“You want great leaders? Because That’s How You Get Great Leaders.”

Last week I was not only lucky enough to attend but also present at my employer’s first ever Leadership Summit. To say it was a success is a massive understatement. Am I biased because I work for the greatest company ever? Maybe a little. Towards the end of last year, our Executive Team met with the purpose of evaluating and defining the culture of the company. Extremely important to the future of any endeavor, this was phase one. Phase two takes us to the Leadership Summit. This was where we provided the knowledge to our front line leadership in just that, how to lead. We planned to provide them with the tools necessary to take that newly learned knowledge back to the field and convey it effectively to their folks. I could go on and on about the Summit (and perhaps I will later…) but for now, I’d like to impart some wisdom that I was honored to be able to share at the summit. Leadership Summit_2

Being a boss is easy. “do this… don’t do that”. My personal favorite… “because I said so”. It takes so much more than just being able to tell someone what to do. Being a LEADER is something completely different. I had a conversation with my oldest boy who has recently begun working for a very large restaurant chain that shall remain nameless. After picking him up and as we drove back to the house I could feel the frustration radiating off of him. He explained to me that his Manager ran the shift with a iron fist. Long story short… she was a BOSS. She preferred making demands to setting expectations and coaching. It is a popular misconception that in order for management to be successful, you only need to be able to delegate effectively. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Even a Drill Instructor, with all of their barking and yelling, has a grand plan. There is method to the madness. So by now I know you’re asking, “tell me, Dano… how do I become an effective leader?!” the truth is… I don’t know. What I CAN do is offer some insight into what has helped me on the path to success.

LEADERS MUST BELIEVE WHAT THEY TEACH

It’s a simple statement that can completely change the way your message is both delivered to and received by your team. Believing is ground zero. Many, many years ago I briefly worked for a manufactured home builder (that shall also remain nameless). I was hired on to sell said homes from a lot, not unlike a car dealership. After a rigorous and very effective sales training course, I was set loose to sell manufactured homes to the world. A few weeks had gone by and I was yet to make my first sale. One particular day a very clean cut gentleman pulled up to the sales office in a very VERY nice car. My lucky day, I was next up to bat. I greeted the Gentleman and asked how I could help him. He informed me that he had recently purchased some land on the lake and was looking to place a lake house on said property. I crinkled my brow and nodded my head. Quite the predicament… I sure hope I can help remedy your land without house quandary. Then he hit me with the bomb. “If we can find the right fit, I will be purchasing the home upFront”. I won’t bore you with the details but these homes were not cheap and without having to finance the purchase, that mean’t a boost in the office sales numbers as well as a hefty first commission for yours truly. I grinned ear to ear and took him to our top level homes to begin my polished sales pitch. As we walked through one of the more palatial homes, I described in great detail the expert craftsmanship, top of the line building materials and benefits of owning one of these fantastic domiciles. As I rambled on, all the while imagining what I was going to buy with my hefty commission, the gentleman held up his hand, the universal signal for, “stop talking”.  I stopped mid sentence. He raised an eyebrow and asked, “Let me ask you something, do you live in one of these?” That was easy. “Sir, with my wages I cannot afford such luxury. No, I rent from a family friend at a discount”. Check. “Okay, let me rephrase the question”, he retorted. “If you could afford it, WOULD you live in one of these?” I was stunned. I had no response other that a meek, “no”. Check and mate. The gentleman thank me for my time, walked out of the home, got into his very fancy car and drove away. Fifteen minutes later, I quit.

If you do not believe in what you are selling,  you will not be able to sell it. The key to being able to believe it is to understand fully what you are trying to sell to your team. If you just absolutely cannot buy into what you are selling, that’s okay! Find something you can. It’s amazing the things you can accomplish when you find something you believe in.

