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From Fighter Pilot to Airline Pilot: Lessons in Human Performance with Brandon Williams

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski: Episode 26 - From Fighter Pilot to Airline pilot: Lessons in Human Performance with Brandon Williams

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Safety is a cornerstone of the airline and aviation industry. Our guest Brandon Williams, founder of LeadTac, adjunct professor, F-15 fighter and airline pilot, started his career in the U.S. Air Force. Brandon highlights the importance of considering human factors and mitigating human error using a systems based approach. Listen to learn how to implement Human Factors Leadership and peer accountability to reduce human errors and improve safety performance.

To learn about Human Performance: https://www.propulo.com/hop/

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The Safety Guru Ep 26 – From Fighter Pilot to Airline Pilot Lessons in Human Performance with Brandon Williams

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. But 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 safety guru, public speaker and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? your legacy success story begins now.

Hi, and welcome to the safety guru. today. I’m very excited to have with me, Brandon Williams. Brandon is a results-oriented leader, a business speaker. And the reason we’re bringing him on the show today is he’s got some amazing experience. Back in the day he was in the US Air Force, f 15. fighter pilot has deep expertise in human factors, in fact, worked in the Air Force around safety is also a joint Professor on the topic of human factors, as well as a few others that are related to safety. So, Brandon, welcome to the show. Really happy to have you with me today.

Thanks, Eric. I appreciate it and humbled to be invited to be on the podcast. And always happy to talk about safety, human factors or leadership or any all the above. So, thank you. Excellent. So maybe why don’t you start in a little bit about some of your background as a fighter pilot, but also how it evolved into flight safety airline pilot in the passion you have for it? And particularly for this topic that’s so critical around human factors and understanding human error.

Absolutely. Well, I went to the United States Air Force Academy. So that’s where I got ever since I was a little boy, I want to be a pilot, I think. So, I come from the Atlanta, Georgia area, I still live here. Now my wife and two small children, by going to the Air Force Academy graduating out of there, went on to Air Force pilot training. And that was probably my first exposure to, you know, what, what we call hrs high reliability organizations. So, getting into that world, and that’s where it first started, I would say, whether you want to talk about my aviation experience, or flying or safety or anything like that, it really started there.

Go on Air Force pilot training went on to fly at 15 ease, like you said, I served 12 years active duty in that time, in addition to being a pilot, also was involved in flight safety. So, I went to the Air Force flight safety School, which qualified me to be a what they call a safety officer. So, every unit, every organization in the flying organization in the Air Force, has a safety officer whose job it is to, you know, maintain and monitor run safety programs, you’re qualified to do safety investigations or mishaps, so your part of a Safety Board, and you come up with recommendations and, and do all that. So that was really a fun experience getting to do that, and seeing a whole other side of that.

But also served in several leadership roles in my time in the military. You know, common misconception, I think is as fun as it would be just to fly airplanes. And that’s it, you know, military organizations like anything else. So, we still have budgets and programs and people to manage. And, you know, you name it all the no fun stuff, if you will. So, several leaders, several leadership roles, they’re leading people in organizations got out of active duty, like I said, after about 12 years, went into the Air Force reserves just part time. And at that time, I also was kind of at a crossroads of what I was going to do. Part of me wanted to go into the business world, start my own business, go into some kind of management, consulting, or even safety related and because I had that experience, turn, and the other part of me wanted to go be an airline pilot, and still start my own business. So that’s, that’s actually what I ended up doing. Kind of the best of both worlds, I guess.

So, I have been a pilot at a major airline for several years now. And also started I also got into actually management, consulting leadership development. Around that time, did that for about seven or eight years, still do that off and on involve workshops, keynote speaking, strategy, consulting, and then started my own business called lead tack, which is leading tactically, and that really involves taking the idea of human factors and a lot of those things we talked about, as in the air force training as a fighter pilot, how we operate in complex environments, and how that it’s kind of two sides to it. I go and I talk to businesses and companies and all different industries, just taking business leaders, how they lead from human factors perspective to how we can help them mitigate error in their teams, kind of taking those aspects of HR is higher. Lobby organizations and taking that to a business setting or any kind of team. And then also, I still stay in the human factor safety world. So, things we’re talking about, and how we establish, you know, these ideas of human factors, how we mitigate human error, all kinds of different stuff. I’m sure we’ll talk about some of it here. But it involves that too. And then for the last 10 years, I’ve also, as you said, I’ve also been an adjunct professor, where I’ve actually designed and built and I teach safety courses, human factors, courses, some other aviation courses and management courses. So, a lot of stuff going on. But you know, it’s awesome, because I think I’m the luckiest people in the world because I would get to wake up and kind of do, you know, a lot of stuff that I’ve always wanted to do. So that’s me and my background. And yeah, the Air Force gently set that up. And I mean, set the stage clearly for what I do now. That’s awesome. So, can you talk about human error? Can you share a little bit about that concept? Because I think when we first connect to the part that’s always impressed me is airline aviation has probably done the most leaps and bounds of any sector in understanding where human error is going to happen? And how do you reduce the risk of doing it? So, I started the airline industry as well, I got to see it firsthand. It’s a, it’s a very different mindset. So, talk a little bit about this concept of human error and how it transposes to businesses that often blame the individual as opposed to try to think about what’s the right thing? and air? We all make errors. We all make mistakes. Absolutely. You just set it there. Right? There are two errors human right. I mean, that’s what makes us human. Yeah, um, you know, a lot of times in modern society, and you hear people that want to fix human error by saying, well, we’ll take the human out of the process, put more technology into it, which don’t get me wrong, technology is definitely way to mitigate, Your Honor. Absolutely. However, you know, when you look at it from a human factor standpoint, and how you want to really reduce human error, the human is seen more as a as a variable that can actually affect change, for the better, if that makes sense by helping reduce human error. And there’s many different ways. That’s a simple way to put it. But that’s kind of my approach to what I call human factors, leadership. And like you said, the aviation world, I think, kind of, in a way led a lot of this. I mean, and I think the reason why that was the 1970s, early 80s, when the jumbo airliner was, you know, at its heyday, a lot of them were coming on, you would have an airline crash. And you think back to event, I just think anything about aviation, you know, the names of Tenerife, if you say that, you know exactly what that is referring to the major accident that happened there in the 70s. Yeah. And so that that accident actually is cited, a lot of times it’s kind of a water, and there was a few of those around that time, major aircraft accidents. And for those out there not familiar it was basically the world’s worst commercial airline disaster involve each aircraft colliding on a runway essentially, that’s for people that are 247. They couldn’t get bigger than that. Absolutely, but the astonished thing about that is there’s two things. So that is number one. Around that time, we realize our experts in aviation will realize Wait, guys, and we can’t afford and we cannot let you know, we can’t have a loss of life of 200, some 300, some 500 people, I mean, we got to stop what we’re doing. Something’s not right, because we’ve had aviation accidents since the beginning of aviation. Right. And the classic approach was like you were talking about the blame and train right, like, Well, clearly, the pilot made an error that was it, tell people not to do that, again, problem solved, right, go about your day. Well, around this time, we started realizing that’s not working. And we can’t afford to keep operating on this. And this is where the idea of, of human factors and how we mitigate human error from a systems-based approach Sure, really comes into play. And when I when I say systems based, I mean, instead of the blame and train approach, focusing on the one individual human error, as you know, and people in your world know, mishaps don’t just happen because of one decision, there is a chain of events that lead up to a mishap. So, a system-based approach is looking at the entire system. So, the or, and how that’s how we may define that. That’s the organization, the culture, the leadership, the resources, the and as far as the Human Factors part, the actual state of that human being. So, you’re talking psychological factors, fatigue train, I mean, there’s so many different things that go into that. And so how do we mitigate that? And so big picture, what my model does, and what human really does the study of human factors is, is looking at mitigating human error from a systems-based approach. So how do we put those stop gaps in the system? Because that because rarely, I mean, if ever in our society now, professional organizations, does anybody show up to work and speak.

