that be? How could you earn or save that amount?
  • You’d need access to a boat (rented, bought or borrowed).
  • You’d need to learn to sail. Where could you get lessons?
  • You’d need charts and a plan for circumnavigation.

When you pose the right question, your mind fills in the rest.

You can use this one technique to simplify a process (What would have to be true to accomplish this project in 20% of the allotted time?); to earn a huge promotion (What would have to be true for me to be the top performer and most qualified member of this organization?); and even to change your life (What would have to be true for me to live in Fiji in 2019?).

What will you tabletop?


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!   



When your 22-year old shows back up (or “How To Spin Your Wheels in Safety)


The knock on the front door is light at first and almost tentative. Upon opening the door, you see him. Your son, standing on your porch with a sad face and a large duffel bag.

He’s back.

And whether it’s that he can’t find a job, left college early, had four jobs in the past two months and can’t find his purpose, or he finished college and quickly found the undergraduate degree in history largely unappealing to employers paying above minimum wage, he’s once again spending the night under your roof.

Your feelings may go from being happy to see him, to a bit sad, to somewhat disappointed, to maybe even feeling some angst about the future.

It’s also how most EHS programs run. We spend a majority of our time putting out fires, brainstorming ways of redirecting ingrained habits and behaviors of 22-year olds (and older), searching for injury causes that we know began with learned behaviors years ago, and feeling angst about the future.

Financial author Emily Guy Birken writes on the subject of parenting and money habits. She says that if you want to teach your kids about entitlement, give in to their tantrums. If you want your children to spend money quickly and develop a scarcity mindset, tell them “we can’t afford that”, instead of teaching them to prioritize spending. If you want your son or daughter to rely on your paycheck, solve every problem for them instead of letting them be disappointed. And finally, if you want them to see work as a chore, then let them hear you complain about your job every week, dreading Mondays and celebrating Fridays, instead of celebrating purposeful work with a spirit of gratitude.

What does financial advice to young children have to do with EHS? Everything.

What are your newest employees learning right now? What are they learning in the first week, month, and year on the job about acceptable behaviors, attitudes and safe practices in your organization? Is the experience and training purposeful, reliable, and does it encourage and filter the best in the worker…or do they just “figure it out?”

How do we as a profession spend less time redirecting the person on the porch and more energy and attention in molding the future?


Can A Single Word Improve Safety Culture?


Is there a difference between these two phrases?

I can’t work without fall protection” and

I don’t work without fall protection

Research says there is a big difference…and it might affect your EHS culture.

Published in the Journal of Consumer Research, a team of researchers experimented with the words “don’t” and “can’t” in an effort to measure goal accomplishment and empowerment. In one case study, researchers tracked three groups of participants in a 10-day health and wellness program. One group was told to use phrases such as “I don’t miss a workout”, another was to use “I can’t miss a workout” and a control group was not instructed in any way.

The results were incredible.

In the “I don’t” group, 8 out of 10 completed the full 10 days. In the “I can’t” group, 1 out of 10 persisted and 3 out of 10 did so in the control group.

Are people in your organization using “I don’t” or “I can’t”?

Could a shift in phrasing influence EHS compliance, drive down unsafe shortcut taking, and increase the capacity for safe work at your company?

Link to full research paper here.

Why You’ll Quit This Year


Maybe you made New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you didn’t but still made an internal commitment to yourself about that thing you’ve put off for too long. This is the year, right?

Here’s why you’ll quit.

  1. You added something but didn’t take anything away: We each have 24 hours in a day and they are packed already. If your goal is to add something, you must take something else away. Have a goal to do something? Great. Now make an agreement with yourself to give up something else.
  2. You told someone: There is research that shows that when we share a positive goal (a goal to do something), it provides us with the feelings and emotions of actually accomplishing the goal, leading to less motivation to actually do anything. Solution? Don’t share positive goals. However, sharing a negative goal (losing weight, quitting smoking) can help as it provides strong external accountability.
  3. You didn’t feel anything: If a goal doesn’t fill you with strong emotions when you think about it, it’s worthless. Goals work because they have the capacity to drive and focus emotions towards behavior change. If you don’t feel, you’ll quit. Derek Sivers says it best here.
  4. You forgot “cue, routine, reward”: Charles Duhigg details the steps to changing a habit in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. This may be the single best way to NOT quit this year.
  5. It’ll get hard: One month from now, you won’t feel like it. It’ll get hard, you’ll receive criticism, progress will slow down, and you’ll walk blindly into Reason # 6. (Spoiler alert: it’s supposed to be hard if you’ve chosen goals that matter. No one gets to the end and remarks proudly on all the easy things they’ve accomplished.)
  6. You’ll rationalize it away: You don’t really want the goal do you? You’ll tell yourself all the logical reasons it’s not meant for you. You aren’t smart enough, tough enough, motivated enough, in the right job, state, country, healthy enough…you’re just not enough. So you’ll quit.
  7. Your goal is not visible: You wrote down a goal and it’s in a Word document or hidden in that journal. If you want to quit, keep it there. However, if it’s important, make it visible. Put it in 72 point font on your office wall. Tape it to your dashboard and to the back of your phone. Put a copy in your wallet and make it your screensaver. Look at it every morning and before bed at night.

Knowing why you’ll quit might just help you pull it off and succeed.

Will you quit?


Why would you stay in the military with a CSP and a Master’s degree for enlisted pay?


In Air Force Safety, we hire (cross-train) 45 active-duty and up to 70 Guard/Reserve Airmen annually. They’ve typically been in the military 4 to 6 years and are looking for a job with both military and civilian future potential. Their first safety training is at Lackland Air Force Base, where the safety students learn from some of the best military safety instructors in the business.