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LEADERS MUST TEACH WHAT THEY BELIEVE

You can draw diagrams, you can have charts and graphs but if you do not teach your team WHY, you are wasting your time. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, in their book Extreme Ownership, talk about helping your team see the big picture. This is critical to achieving effective results. Help your team understand. So many times I’ve seen team leaders receive a directive, then relay that directive to their team peppered with eye rolls and sighs. When the team fails to understand the reasoning behind the directive, they are told, “that’s just the way the higher ups want it, that’s just how it is”. The plan has failed before it even had a chance to flourish. There is a fantastic Ted Talk by Simon Sinek in which he discusses starting with the WHY when selling a belief. I don’t think there is a more accurate way to go about it. I won’t attempt to rehash what Mr. Sinek is trying to convey. Click the link, watch the talk. Be a mentor. Teach the why.

 LEADERS MUST PRACTICE WHAT THEY TEACH

We’ve all heard this before, perhaps worded a little differently but the idea is still the same; Do not ask your team to do anything you have not, would not or DO not do yourself. If you post a requirement that protective eye wear must be worn in a certain area and then do not wear protective eye wear in that area, you can guarantee that, after time, no one else will either. Integrity is a key ingredient to becoming an effective leader. Don’t just set the standard, BE THE STANDARD.

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Am I an expert? No. I struggle every day to become that better leader. At work, at home, as a parent, spouse and a member of the human race. I try every day to be a better person. The three tenets I’ve discussed here have helped make a noticeable difference. Hopefully they can do the same for you. If you have anything to add or would like to discuss further, let me know in the comments. Don’t forget to share and subscribe and as always…

Be safe.

Calling All Safety Nerds!

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Fancy yourself a writer? Want to get your message out there? I’m looking for other safety professionals and people enthusiasts that would like to contribute to The Safety Nerd!¬†Taking submissions now!

(This is a free gig. No pay. I know… you’re thinking, “how is this guy not raking in the cash with such an awesome website?!”)

Welcome to the 21st Century

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A little over a year ago, I was skimming through LinkedIn, perusing articles listing new safety guidelines, which professional certifications are better than others and who was hiring for what project where. All of a sudden, there it was… “Ten Things That Keep Safety Professionals Up at Night”. My eyes widened as my excitement grew. Yes, tell me these ten things so that, if I’m not already, I can be worried about them too! I don’t call this site The Safety Nerd for nothing. I clicked the link and settled back in my chair, prepared to be edified. My excitement quickly dissolved into disappointment when I realized, I had been duped. This was no article at all but an advertisement. I rolled my eyes as I read the opening line, “EHS Software for Sustainable Enterprises”. UGH. This is not what I wanted to… wait, what? As I read on, my excitement returned with a vengeance. Little did I know that a year later, this EHS software system was going to revolutionize my company’s Safety Department and the way I operate as a Safety Manager. This particular software system that would have such a profound effect on the way we operate is known as EHS Insight. So what exactly does EHS Insight do and how did it become such an instrumental tool in the revitalization of our safety program? Like most companies out there, we were relying on paper reports and text / email notifications. It had worked thus far but there had been system failures. Incidents sometimes didn’t get reported in a timely manner (or at all, on occasion). I learned that different sites had various versions of report forms and retrieving historical data was a gamble. Each site was responsible for the storage of safety related documents; reports, behavior based observations, job hazard analysis, safety audits, etc. There was no accountability. Almost immediately after integrating EHS Insight into out safety program, the difference was stunning. You’re probably asking by now, “What’s so great about this futuristic safety game-changer”. Allow me to explain.

  1. Mobile Capability – With the purchase of an EHS Insight subscription, users will have access to the app, which is offered for download in both the Apple and Android stores. Rather than waiting to sit down at a computer or find the proper paperwork, employees can utilize the app filling out forms or researching documents right from their mobile device. There is an added benefit of offline capability. Forms can be stored when working offline and sent when the device reconnects. Place the app on an intrinsically safe device and you now have real time information sharing directly from the field, straight to the corporate office.