I’m not going to bring a game today. I’m not going to I’m not going to do that just does it really happen? I mean, there’s sure there’s isolated cases, but that just typically doesn’t happen. So, when we talk about bad apples, or we talk about, you know, bad performers or bad actors, a lot of times that’s, that’s human error. And that’s not mitigate. And that’s any industry. It’s not just high reliability or high reliability organizations. Yep. It’s not just safe aviation. It’s not just the medical world, it’s, you know, any kind of business or any kind of team you lead. And like you said, the aviation world kind of led that because I think we were kind of forced to, because it gets a lot of attention when you crash an airplane, unfortunately, medical world, which they have caught up and they’re doing better, they’re still behind us a little bit. But, you know, hospital, sadly, I mean, you expect people to, unfortunately pass away in a hospital. So, it didn’t really get the attention that it deserved. And I think when medical kind of the health, health, health and medical world kind of caught up with that and said, hey, look at what, you know, the aviation rules, look at what the military and the aircraft carrier look at what they do look at nuclear power industry is another what they do, you know, why can we not take some of these in there, and they’re doing that now, they’ve been doing that for a while, but it’s getting there. But anyway, yeah, that the whole idea of human errors, like you said, and, you know, if you if you look up the definition of human error, it, it’s kind of one of those things, it’s like saying, how do you define leadership? Or how do you define culture?

You know, there’s so many studies on it, it’s probably one of the most, the best ways to describe it is it’s really an unintentional outcome based on human action, unintentional human action, even that one didn’t really capture it truly. But human factors in the idea of human factors leadership, what I do in the study of human factors is really looking at human error from a systems-based approach. That’s great. So, it gets into just culture, which is often linked in terms of themes. How do you create a just culture? What is it good jazz culture? And how do you start creating it?

Right, so adjust culture is really again, I talked about the blame and train approach to management or blame a train approach to mitigating human error, they just culture environment as a kind of the exact opposite of that. So, you instead of living in, in, in fear, a fear of retribution, fear of what can happen if we point out mistakes, or errors or gaps in the system, a just culture encourages that. And the whole idea behind that is because, sure, if you can’t identify those gaps, if we cover them up, or we don’t talk about them, or we don’t bring them up, well, then guess what I mean, bad things are going to happen. You know, you see this a lot in the business world still, because, you know, they may lose some money, but they’re not going to lose life, most likely, if these errors keep happening, and they, whether it’s, you know, your own self-preservation, you know, trying to protect loyalty, or loyalty to someone else, an organization to a team, you know, trying to just push through it, you know, you name it, you really don’t see this a lot. I mean, in organizations, businesses are so different their cultures, but you just don’t see this idea of just culture because that, again, I relate it back to flying in the air force, and a fighter squadron, you know, what I call it a just culture. In terms of, you know, there was this idea, this environment, that every time after we landed, every time after we flew a mission, we went in a room, we conducted what’s called an open, honest debrief. You know, like I talked about the difference between a debrief and investigation or difference between a just culture and a culture that looks at investigation. So again, you know, what is an investigation? You know, you’re trying to find blame, you’re trying to assign blame to someone, right? Well, just culture is just the opposite, that we’re not we’re not Nestle concerned about the blame. Yes, we want to fix it, we want to find the root cause. But we’re concerned about, you know, fixing the system, right? Again, going back to a system-based approach, how do we find those errors? How do we find those gaps in systems so that the team or whoever else does this next time doesn’t, doesn’t make the same mistakes, the same errors, the same ideas, and establish and adjust culture? Going back to that? You know, how do we do that? Well, there’s several ways I talked about when I work with my clients, but, you know, it’s like anything else? Where does most stuff always start any kind of change, especially when you have the word culture starts at the top? Right? So, when you have team leaders, leaders of an organization, you know, C suite types VPS, you know, you name it, and even especially, and I think even more importantly, informal leaders because I think a lot of times, they have more influence than to those formal leaders, for sure. You know, when those leader whoever is in those leadership positions, whatever in everybody’s leader, in some sense, like I was saying, when you step up, and you can admit your shortcomings and you can see that when you go and go in a room and you talk about what went wrong, when people see you take that, that feedback or when you admit your own errors, or you even more so when somebody you know, someone in your team, you know, has some missteps or whatever, when we don’t we there’s no retribution, but we say, Okay, let’s find out why this happened. And it’s not Eric’s fault. Let’s find out what was going on that day. So, we look at the environment, you know, maybe Eric, you know, wasn’t on the right team, maybe his teammates that were assigned to him were way too inexperienced for this, this job or this project? Maybe Eric wasn’t getting all the information he needed. You know, maybe Eric has some, you know, personally, she’s going at home affecting his his personal stat, you know, because that’s a huge, huge part of human factors is, you know, a lot of times what we miss, especially in the business world, that I found exactly opposite of what I experience in the military is we just show up and work with each other, and we have no idea what is going on in someone else’s life.

You know, outside of work, which, you know, not that you’re trying to pry, right, it’s getting to know people it’s getting and that goes back to other stuff that that we may or may not get into here later, is when you talk about mutual support and morale and everything like that, how do we establish that it’s really about getting, you know, how you drive this culture of mutual support, and getting to know everyone you work with peer accountability, all that kind of stuff, but it just culture really centers around, you got to see leaders that establish that you got to see leaders that are support that so someone brings something up, you know, we’re, we’re going to take that input, we’re going to fix the system, we’re not going to blame and train the person. And the other way, you know, when I when I put a slide up, last thing, I’ll talk about just culture, when I talk about it to a group, I’ll typically have a slide and it’ll say, three words on or three ideas. One is decentralized execution. One is pure accountability. And the other is that open honest debrief I talked about, you’ve got kind of arrows pointing to all of them. And the reason those are all important, I talked about the open honest, deeper, if that’s where we get our feedback loop, right. That’s where we get the where we did have our missteps, how we’re going to fix it. decentralized execution is leadership backed autonomy. So that trust you’re putting out as a leader, so people know that you have their back. Because we all know that one of the biggest motivating factors is autonomy. And then finally, pure accountability, which is the idea that it’s not the bad word accountability, where bosses are running accountability, but the idea that, you know, that mutual support idea that where I’m not going to do a bad job, not because, you know, I don’t want to look bad. I mean, that is one of the reasons but also, I don’t want to like Eric down, I don’t let the team down. If I don’t do my job or my role, then that looks bad on Eric. And I know, Eric, I know his family. I don’t want him to, to suffer for that. So, you know, he has these three main parts that goes into Joe’s culture, you know, a lot of things that go into that. But that’s kind of the big picture behind it, if you will, yeah. And I think you brought out a lot of really important points. And I want to double click on your peer accountability comment, I get that comes up a lot of conversations I have with the boardroom level. It takes a lot, though, to create the psychological safety for people to speak out. Like I remember the airline industry, pilots are comfortable raising issues. It’s like I fell asleep, we both fall asleep. And a raise those themes, so something can get done. A lot of businesses, I remember one organization, a mining organization, he had mining, you know, those huge trucks on the periphery of an open pit, and they would regularly tumble down regularly, maybe a couple times a year. Right. And it happened for several years, because nobody actually had the comfort to say, I blinked I fell asleep. Right, which is something that you’d have as a given in the airline industry. Is that comfort to share those things? Because otherwise nobody would know same as in that truck. Nobody knew what happened. There’s only one operator there. So how do you create that?

