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My Safety Why

Eric Michrowski on Forbes Books Radio



This episode introduces my Safety Why. What is yours? It’s key to being a Safety Leader and to deliver results.

12 key proven credos to deliver the right safety outcomes.


Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams; their origin story puts the safety and well-being of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-Suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is The Safety Guru with your host Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized Ops and The Safety Guru public speaker and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now.

Hi, I’m Eric Michrowski, president and CEO of Propulo Consulting and host of his brand news podcast, The Safety Guru. I’ve been committed to changing the world of work and making it safer for people to come home to their loved ones for many decades. Today, with that commitment, we’re launching a different kind of leadership podcast. Our leadership podcasts focus on those who seek to leave a legacy while making sure that their team members stay safe every day. As a trailer says, real leaders leave a legacy that captured the hearts and minds of their teens; their origin story puts the safety and well-being of their people first.

Great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations for those companies; safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-Suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus today. I want to begin with my safety story. I remember it clearly like it was yesterday. It was a dark and stormy night. I was working in one of the world’s largest airline hubs, and the operations had come to several halts that night. We were struggling to get planes out safely, and lots of people were left disappointed, unable to get to their destinations.

These storms happen often in the airline industry, but this one was bigger than most and came suddenly. The sheer magnitude was unexpected. I was doing my best to run my part of the operation as best as possible. But we kept being pushed back with one red alert after the next red alert, the night was coming to an end, and I remember walking back to my office above the old airport terminal, tired and feeling like I hadn’t accomplished everything I could have that day.

As I was walking down the corridor, I noticed a man, a man in a yellow rain suit walking briskly behind me. He eventually caught up to me, and it was none other than the CEO. He called me by my name Eric and asked me that day to step up to a bigger role. That moment set my course in the safety world. There is no better place to learn about safety than the airline industry. It’s an industry that has learned so much from accidents and how to prevent them.

It’s an industry that has completely recognized that safety is not just a word that you put on a poster. But rather, it will make or break. Safety was ingrained into me from the first day I started in the airline industry. It was clear that everything was a priority that needed to be balanced, with one exception, safety. Safety was a prerequisite, a mass. You had to do everything at the highest level of safety with no compromise whatsoever. Pierde Aquafina and truth be told, airlines that have crashed too often have, the most part disappeared.

You just can’t compromise on safety. And I wish more industries looked at the airline industry to understand how to do it. Well. Rewind back a couple of years, and I was about to graduate from law school. And I was assigned to help on this legal aid case, someone had been injured at work and was on long term disability who was diagnosed with an injured his back that prevented him from lifting anything heavy. And they had to confine him to his home for many years until one day a private investigator showed up and took pictures of him in the forest, cutting down trees with an ax, then lifting these heavy logs and carrying them to his pickup truck before throwing them back into the truck.

The evidence was hard to refute, even if he kept begging to try to find a way to say that he was still personally injured. It was obvious that he was not legitimately off work, at least at that point in time. There was no argument that could refute the evidence, the insurance was obviously trying to claim that the injury had never been as serious as you claimed, but in the absence of any evidence prior to that point, we negotiate his benefits on the day of the pictures that an ethical dilemma pivoted me to change course.

After a lot of soul searching, I realized that I couldn’t live with the ethical gray zones of the legal profession. It was clear that I wasn’t going and doing good in this case. I was just finding a way to get out of the irrefutable proof. So that was the last day that I maintain, of course, of trying to become a lawyer. And on that day, I decided to change course. I could have been tainted by this person’s ethical lapses and gone on a hunt to control losses.

But instead, that pushed me more to reflect on how to help those that legitimately got injured to dedicate my business career to improving the world of work in a way that allowed people to come home every single day to their loved ones. Put this podcast isn’t about me. I spent decades leading various operational teams and finding ways to improve cultures. I found a secret source that gives real results in safety and operational performance. And it starts with a deep understanding of people and systems.

But this podcast is about speaking to real people that have either led through successful safety improvements to share their stories of success or speaking to experts in this field who have studied the safety and safety culture space in-depth to share their stories, their learnings, and their ideas for those that want to leave a real safety legacy. To many, safety podcasts are geared for experts and don’t speak to leaders or a dogmatic about one approach. And that doesn’t work. The fact is that safety is a leadership choice.

I cut my teeth in real-world operations where the rubber hits the road. I know what makes a business tick, and I want to create a voice for executives, for operational leaders that want to leave a legacy, a safety legacy. It’s time to move beyond trying to make safety a technical debate and move it to the border to have a real impact and drive real results, particularly in these incredibly challenging times that we are faced with today. That’s what I’m trying to do with this park.

Now, back to my story, I learned a few things for my safety journey. I learned a few critical things that matter and drive real results. Those are some of the credos that will come to life through this podcast. For the most part, No. One, people make choices. They make decisions that put them in harm’s way, nearly 90 percent of injuries of some degree of human error that contributed to that injury.

That’s a fact that it’s not about blaming the individual or trying to fix the person. Rather it’s about fixing the system that allows this to happen. A leader once told me that they were at-will and safe employers. In other words, they fire you if you make a mistake. That will lead you nowhere and fast. The only one that should be fired fast is that leader number three. All humans are imperfect by design. We are wired with a reptilian brain that was hardwired for different hazards.

It’s important for people to understand our limitations as a species and find ways to reduce the chance of error. Stop blaming of fixing the person. Start with a system and the leaders. Ninety percent of bad choices are caused by a system. That allowed. Number four, to make a real difference in safety, you do need to capture the hearts the minds of your people, shift their attitudes, beliefs, and mindset. We are asking for a more discretionary budget every moment.