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  1. Dash Board – As I run through all of the features of EHS Insight, the dash board is the unsung hero. As information is uploaded from sites across the US, the information is computed in real time and displayed for easy access. TRIR, DART, LTIR, etc. are all readily available and current.
  2. Incident Reporting – Should an incident occur, the responsible party completes an “Incident Notification”, which is automatically sent to all persons that have been pre-loaded into the notification group. You can determine who gets notified based on the severity of the incident as well. The incident report itself operates on a “see it when you need it” type format. What I mean is, the form builds as you answer questions related to the incident. Is it an injury? The form will change to include information regarding the injured person. Asset damage? The form will ask for asset information. The system will only ask you for information pertinent to the incident, which saves time and eliminates confusion. Once completed, the system will notify involved persons as to the progress of the report. Reports are stored and can be recalled whenever needed. Some added features of the incident report function is the communication log, used to track non-electronic communications regarding the incident. There is also the Corrective Action / Preventative Action (CAPA) feature, which I will explain shortly.
  3. Audits & Inspections – Such a simple title for such an invaluable tool. With the Audits & Inspection feature, you can build custom questionnaire forms. So far, I have built and employed a vehicle inspection form, field safety audit, office safety audit and fall protection component inspection forms. Our compliance department is about to start using this feature for their own program. You are only limited by your imagination. As with the incident reporting procedure, these forms are stored electronically and can be recalled at any time in the event of an audit. An Added benefit is the ability to run reports to show which sites have completed their required audits and inspections. In other words, instant accountability. You can create CAPA’s here as well. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget. I’ll get to it.
  4. Training Management – No more paper training files. A training profile can be built for every employee. Training can be requested or assigned through the system and once complete, tracked as well. A report can reveal shortcomings in training from a company level, site level or all the way down to the individual employee. A recently added feature is the ability to create and share computer based training courses.
  5. Mobile Library – Safety manual, safety data sheets, alerts, operating procedures, newsletters and just about any other document you would like your employees to receive instantly and have readily available. Let me give you a scenario. What does HSE Policy 24, section 1.2.1 say? Let me pull out my mobile device and tell you word for word. Did I mention it’s mobile? Yeah. It’s mobile.
  6. Work Observations РUtilizing the mobility and an intrinsically safe device, BBS observations can be performed in real time, electronically. Recorded information can be pooled with other gathered information for sites across the country and tallied to identify and address trends on a much larger scale.
  7. Corrective Action / Preventative Action – Ah… my new best friend, the CAPA. A few years ago I was providing safety oversight for a construction project. During a site audit I had found that an off-road vehicle was being operated without brakes. You read that correctly, no brakes. After some choice language and removal of the vehicle keys, I began my investigation. Come to find out, the employees had performed a daily inspection as they were required to do. They even filled out the paper inspection form. As I poured over days worth of inspection forms I found that they had recorded the lack of brakes for approximately 3 weeks. I found all of these inspection forms in a folder, buried among other folders, on the dashboard of the Supervisor’s truck. The forms were reviewed once they were sent to the field office… once a month. A deficiency that is recorded is only effective if accountability exists. Every form in EHS Insight offers the opportunity to create a CAPA, which is then assigned electronically to a specific person and is added to their task list until it is completed. Even better, CAPA tasks can be escalated, if you want to add extra accountability. You can also assign a review to ensure the CAPA is effective. Keep in mind that just like everything else with this software, it is mobile and the notifications are nearly instant. Accountability achieved.

Towards the end of last year I was invited to a “Deep Dive” audit by one of our clients. The Site Supervisor carried two banker’s boxes of historical paperwork into the audit, I carried my tablet. The client safety representative looked at me like I was a lunatic. By the end of the audit I was told that we had “a very mature safety program for such a small contractor”. I was also asked how they could get in touch with the makers of EHS Insight. My goal for the next Deep Dive audit is to ONLY carry in my tablet. Imagine, all the info you would need right at your finger tips.

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In closing I would like to say that I do not receive any compensation or favor from EHS Insight for singing their praises. They employ a tremendously helpful customer and technical support staff. The system is incredibly easy to use and extremely cost effective for the results. I’m just a happy customer and a fan. That being said, there are several companies out there that offer a similar product. Find what works for you and your program. If anyone out there has some input, I always love to hear it. If anyone would like to have more conversation regarding EHS Insight, let me know in the comments!

Be safe out there.