Well, you know, going back to the Well, first of all, again, I’ll go back to you’ve got to have leadership buy in on it. Okay, so you can’t just say, hey, from now on, when you point out stuff, I’m not going to you know, let’s point out to be open, honest. I mean, we see we see that cheap, right? I mean, you see that all the time, where, Hey, open door policy, you told me anything. And then next thing, magic as you, you know, you told him this wasn’t a good idea. So that’s the first thing is Who do you have, you know, in certain roles that are going to establish and allow that autonomy, right? Right. Because, you know, allowing that autonomy, knowing that my superior whoever that may be, has my back, if they’re going to allow Give me that decentralized execution authority, that ability to go and make autonomous decisions. That’s the first thing. Because when we know that people have our back, you know, what, I think we’re more willing to admit, we’re more willing to drive that peer accountability, if you will. Because we know that someone trust us to do this. Therefore, I’m going to do the best I can and I want my team to do that way. So, I’m going to drive some that appear accountable.

The other thing I go back to is I think about pure accountability in a flying organization in the military. So, I think about kind of fighter squandered right now, we talked about the military.

You know, a lot of people think, Oh, well, the military, you know, you did it, because you were told to your order to do stuff, you know, everybody. Okay? Well, yes, we do have a rank structure. And that’s where a very important reason in a military unit, however, first of all, I don’t ever remember being you know, like, in the movies, you see, you know, ever being told or ordered, you know, you will do this right, order you to do this. I mean, we don’t, right. I don’t think we’ve had firing squads in the military for several year, you know, you know, things like that, for years, I think. So, I think back on it, and there was just this idea this, this kind of couldn’t put your just put your finger on it, that and this is flying or non-flying, like I said, we had many jobs we did outside of flying, you know, running in the organization, running programs, you know, things like that. So, when I think back on it, I say what was it? And I think it goes back to this idea, again, that, because of how we train the idea of mutual support, right, established through morale, and again, getting to know people, because a lot of times in the military, you know, at least in a flying Squadron, the people you work with a lot of times the people you play with to so you, you naturally got to know these people, and these are the people you got to work with, you know, their families know their kids.

And so, you build that camaraderie morale, which helps enforce that peer accountability, because it’s not the kind of accountability where you’re, hey, do this or else, it’s the kind of accountability that you’re saying, you’re picking somebody up, because when they’re having a bad day, or when they’re having a misstep, you’re going to step in, provide that mutual support. Because you, because you want them one day to help you out as well. I mean, you want them to see that, because you’re going to have your days as well. So, I think it all goes back to number one, starting at the top, you know, talk is cheap, make let them see you do that. Let them see you support people, let them see you take accountability for your own actions as a leader as well, because I mean, there’s nothing more demoralizing though later than either a can admit when they’re wrong, or even worse, will blame their team for someone they’re wrong. And so, you know, that that’s the first thing. And then the second thing is establishing that, that mutual support within organizations establishing that idea of camaraderie, and, you know, the idea of morale and how we get to know each other. And there’s simple things, just one example. I mean, you know, now, with a lot of people working remotely, and business organizations, especially, you know, it’s a little tougher, we have to make a little bit more of an effort to do that. But even we weren’t working remotely, let’s be honest. I mean, you go to the office, go to your job, I mean, you may see somebody at the watercooler or something like that, right. But it’s like, you know, when you have some time, you know, detach. Nobody likes Mandatory Fun, but encouraging these, you know, whether it’s gotten togethers in the office, or just take 1520 minutes, get the team together and just talk about non-business-related stuff. I mean, Hey, how’s it going? What’s going on your life? You know, what’s, how are things going, I heard your dad was in the hospital, how’s that, you know, things like, I mean, getting to know people, and really establishing that, that, that core or know each other. And then the other thing, I’ll bring an exam from the airlines, one thing we’ve done is basically voluntary reporting. And it’s not even necessarily anonymous, um, we call them Aviation Safety action report. So, say something happens, right? And so, we say, you know, we’re flying along, and let’s say we miss an altitude or missile radio call, and we catch it and nothing bad really happens. We keep going about our day, right? Well, back in the day that have been Okay, great. Let’s just keep going. You know, nobody knows about it. Right? Well, now, not only is it you know, it’s encouraged to say, Hey, you know, report that put those up in one way. It’s, it’s, it’s encouraged by saying, hey, look, if you report this and come forth with this, you know, now say you make a make a minor missed out, or make good, a major misstep. And you put this report in, you’re essentially, you know, you’re kind of raising your hands and hey, look, I messed up, here’s what happened. Here’s what we did. And so now with all the data that are on airplanes, so they can see everything we do, almost, I mean, they get all this data that comes back, they can monitor another key point of safety program. When they when you come back and say, hey, look, here’s where we messed up, your kind of fessing up, you know, right away saying, look, we’re not trying to hide this. Here’s that. So, it’s almost like, you know, we’re not going to come down on you for something like this, especially if you report now, if there’s willful disregard different termination. I mean, that’s a different story. But for the most part, all these are and we get 1000s in my own company, we get 1000s and 1000s of these per year of pilots reporting mistakes there and it’s not anonymous. I mean, they see your name they see you know, who it who did it, but it’s a great reporting for him because what it’s done is it showed a lot of gaps in the system. So, they can fix the system. They can, you know, go back and so we don’t make those mistakes.

Good. But again, it’s about a culture that says, Look, if you can, if we can identify this stuff early up, you know, early on, when these things happen, you know, you’re not going to get slapped on the wrist for this, you’re not going to get any job action taken, obviously, again, you know, there’s a 1% if it’s willful, you know, disregard or something. Yeah.

I was exceptions, but for the most part, that’s one great example of how you, you kind of identify that and bring some of that pure Cambodian Yeah, and love you turn around peer accountability, because a lot of people see this as removing accountability, but it’s not it’s creating a different level, right? ability around it, right. And the reason I say that is because I think accountability gets a negative connotation times, you know, a lot of times it’s, I kind of call it the, you call it the vice print and vice principal approach, Vice Principal, and, you know, school was always kind of the, the hammer, the one that was always winning, right? So, when you think of accountability, always kind of think of advice principle that, you know, the one that’s do this, or else kind of approach, you know, if you don’t do this, you going to get fired or whatever. Versus peer accountability, which is that kind of accountability, that is, is maintained with your peers, your colleagues, even subordinates are superior. I mean, it doesn’t really matter rank. Right ci, again, IT systems-based thinking we’re all trying to accomplish the same mission, the same task.

The same objective, Harvard Business view, actually did a study where they said that in poor performing teams, there’s no accountability in mediocre teams, bosses drive accountability, but no high performing teams, peers and colleagues enforce that accountability. Exactly. And I think there’s an interesting pivot here, because I think a lot of organizations part of the struggle when you talk about that peer accountability and sharing things is, if I think about two pilots, they both realize that they need each other to support and you’ll have the first officer calling the captain at a rank, if he sees something or she sees something that’s, that’s inappropriate, or sees a potential error, right? Where, whereas I’ve seen that sometimes it gets called brother’s keeper, but that’s not the intent of at all, oh, I’ll help you cover it up in dysfunctional organizations, where make sure nobody knows or in some cases, they’ll say, sleep it off. So, if you’re drunk, rather than calling it out, just sleep it off. And in the seat, that’s a dysfunctional view of that, versus what you’re talking about is uncomfortable calling because there’s no ramification if you call it out, but I’m dealing with it because we need each other to be successful. Is that fair? Right? Oh, absolutely. And the example uses, I mean, you know, using the, you know, say that the drunk of your tie, it’s funny, you said that, because what you’ll see now is even an airline interviews now, what they’re looking for people that are, you know, looking out that they’re going to look out for the team look out for the other person in turn. In other words, you know, there used to be a common situational question was, you show up to the lobby of the hotel getting ready to go? And you know, you notice alcohol on the captain’s breath? What are you going to do? You know, your new hire? What are you going to say? What are you going to do?