It’s not just about behaviors. It’s about their attitudes, beliefs, and mindsets. There is no doubt that behaviors matter when it comes to seeing. But my number five credo is that it’s not just about behaviors, and too much emphasis has been placed on behaviors. As my number four-point identified, the attitudes of beliefs and the mindsets drive the behaviors. It’s a whole lot easier to understand behaviors, but it’s a lot harder to shift the mindset. But that drives success and sustainability.

If you have kids, you should understand this. You don’t teach your kids the behaviors they need to live. You teach them the values that they need to live by if you want them to be successful adults. That’s what you start with. Not just the behaviors, the same applies to safety. No safe sex, safety, and productivity are not opposing forces in business. That’s a limiting belief that is too often accepted in the safety space. You can balance safety, quality, and productivity.

They are complementary, and you need to look at these things together. Fighting for a safety-first mindset might be key at first but will set you back in the long term. Number seven, safety is not a specialization no more than operational excellence or quality. All try to achieve the same thing through different means. We need to stop building barriers between complementary expertise and work together to get meaningful real results. Number eight, a learning organization is the key to success in safety.

People need to see the value in it, and the systems need to drive extremely high safety, participation, and employ once sat on his retirement party. Thank you. You paid me well. I appreciate it for my entire career, but you could have had my brain for free. That safety participation, tapping into the brains of your teammates, and having an army of problem solvers to improve safety, but also quality and productivity. Number nine, we need to stop focusing on the one-time issues and focus on real trends. 

Quality spoke to this before safety, looking at control charts to start looking at which trends matter and driving action on those items versus trying to put Band-Aid solutions on everything. Number 10, safety doesn’t get fixed by creating more rules. Absolutely, you do need rules, but you can’t rely on it. You need people to be switched on and to think and to make the right choices every day. Number 11, our holistic approach to safety is essential. The charlatans that sell one tool that fits all are nothing but charlatans.

It’s not about behavior B safety. It’s not about human performance tools. It’s not about five steps that fix all your problems. There is no silver bullet. I cut my teeth in operations. If there was a silver bullet that fixes everything, the business would be easy, and we’d all be on a couch wondering what to do next. The fact of the matter is, safety is complex. Safety has many different drivers, and each system each fixed. Each solution needs to be customized to the needs of a business.

All those tools I mentioned are useful, but you need to look at things holistically, not trying to sell one tool. And finally, number 12 is that every incident can be prevented. And that’s a mindset we need to have every day in the safety space. I learned that lesson first when I learned to drive. The teacher was instilling in me this sense that if you start by thinking about how you could prevent every accident, you’re going to look at the world in a different way.

You’re going to look at who’s shifting. They’re driving around you. You’re going to start thinking about what could go wrong in your actions in a shift to make sure you never have an accident and knock-on wood with that mindset. I have never had an accident thus far. So why did I start with my wife for safety? Well, it’s simple because if you want people to do more for safety, you need to start by sharing why it matters to you, why you need to show up in a certain way.

I have never seen a great safety leader that didn’t have an incredible wife story, a story about why they wanted people to stay safe and show up differently, just like I had my lumberjack story. I met this incredible safety leader once who is telling me how he had started as a lumberjack swinging between trees, thinking he was invincible, and how one day he had an accident on a road and icy road in Alberta that changed his view on everything. And he realized at that moment that he wasn’t invincible.

Those stories are memorable for team members, and we’ll talk about this on another show, but you need to start thinking about your personal life for safety if you want to be successful and seek. In the next episodes, I will always feature a guest sign-up, keep coming back. Are you ready to leave your safety legacy? Distinguish yourself from the pack, grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your team members and fuel your future. and sign up to this podcast, and I look forward to hearing your comments and also your suggestions for great stories or great guests to bring them as part of your legacy.

The success story begins now. Thank you for listening to The Safety Guru. This is your host, Eric Michrowski. We know how many businesses have been impacted by the current covid-19 Black Swan event. Propulo has invested all its available capacity to create free resources for leaders on how to navigate this crisis. Whether you would like to explore some of our retools, subscribe to our free biweekly newsletter or seek free advice. I encourage you to visit covid. Black Swan dot com covid black swan dot com Propulo has committed not to profit from this crisis in any way.

It’s our way of giving back to the communities that we serve. Thank you. 

Thank you for listening to The Safety Guru on C-Suite radio. Leave a legacy, distinguish yourself from the pack, grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your team’s. Fuel your future. Come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops Eric Michrowski.

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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Leader | Speaker | Author

Eric Michrowski is a globally recognized thought leader and guru in Operations and Safety Culture Transformations. A highly sought-after Executive speaker on the global stage, he has led executive training programs, coached the C-Suite, and connected with thousands of Fortune 500 senior leaders. He has been featured on TV, in articles, and on Podcasts, hosts syndicated show on the premiere business podcast network, and has an upcoming ForbesBooks book to be published this year.

His approach is anchored in evidence-based research and practical applications in Human Performance, Process Excellence, and Organizational Change. He brings over 25-years hands-on experience in Operations Management, Culture & Business Transformations, and Safety having worked across a broad range of industries.

Across his work, he has achieved substantial improvements in Safety, Operational and Financial Performance, and Employee Engagement, always by incorporating Epic Cultures to maximize results and sustainability.

Looking forward to connecting with you!


Eric Michrowski

President & CEO of Propulo Consulting