Somewhere in the 6-week course, they learn that a CSP earns $109,000 on average. I have the opportunity to meet with many of the students, and inevitably, the question arises;

“Why did you stay in for enlisted pay if EHS pays so well on the outside?”

(NOTE: The questioner is usually great at math and appreciates an answer with more numbers than emotions.)

My favorite Department of Defense actuarial report (don’t roll your eyes yet) is the “STATISTICAL REPORT ON THE MILITARY RETIREMENT SYSTEM”. Published each fiscal year (FY16 is the latest report), it details the cost of military pay and retirement plans.

Some highlights I like to use to answer this question:

An E-7’s retirement at 20 years of service is worth $689,299, or $2,181 a month for life (with cost-of-living increases.) To build up such a high lump-sum, the E-7 would have had to save $1,645 a month for 20 years!

An E-9’s retirement at 20 years of service is worth $862,177, or $2,728 a month for life (with cost-of-living increases.) To build up such a high lump-sum, the E-9 would have had to save $2,058 a month for 20 years!

Using that math, when an E-6 separates from the military for a larger civilian CSP salary, at the 8 or 10 year mark, they are giving up between $689k and 862k in pension benefits alone (not including healthcare, etc.)! To make up this pension difference in a civilian safety career, if they got out after 8 years (and would have retired as an E-7) they would have to save $3,400 a month at 6% interest. That’s nearly $41,000 a year for 12 years. That level of required savings takes a lot out of the $109,000 average CSP salary!

Bottom Line? Even with the 2018 changes in military retirement (Blended Military Retirement), the military’s defined benefit pension is a fantastic option for the safety professional looking to make a difference in the military and in their career path by choosing higher education/credentialing.

Some of my other favorite parts of the DoD report:

  • They know when you’re going to die (on average): Page 283/284
  • They know where you live (state and country): Pages 28 and 33
  • Should you take the Survivor Benefit Plan? Here’s the actuaries’ own calculator (Excel file) to tell you the probability of it paying off for you.

There are MANY reasons to continue to serve (and separate) after achieving advanced degrees and certifications.

How did you make your choice?

If Your Goals For 2018 Seem Too Big, Try This


The first year I signed up for the Bataan Memorial Death March, I included it on my list of annual goals.

And I almost failed.

After the 26-mile march through the New Mexico desert, my feet were blistered and raw and I was dehydrated. The next few days were spent hobbling as my feet slowly healed.

The following year, I broke down the goal into the vital two parts. My feet and hydration.

First, my feet needed to be tougher. I began to walk around the house and even down the road to the mailbox barefoot. In my conditioning hikes, I chose more uphill and downhill routes to encourage blisters and the subsequent toughening of my soles.

And I pre-hydrated. For 72 hours before the Bataan, I drank as much water, coconut water, and electrolytes as I could stomach.

Did it work? Emphatically, yes. The second year, I didn’t even have a red spot on my feet, let alone a blister. I was a little dehydrated post-race, but it was nothing like the first year. (If you have tips on avoiding dehydration, feel free to shoot me an email.)

How about your goals? How could you break down your 2018 goals into the critical parts? For example, if your goal is promotion in the military, try this. Instead of focusing on the promotion itself, focus on a daily study habit. Or instead of a goal of running a 5k, focus on running (any amount) 4 days a week. Even if it’s only 100 yards (this really does work).

Want to Bataan in 2018? Early registration (at a reduced priced) ends today (31 Dec 17).

College and Certification Hacks for the Military Safety Professional

(Note: While written for the uniformed safety professional, many of the tips below work for a variety of situations.)

There are many ways to complete and pay for college and professional certifications. Here are a few I’ve personally used, how much I saved, and a link for more information.

  1. College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams: With 33 exams available for free to service members, this is a must-do for college credit. Between DANTES (next tip) and CLEP, I took 30 (passing 28) exams, which put a huge dent in the credits required for my under-grad degree. Estimated savings: $2,040 ($85 x 24 CLEP exams) and at least 18 months of class-time.
  2. Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES): Offering 38 exams through DSST, these exams also confer free college credit similar to CLEP. Estimated savings: $480 ($80 x 6 exams) and at least 6 months of class-time.
  3. Tuition Assistance (TA): Each service member receives $4,500 per fiscal year to use toward an accredited undergrad or graduate degree. If the $4,500 isn’t used, it virtually disappears with end of the fiscal year. I earned both a bachelors and a masters using TA to fund 95% of the cost (5% was out-of-pocket book costs.) Estimated savings: $38,000 (15 undergrad and 16 graduate classes)
  4. Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL): Each service member receives $4,500 (career cap) towards certification preparation, exam, and annual fees. Certifications are limited to those in your career field if you’re an E-1 through E-6. For E-7 through E-9, the funds can be also used for leadership certifications (PMP, Green Belt, etc.). I earned many of my certifications before COOL came out, but took three exams using COOL in the past two years. Estimated savings: $2,000 (study books and exams)
  5. Deploy: The Institutes has a military program where they provide discounted and free (for deployers) study material and exams for their credentials. While there are multiple certifications available, I chose to complete the Associate in Risk Management-Enterprise Risk Management (ARM-E) and the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) during a couple of my deployments. Estimated savings: $6,200 (12 exams plus study material)
  6. Stop paying annual certification dues: Per DoDI 6055.01 Enclosure 3 para 4.d.(1), your service is authorized to pay annual certification fees (and pay for the certification preparation and exams). Estimated savings: $1,200 (3 years and 10 annual fees)
  7. No application fees: The Board of Certified Safety Professionals waives the $160 application fee for government employees (including military). Estimated savings: $500 (4 exams at various fee schedules)

Total estimated savings: $50,420 and nearly two years of class-time.

Which have you used to hack your college and/or certifications?

What have you used that I’ve left out of the list above?