What they don’t want is someone that’s going to, well, I’m going to call the company right away, I’m going to tell the chief pilot that this guy is drunk, and but what they want you to do is, number one is safety. Right? Do not let that captain, you know, do not let them nearby. For that’s the first thing, right? Whatever you have to do, hopefully, you want to make a scene doing it. And they want you to take that situation. And, you know, de-escalate that situation, in the best way possible. Right? Right. So how are you going to do that, you know, there’s different ways you can phone a friend, you know, you can talk to the captain say, Look, man call in sick, we’ll get this taken care of, you know, let’s just not get you do not get to the airport, you know, you may get you may get a slap on the wrist, but you’re at least you’re not going to sacrifice your license or the company or anything like that, by doing this, that’s the first thing. But the other thing they’re looking out for really, is that you’re looking out for the person, you know, you’re not just going to sell this person out and say, Well, I’m going to, you know, I’m going to call it, you know, company right now and call this person out. So, but you’re exactly right. I mean, that that’s really what it’s about. And when you talk about two pilots working together, you know, you want to establish that really starts with again, like I said earlier started leadership stats for the captain stylish in that tone, not just the pilot, but with a crew, the cabin crew, you know, the maintainers that the ground crew, everybody, you know, establishing that tone of Hey, look most guys and gals I fly with now will say this. They’re like, Hey, you know, if you see some Speak up, you know, no matter what it is, don’t assume I know everything. And that starts with establishing the tone. And he ate and again, talk is cheap. So, people can say that. But if you point something out to someone, hey, and there’s different ways when you talk about, we talk about crew resource management, Career Resource Management communications, you escalate it, like say we’re approaching a thunderstorm and a captain.

You see that thunderstorm? 100 miles out there. What do you think and just kind of, Oh, yeah, we’ll be fine? So, as we get closer, if they’re not turning and are Hey, you owe me.

Ask we can’t get No, we’ll be fine. And so, you keep escalating until it gets to the point of Hey, Captain, I recommend or think we should probably be exactly, you know, you kind of escalate that up, if you will. That’s one small example of how you handle things like that, and how you work together that peer accountability where you escalate the tone, the communication you’re using. And the other thing goes back to just the organization. How does the organization set it up? How does the organization train? I mean, when we train these skill sets, you’re talking about of how we work together, that’s ingrained in our training, how we communicate, how we were going to handle certain situations, how we divide duties, I mean, all these kinds of things go into that.

Right. So that gets me to crew resource management, which is another thing that’s often being quoted, at least in the airline industry as being a fundamental step change. And that occurred, can you share a little bit of some of the specifics there, because that that is an area where there’s been huge leaps, in terms of how you have that communication, front and back-end crews and the cases where it didn’t happen. We know the other incidences of planes getting shot down, etc., because it wasn’t the right communication, right. Absolutely. And, you know, my human factors leadership model is a poll a lot of the attributes, I think of crew resource management, some people call it team resource management, a poll a lot of aspects from that. So, if you carry that I think that that’s important is we kind of talked a little bit about communication, and more specifically with communication and crew resource management, communications, a big, big area, right. There’s a lot of things that I talked about tone, but there’s other things such as, you know, briefing, so you know, what are we expecting to happen really briefing is really kind of looking into the future, predicting what’s going to happen, so we’re better prepared. So, briefing, before we do something, something I call sea three, calm, clear, concise, correct. And clear, concise, correct speaks for itself. But what that really also means is no assumptions. So don’t ever assume anything. Because as we know, in the safety world, human factors, assumptions are always been a something that leads can lead to mishaps. So that’s, you know, one aspect, another aspect is situational awareness. I actually do a whole workshop on situational awareness. And it’s, you know, situation awareness is just that it’s the idea of all those variables affecting your current state at that time, everything from the environment that’s coming in, and how do we take all that in and determine our situation and determine our next course of action? how those variables and it’s a very, you know, when you’re especially working in a complex area, nuclear power aviation, you know, working on aircraft carrier, you name it, all complex environments with many different variables. So how do we take all that in? How do we can, you know, I talked about consistent monitoring, some monitoring, everything, you know, we’re doing some we’re flying an airplane as a crew and CRM part of CRM now is dividing duty. So, you have one pilot flying, and one we call pilot monitoring. Sure, so you’re not just over there asleep, just becoming, right, you’re, you’re monitoring the airplanes on autopilot, but you’re monitoring that aircraft is sure is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing? Correct. Um, and another way I put that is, I call it healthy paranoia, you know, a little bit of, you know, kind of little thing in the back of your head, right, that saying, hey, what could go wrong right now? You know, yeah, we’re flying along straight and level 25,000 feet on Oh, but what if I lost engine? Right? What would I do? You know, what if this happened? I mean, you’re not, you know, it’s not about being paranoid. But it’s about I call it again, healthy paranoia, just kind of an idea of kind of what is maintained to waste awareness. I’m part of CRM, I talked about, you know, pilot monitoring pilot flying his team roles, and team roles, well defined roles, delegation of duties, all that kind of stuff goes into mutual support, right. So, if we haven’t met, we have a critical situation. And this, like I said earlier, Human Factors looks as a human as a way to help mitigate human error. This is a great example, if we have a, you know, when things go normal 100%, point A to point B, great, you know, all the procedures, automation, everything’s great. But what happens when something doesn’t go normal, those non-standard situations, that’s when the human has to come in, that’s when the human has to come in and make that human decision making. And so, when all those things that happen, you start having a critical situation, how do you delegate duties? How do you determine if you have a time threat or a no time threat? So, in other words, do we have time to kind of look into this? Or is our time critical? Do we have a fire on airplane we need to land Pretty soon, we probably don’t have time to look at everything we need to we forgot to get the airplane on the ground quickly? So, you know, understanding team roles, mutual support, decision making, that time no time kind of goes into that when we make decisions understanding the perception before we make the decision. So, in other words, we may have a false perception of something and then if we did, we act on that, that’s bad. So, decision making goes into that a lot.

To that I talked earlier about decentralized execution. So having that leadership back to autonomy is a big part of CRM. And then you know, the final thing I’ll tell you about CRM, which part of the human factor’s leadership model is SRP standard operating procedures, right. So, ensuring were followed, because slaps are critically important, as you know, in HR Oh, and a lot of times I love it. When I bring this up in business. They’re like, Well, you know, the military, you guys have standards? And because you all, you know, your margin aligns, and you know, you do, we’re told and everything’s very structured, I’m like, Yes, but I’m, like, let me let me always give an example of, you know, flying fighters, or even an example of, say, a special operations team, such as Navy SEALs or something like that. And I said, do you think that when they drop a team, a Navy SEAL somewhere, they’re expecting them to follow orders to a tee and know the exact situation they’re going to face? They’re like, No, I’m like, exactly, exactly. They want them to have full autonomy, right? I mean, in. And that goes for almost every military organization, they want us to have that autonomous decision-making ability, because we’re not robots, they want us out there making it. But in order to do that standard operating procedures serves as guide rules, right? So, when you are out there making those autonomous decisions, and you’re saying, Hey, I’m going to make this decision. What you know, you’re at a crossroad, you say, Well, here’s our standard operating procedures wants us to do this. Okay, so I’m going to make this because that’s more in line with how our standards are written how our operating procedures want us to do. I mean, there are some things that are black and white, we have to do, always turn the switch on, always do that switch off, don’t ever do the opposite. But there’s always going to be the human factors that comes in there, and making those autonomous decision. So, making sure we understand the standard operating procedures, and adhering to them is another critical part of that of that CRM. So, communication, situation awareness, decision making team roles, and, you know, standard operating procedures. And I kind of put training under that as well. I love it, I think you brought in a lot of really good examples from the airline industry from fighting for being a fighter pilot. And really, I think this is this is the next leap in terms of safety is getting to that point where you’ve got adjust culture where people are comfortable, feel safe, raising issues, escalating issues, you’ve got the right level of support, and we’re looking at the system, the culture, trying to prevent things. So really appreciate you jumping in sharing your insights, your ideas, and all your wisdom from all your experience.

Well, I appreciate era, thank you so much. And, you know, always good you’re writing. And I think if I could sum it up, I think everything I talked about the way I look at it as human factors is, is really it’s looking at it from a systems-based approach, like you said, so it’s not about I mean, you’re never going to get rid of human error, as long as we have humans involved in it. The other example I’ll kind of leave you with is people say, Well, what about you know, as robots’ computers come more and more, we start seeing more automation? Okay, well, great. But I said, here’s the thing, you know, someone designs out automation, exactly, probably installs that automation, someone has to work on and maintain that automation. Someone designs a software, I mean, there’s always going to be human in the chain somewhere.

So that, you know, it’s all about a systems-based approach, and how we fix the system versus that blame and train approach, which as we found over the years really doesn’t get the results we want. Yeah, you bring an interesting point. Because even if you think about m cast the whole issue on the 737 Max, yeah, even if you go Airbus, and there was a, an issue, I think, was the Paris Air Show with it, where the rightest him thought he had landed, but he hadn’t landed and went into writers app. That’s a technology that’s a system but that’s designed by human that can still make a mistake in resigning. Exactly. And a lot of times we look at that in terms of well, you know, the engineers might say, they could have just done this, and that would have happened well, okay, maybe. But you know, do you really consider in a situation what the human actually sees, you know, you have to process that how much time that takes to go through what are they looking at? And there’s so many things that go into that. So, you’re exactly right. And those are great examples. Great. Well, thank you so much for joining in Brandon. If somebody wants to get in touch with you. How can they do that? Absolutely. Well, to see some more of my info we talked about, you go to my website and plenty material there. And also, my email address B as in Bravo, B. Williams, at lead dash tag COMM and there’s also a way to contact me on my website. But absolutely feel free to reach out more info or anything else for sure. Excellent. Thank you, Brandon. Thanks, I appreciate it.

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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Brandon Williams is an accomplished and results-oriented leader, top business speaker, executive consultant, and technical expert with proven leadership experience in managing cross-functional teams and organizations. His experiences as a United States Air Force F-15E Fighter Pilot and Officer leading diverse teams of men and women from all backgrounds set the stage for his Human Factors Leadership methodology. In addition to his experience as a Fighter Pilot, Brandon is recognized for his expertise in Human Factors, having designed courses for and taught at several universities. His world-class execution of numerous speaking engagements to Business Leaders from all over the globe consistently deliver superior results in how to lead High Performing Teams through Complexity and mitigate Human Error.

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Importance of Leadership and Onboarding for Safety with Curtis Weber

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski: Episode 25 - Importance of Leadership and Onboarding for Safety with Curtis Weber

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ABOUT THE EPISODE

Safety is important at all stages of a career, whether it is the first, third or last day at work. Irrespective of the job, communication and collaboration during and after onboarding are crucial to ensure everyone’s safety. Curtis Weber is a Safety and Motivational speaker, who learned about the importance of speaking up and building relationships with co-workers through a serious workplace accident that changed his life. Tune in to learn about the importance of leadership and making safety personal during and after orientation.

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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 and welcome to the safety guru. I’m really excited to have with me Curtis Weber. We’ve met a little while back. I’m going to say it’s probably about a year, year and a half ago, well before covid. So, Curtis, great to have you on the show. Really happy to hear the sound of your voice again.

You better. Thanks. Good chatting with you again here over the last little bit, setting this up. And thanks again for having me on the forecast.

So, Curtis, you speak to a lot of different audiences. That’s how we originally met. You were talking to a leadership team in terms of the importance of safety leadership. Can you share a little bit about your back, your background and how you ended up in the safety space? And I know there’s an unfortunate incident that happened. So maybe if you can share a little bit about the injury, that and really more importantly, how you got to what you’re doing now in terms of really helping a lot of organizations and leaders embrace safety to take it to the next level.

So, I guess before I usually get into the events of the incident, I always kind of share with my groups a bit of a background, especially when we’re talking about safety and try to make impacts and have people buying the messaging. I always kind of share a bit of a back story of where I was going with my injury before I was actually seventeen when the incident happened. I just graduated, had an opportunity to move away from home and live out a dream of playing hockey at the next level and Elberta some junior hockey.

And unfortunately, that wasn’t going to be the case for me because on the third day of what I call my first ever real job, working outside of a family business, building steel green beans on the prairies of Saskatchewan, I had an incident. And I think that’s an important note when I speak to the of being that I was 17 years old, but also being that I was in the third day of my job, we were attempting to make a move to make a lift with a hopper ball of a big steel structure.

We’re trying to put it underneath an overhead power line. And after a brief discussion and a day that went completely sideways for us, it was a day that we were supposed to be done early on the Friday of a long weekend. Our first our first job didn’t go the way we had planned it. So, we found ourselves kind of behind and rushing to get the job done so we could get done before that long weekend. And in doing so, we didn’t have the proper discussions or conversations and myself included, didn’t take the opportunity to speak up and voice a concern.

And as we were attempting to make a move with that pickup truck and back that off the bottom, underneath the power line, we contacted an overhead power line, which was sent through fourteen thousand four hundred volts of electricity through my body and through three separate cycles.

My goodness. And I think one of the pieces I mean, you had such a promising hockey career ahead of you. The part that I remember when we first met is really your positive outlook. And would you decide to come out of it? Can you share maybe a little bit about how you started helping organization? Kind of what triggered that? That’s that thinking? Yeah. You know, I never really thought of a safety role as a motivational speaker role, not as much as me as my mother would have told me when I was going through my recovery and after the recovery, she always said I should you know, I’ve got a great story and an inspirational story with the way that I dealt with things.

But I guess going into this role, I it was really just kind of, you know, fell into my lap. I you know, after the long recovery and the surgeries and amputations and, you know, years of physiotherapy, it came time to figure out what I was going to do with my life after that nearly six years’ worth of recovery time when you take into account the reconstructive and plastic surgeries and physiotherapy and stuff. So, it was a pretty long journey.

And I was looking to get into a, you know, a background in wildlife management that was kind of a passion of mine as well, outdoors and things like that. And I was approached by the Workers Compensation Board of Saskatchewan. So, their WorkSafe department to that, they were looking for somebody who has been through a traumatic experience that’s physically and mentally willing and able to share an experience. And for a long while, I it was kind of a thanks, but no thanks.

It was. Petrified of speaking in front of crowds, I wasn’t a road safety guy. Being 17 when it happened or anything like that. But I think as the years went on and they kept kind of, you know, coming back and saying, hey, are you ready to come and do some work with us? I think maybe you could call it maturity kicked in or the realization that by experience and what I had been through and how I dealt with it so, so easily almost started to creep into my mind to think maybe there’s a reason why this whole thing happened and an even bigger reason why I was able to handle it the way that I did.

And so finally, I, I answered the answer, the call. And, yeah, I had a great almost 10 years with WCP and WorkSafe and sharing my story. And I also kind of turned me into a bit of a safety consultant and trainer. So, I was able to get a good, good amount of experience and background in safety as well.

Sure. And I think one of the things you touched on in your story and you talk about is the importance of speaking up. Can you can you share a little bit about, obviously, in your story, there’s always usually this gut feel that when something happens. Can you share a little bit about the importance of speaking up, but also the role of leaders that how they make that happen?

Yeah, for sure. I think, you know, speaking out when we talk about that in a workplace, it’s so important, it’s likely one of the biggest opportunities that we have to prevent incidents from happening. Actually, we can have the best safety system in the world with all the policy and procedure and hazard assessments and documentation and, you know, our fancy posters around the workplace. But at the end of the day, if we’re not if we’re not speaking up and voicing concerns, are asking questions when we have them, you know, those incidents are inevitable.

And for us that they might not have been just as easy as, you know, speaking up and voicing the concern. There was a lot that went into the day for us, like I mentioned, being rushing in behind and the way that the day’s events unfolded. I think that those that that condition of a hall for them being there and needing to be underneath a power line, that set of conditions was waiting for a group of people like us to come along to set up.

And it was it was waiting for a group of people that were rushing and frustrated and behind. And that’s what happened. So, and when we talk about leaders, you know, lots of times when we think leadership and safety and culture, we normally think of a manager or a supervisor or a director or a VP or something like that. And no doubt we need their leadership and commitments towards developing that culture. But at the end of the day, we sometimes forget that we can and probably already do have leaders who are working shoulder to shoulder with us on site and know as much as much as that management has a role in developing that culture.

I feel it really comes down to the people that we’re working with, because obviously not very often do we find that that director or manager of working shoulder to shoulder with us. It’s usually it’s us working together. And you speak to any senior leadership group of an organization who’s got a very successful safety record or culture. They’ll be the first ones to tell you that it’s really because of the people and how their health care programs are employee driven when it comes down to safety.

Yeah, I would agree with you. It’s the same. It’s got to be that conversation with everything, the set of circumstances you talk about just before a long weekend, your work’s falling behind. There’s that sense of production pressure. And often when I speak to the theme of production pressure, people are expecting this person like lashing out of people go faster. But in many cases, it’s subtle. It’s I set out and this is the goal I set for myself for this day and I’m falling behind.

And you’re trying to find a way to get it done. And that’s often where a step gets missed. Right? Right. For sure. So, the other piece that strikes me about your story is this was your third day on the job. And it’s really even more critical based on what you’re sharing to really think through. How do you drive the onboarding? How do you get people to get to encourage speaking up? How do you make that apparent in terms of what’s the safety culture here?

On the third day, when I speak to a lot of people in the construction space, the challenges, sometimes everybody’s coming on. It’s a first date, second or third day, because often they’re coming in for a job that only lasts a short period of time. Then they go to a different job site. How do you instill that? Or based on your experience, how could it have been done differently so that as you showed up that early on in your in your in your career, somebody would have talked about the importance of speaking up and taking your time, assessing hazards, things of that nature?

Yeah, no, that’s right. Being my third day on the job, I went from working in a family business. My dad had a family business building these green beans. And so obviously, once my brothers and I were old enough to help out, that’s what we did. But from the time we were five years old, you know, he’d be dragging us on site and our jobs were pretty minimal, picking up garbage off the site, running guys tools or just being around.

And so, I always mentioned, when I speak to different groups, is that, you know, my injury happened in an industry that I was literally raised in. I was nearly killed in the same industry that I was raised and doing. But the difference was, is that I went from working in that family business. And just the year before I’m about to move away from home to play hockey was the first year Dad’s business was kind of falling apart.

So, I actually got into a crew with a brand-new crew, which was completely different to me. So rather than just kind of kicking around at home that last summer waiting to go to move away from home, it was an opportunity to kind of keep myself in shape with a pretty physically demanding job. And so, I went from working with a group of people that were very familiar to me, like my brothers and a family friend and a father.

So being that I went from that at such a young age and jumped into a crew of complete strangers who were twice my age, it’s already probably a probably intimidating environment for a 17-year-old kid to start that process. Right. And working with people that have been working together. And so, I think that when we talk about the onboarding process. Like you mentioned, with construction, there’s a lot of moving parts and lots of temporary jobs and things like that, but in orientation, I find is a really great opportunity.

If we use it properly in an orientation, I don’t mean, you know, an organization having us go through an orientation. And here’s what we expect of you. And here’s how we do things and here’s how you know what our expectations are. But a good orientation would also have built into the opportunity for four new workers to ask some questions. And maybe that’s enough and maybe that’s enough for them to be familiar with the people that’s providing the orientation or maybe the other seven or ten or thirty-five people that are taking the orientation with us.

It gives us an opportunity to maybe develop a little bit of a relationship before we even get onto the site. So, I really think that that obviously helps for me again that day, I think a lot more went into it than just me being in an environment that I’m not used to, like I mentioned before, with that, with how the day’s events unfolded. But really, like I said, that that that onboarding process, having the opportunity to not only give the expectations of what we want through orientation, but also, you know, creating that that that relationship right away in terms of people feeling comfortable speaking up and asking questions with one another.

Yeah. And I think that the part about speaking up is a is a really challenging one, because even if you’re in a place where it’s legislated that you have the right to refuse work, to stop work, things of that nature, even if it’s a legal context and legal right, which is in some jurisdictions, but others still don’t have it as a legal right. It takes a lot of guts to say, hmm, let me pause this right, and often people are talking about we need to get the job done.

There’s all this pressure on getting the work done. It’s not that straightforward is the same. I remember I’ve been on different circumstances. You tell somebody else to stop work or what they’re doing is not safe. Maybe you should think about doing a differently. It’s not that easy. I was talking to an executive in one organization who on a weekend they were doing some charity work, was trying to tell others to say there’s this gentleman on a ladder working above and not like off center drilling into a ceiling right above the stuff flying and his eyes.

No, no, nothing that the ladder was about to tip over, try to make him stop three times and he was unable to do it. And he says, I’m asking my team members to do this day in, day out and I can even get him to stop so that that personal reflection or getting somebody else to think about it. These are not easy things to do.

Yeah, no, absolutely. It’s a pretty vulnerable spot to be put into to, you know, to witness something that’s being done unsafe or not following processes. And it is it’s likely the biggest thing that will hinder the success of us of our safety systems and programs is the fact that getting people to buy into you know, we hear terms like stop work authority. We hear terms like our brothers’ keepers and sisters’ keepers and things like this. And they’re great.

They’re great initiatives. They sound great. But at the end of the day, it’s really hard for people to do that, especially when we’re working in environments where people, you know, blue collar environments, industrial environments where, you know, it’s all go no work, you know, I’ll go no, no, wait to the work’s done type of industry. And it’s yeah, it’s a hard thing to do. And I think, again, it comes back to developing that culture piece and people are good at, you know, as human beings.

We’re really good at identifying what’s right and what’s wrong and what’s safe and unsafe. Everybody knows these things. And in fact, once they’ve been, you know, developed even further background in safety as a as a safety officer in a different job once before. And I a consultant in another role I’ve done incident investigations or I hate determines investigations. I always call them an it’s an assessment, a cultural assessment, whatever the case may be.

But investigations are horrible name.

Yeah, it is. Yeah. So, when I when I did those things very often you would ask, you know, as part of that or it would come up that, that, you know, that worker knew what they were doing was wrong. They knew they were taking a shortcut. I knew that was I knew what we were doing was wrong that day and I still didn’t take the opportunity to speak up. So, I think that’s the easy part, is identifying what’s right and what’s wrong.

The hardest part is, is like you say, is, is to, you know, have, you know, given the opportunity to actually say something or do something. And that goes to you know, when you know my kids, I got young kids at home and they know what’s right and what’s wrong. And they know when they’re doing something that’s wrong, they’ve got to make a cognitive choice whether they’re going to continue to do something after I told them not to or, you know, that it’s wrong.

And, you know, they’ve got to assess what those consequences might be if it’s, you know, touching a hot stove or touching the fireplace. And those are things that that we learn kind of along the way. But it’s hard. It is. It’s a hard thing to do. And it really does come down to developing that that cultural piece. And I was in my presentations, I’ll take it away from work for a second and say that, you know, how many times has somebody been at a restaurant or a pub or a staff function or a Christmas party where we’ve identified that a friend or a co-worker has had a few too many drinks?

And that’s the easy part, is to say, oh, jeez, Eric said quite a few drinks. And, you know, it looks it looks like. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It looks like he’s reaching for it looks like he’s reaching for his keys. And, you know, that’s the easy part to say, hey, he shouldn’t be driving. But the hardest part is to go up to the Eric and say, hey, man, you know what?

If you’ve had a few too many, we want you to get home safe. Let’s take your keys. We’ll call you a cab or just wait for a ride. We’re going to be leaving soon or whatever. But that’s the hardest part because, you know, people don’t want to look like that person who’s the fun stuff or the, you know, the overachiever or whatever the case is. And it’s a really hard behavior for us to, you know, to crack for sure.

Or the person that’s preventing you from getting the job done, because we’re we want to get it done. Like you describe the long weekends there. You want to go and enjoy the long weekend. So, we’re predisposed to say, OK, how do I get this done? Which can get us into trouble. How so? When I met you originally, you were talking to a group of leaders. You also speak to a group, sometimes different team members.

How do you instill this sense to get the right reinforcement across peer groups? Because often, like you said, it’s. Onto the VP, who’s out in the field, who’s going to influence you? They may have a comment, a conversation that matters. They can influence the people day in, day out that around you. But tell me a little bit about how do you drive this at a pure level and drive the right conversations that may need to happen?

Yeah. So, I think that that, you know, that reinforcement from our peers is something that, you know, again, it’s a really hard one to drive because, you know, oftentimes people don’t want to be the stop work authority person who is doing those things. But if we can, again, go back to that cultural piece and it starts really there, if we can create an environment where we all feel comfortable speaking up or asking questions or sharing concerns without being afraid of looking stupid or having a stupid question, I think we’ll start to get there because, you know, at the end of the day, we have all these touchy-feely terms.

You know, our this is our work, sadly, and things. And at the end of the day, that’s really what we want it to be, to be there. If I’m if I’m approaching you and saying, hey, you know, I know it’s the end of the day, it’s Friday, you know, and when we got to, we want to get out of here. But I know we’re not tied off and, you know, we require to wear harnesses and this this type of job or task.

Let me give you a hand. I’ll help you do it. We can get it done quicker. We can get it done properly. And I think the more we can create that environment where it’s an actual it’s a process where people feel like they’re actually cared about as employees, that it you know, that it’s going to make a difference. And for me personally, when I’m speaking, as I use my experience and not only my experience of the injuries and one to walk them through where I was going with my life before my injury and the opportunities, I had with that, just like everybody else out there that, you know, it’s going to work today and tomorrow that has hopes and dreams and goals for sure.

Those were taken away from me and I use that in my presentations to walk through the next chapter of my life, the injuries and what happened there and how long that recovery was. And then I followed that up by making it personal. And I guess what I’m saying is that if we can make safety personal among our teams, it’s going to have so much more impact. And that’s a big part of my presentation, is I use all the bad stuff that I went through and I use my you know, the way that I dealt with things, how you know, this since the day that I remember waking up out of the coma to, you know, two months later waking up in that coma at when I woke up this morning, I’ve never felt depressed or angry or sorry for myself.

And so, I think that making it personal and using those experiences for me to share with them how I dealt with my situation, how I’ve there’s nothing that I don’t do today that I did before my injuries. And I try to inspire people to make changes in the way that they view safety. So, and when I’m speaking on those jobs, when I’m speaking on those job sites, whether it’s a 17-year-old kid, that that needs to be comfortable, go into that 50 or 60 something year old guy that’s got a ton of experience and knowledge, I need to feel comfortable doing so.

And that, you know, 50, 60 something year old needs to be open to having me come to him. Because at the end of the day, if I’ve got a question, even if it is stupid, I might be putting him at risk and his children and his grandchildren are at risk. So really, at the end of the day, you know, we want to make it personal. And on the flipside of that, we want young people to be able to go to experience workforce and learn from then with their experience.

But, you know, we can look at it differently, too. We’ve got, you know, young people coming out of educations that some of these people might not have even had back when they started their careers in terms of training and the way things are done. And so, we’ve also got to be open now as a 50, 60 something year old to be receptive of maybe a 20-year-old coming up and saying, hey, you know, I know you’ve got all this experience and you’ve you figured out a way to MacGyver up that piece of equipment to do the job better or whatever the case is.

We need to be receptive to that, you know, 20 something year old that’s coming in with a different perspective to say, hey, let’s slow down, let’s get it done right instead of fast and let’s all go home. And I think the more you see that from one another, I think that the more opportunity there is for people to continue doing it.

Yeah, that’s so important. Is the leader, the environment, but your peers? Right. If it appears it’s a lot of organizations, I’ve, have I’ve seen where that that 50, 60-year-old is saying, hey, I’ve done it this way, don’t bother me, or even kind of intimidates a person that comes with a question. Well, you’re going to get a horrible outcome if you keep doing this. And it’s everybody’s job to drive safety.

Talk about safety. When we talked about onboarding, the experience you’ve got, I remember first of all, I had the what I got trained for six weeks and then I showed up. This was in the airline industry and it was not it was not exactly the same thing when I showed up on the line the first day because wasn’t doing things. Yeah, yeah. You could cut this corner. And that’s that gets dangerous because that starts at.

Enticing people to do things and cut corners in some instances. So really appreciate you sharing your story and all the good work that you’re doing across organizations in terms of inspiring leaders, in terms of how they make safety personal, inspiring team members, in terms of how they show up is every bit makes a difference and helps make somebody’s life better. So, I think it’s phenomenal what you’re doing. Really appreciate all the work you’re doing.

You bet you. Thank you for having me. And give me the opportunity to be on the podcast and talk to talk safety and culture with you.

Absolutely. Well, thank you, Curtis. And if ever you’re interested in having Curtis present or speak to your group, I’m assuming these days it’s all virtual or mostly virtual. Curtis Weber, thank you. Thanks, Eric.

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 teams, fuel your future, come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the OP’s guru, Eric Michrowski.

To learn about Safety Leadership Commitment: https://www.propulo.com/safetycommitment/

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Curtis Weber, Safety and Motivational Speaker

Curtis Weber comes from Saskatchewan, Canada where he has been inspiring and influencing change in safety behaviours globally for nearly 15 years. Working in safety as a Trainer, Consultant, Officer and Speaker following a near fatal workplace incident, Curtis has been able to develop a unique way of challenging audiences to change the way they perceive safety. Curtis believes that before we can develop or change a safety culture, first we must understand and influence human behaviours towards safety. Using his own personal experience of a near fatal workplace incident, let Curtis take you on his journey and challenge you on the way you think about safety.

For More Information: Curtis Weber Consulting

 

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Making Safety Personal with Kina Hart

The Safety Guru Podcast with Kina Hart

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ABOUT THE EPISODE

Workplace Safety is critical for employees to be able to go home to their loved ones each and every day. In this episode we explore the importance of Safety Leadership and effective Safety Culture in the workplace with Kina Hart, an inspirational speaker for Workplace Safety who tragically lost her arm in a summer job workplace accident. Tune in as she shares her insights on safety communication and participation, active caring and the zero tolerance method.

READ THIS EPISODE

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 and welcome to The Safety Guru. Today I’m very excited to have with me Kina Hart, who’s safety speaker, travels all around the country in normal days, but as much in covid times talking about the importance of safety, the impact on families. So welcome to the show. Really excited to have you with me today.

Thank you, Eric. I’m very excited to be here and I appreciate this opportunity.

Excellent. Thanks. So, Kina, why don’t you start up by sharing a little bit about your you got to this space where you’re you speak about safety to so many different companies across the US.

Great. I think that’s a fantastic place to start. I, I actually was injured in a workplace accident when I was 20 years old. I was a sophomore in college, heading to Alaska for the summer to work to pay for the remainder of my at least I thought the remainder of my college, but at least a year. So, my best friend and I decided to go to Alaska and work in the fish processing industry up there because it’s a great summer job where, you know, you can make quite a bit of money.

We got up there, though, and there wasn’t any work happening. We were all sitting around waiting for the fish to come in. I was getting pretty anxious about that because I really needed this job and I really needed it to help me pay for school. So, I ended up going to my foreman and basically begging him to let me work and to tell you the truth, I probably wasn’t going to take no for an answer. And he reluctantly, but he did decide to go ahead and let me work the next day on the cleanup crew.

Unfortunately, I presented myself as somebody who knew what I was doing, and I didn’t, I had no prior knowledge of this industry, I had no experience and we were just cleaning conveyor belts. It was a team of us. There’s five of us there that morning and somebody turned them a conveyor belt on while I was cleaning it. And I ended up getting my left arm tangled into the ANDULA that resulted in a traumatic amputation of my left arm and a complete change of my life.

From then on, I spent a lot of time in the hospital. I spent a lot of time recovering. But all in all, I feel like. Being faced with that adversity, right, so young. I feel like I was so happy and so grateful to be alive, that that’s part of the reason that I recovered so well. It took me about a year to recover. Throughout my life, though, I’ve always wanted to talk to people about my injury and thinking it would be a great maybe a motivational piece.

Now, through all that, I’ve talked to other people and they knew what happened to me and then came along and said, hey, we really story would work well with our business, can you come and talk to our people about safety and what went wrong the day you got hurt? And I said, sure, I’d love to do that. And I did that. And it was so well received that that was the very day I decided to start my business.

And that was 10 years ago. And that very day I started my company and I started speaking and I just asked people, hey, if you know somebody that I could come talk to, please let them know that I’m available and I’m ready to do this. And it has snowballed from there. And I’ve loved every second of it because I feel like this is truly my purpose. It’s my passion. And that’s exactly what I feel like I’m meant to do.

That’s phenomenal. And it’s really amazing that you’ve taken this opportunity to share in the story and really communicate the importance of safety across different organizations. Can you maybe share a little bit about the impact that safety has on families and loved ones and both from your personal experience but also from some of the interactions you had with people as you travel?

Yes, definitely. That’s one of the biggest parts of my presentation, honestly, is that ripple effect that happens when somebody is injured. When I was injured. And who I talk about most in my presentation is my dad. It crushed my dad. And this injury was 30 years ago. Still to this day, my dad, he doesn’t want to have a conversation about it. It hurts him to his core to think his little girl was up in Alaska and almost died.

I was resuscitated three times. But, you know, I’m Daddy’s girl, and he felt so guilty that he wasn’t able to pay for school. For me, that’s the reason was going to Alaska to pay for college. And his guilt comes from I wish that I had the money and I wish I would have just gotten a different job and paid for school for you. So, when I have memories of being in the hospital and having my dad at my bedside crying, I mean, just my strong dad who’s a logger, you know?

Those memories are difficult. And I’ll tell you, out of all my memories and when I think about this injury, that’s what breaks my heart to this day, is other people’s stories about what happened that day and how they felt and how it impacted and how it changed the life. Not necessarily all bad, but most of them are the stories are heartbreaking. It’s my dad, me picturing my dad answering the phone and just. Crying, sitting on the floor, crying after my sister found out he didn’t even know where to go or or what to do, you know, it’s my mom dropping to her knees is the heartbreaking.

So, when I think about stuff like that, it’s still so fresh, even this long, this has happened a while ago. And I hear people when I’m speaking at companies and they come and they talk to me afterwards, they tell me about their own personal story. I am not kidding you when I tell you that one hundred percent of the time, that’s where their heartbreak is to its look at what I’ve done to my family. Look at the people that I’ve hurt because I made a choice that I thought maybe it was OK or maybe I didn’t think it was OK, but I didn’t think about the fact that it would hurt other people.

I think that’s an incredibly powerful message, and in many cases, it may not even be realizing that this choice could have such ramifications, so many people make choices that can get them in harm’s way, not even necessarily expecting what could happen. One of the things that when we’ve talked about when we connected originally talked about that really resonated with me was really this concept of making safety personal. Speaking from the heart, you’re obviously doing that now. Too often I see leaders, executives not putting enough heart, enough making it personal.

Can you can you talk more about what you’ve seen in this front and how leaders can show up in such a way that really does make a difference?

One of the things that I’ve seen traveling too different. Companies, if you can almost feel when somebody has a good safety culture, you can almost feel it right when you walk in through the door, there is a different attitude with their employees and there’s a different attitude and leadership. And so, I’ve wondered along the way, why is that? Why is it that some places seem like they like they have it together, they have it going on, they are keeping their people safe and they’re all on board.

And then you walk into another place and you have. Almost a dissension between leadership and workers, like there’s no teamwork, there’s it’s not a together, it’s not a family, I guess I would say. And one of the things that I’ve seen in the difference is. Those. Very heartfelt, very sincere, very genuine leaders that are really in there with their employees and they’re letting them know every day, hey, I’m here for you. If there’s an issue that’s a safety issue, you’ve got to let me know because I’m not there.

You are. So, you’re the person I’m relying on to let me know that you need something. But then that leader takes it a step further and actually does something about it. When somebody does come to them with some type of complaint or worry or, you know, somewhere where they’re saying safety isn’t a priority. These companies that have safety be a priority. It’s not just a priority with statistics and with numbers and that type of thing. It’s a priority within the people they see.

Their employees are wanting this. They’re not doing it because they have to. They’re not doing it because they’re trying to get a number up or trying to save the company money. They’re doing it because they’re actually finally they’re on board with, hey, this is about me. This is about me going home safe to my family. And my company agrees with that. My company is saying they care enough about me to keep me safe. What I see is that leadership and safety.

It has to be one hundred percent of the time, it can’t be, it can’t be. We’re going to be safe most of the time where our employees are going to be safe only when we’re watching them. But you’re motivating your employees to be safe 100 percent of the time because they’re making it personal. They’re making it about their stuff themselves and really great leaders. Make that happen.

Yeah, I couldn’t echo that more. I would have come to the same conclusion is, is leaders that are great safety leaders have a way to personalize that. They have a story there, why it matters why it is relevant. They’re asking people to do more. And I think that’s so important is it can be something as just about a statistic. It can’t be about making a no bonus. No, it’s got to be something that they hold from the heart and really want to make a genuine difference.

Think about a new team member. Come on board. How do I make sure that I convey the importance of safety? It’s not about the company because it’s not even about the safety person, because the safety person, it could be a new person that comes in. But you can’t replace the impact that you’ve had on some of these families or loved ones, et cetera.

Right. And if you think about when I’m speaking, it’s one of the things that I say when I’m speaking. And I truly believe that I do not want to go to a meeting and talk to somebody who’s had. I literally am trying to connect with their heart, because if you think about your own memories and your life and things that you’ve done, the things you remember and the things that are impactful to you are things that have touched your heart.

So somehow you make that connection and you can make a connection with safety and somebody’s feelings and somebody’s heart because it’s there. It is that it’s their family. It’s why they would want to work safe, why they want to go home today with both their arms and both their legs and every part of their body connected. You know, it’s those things that we need to put together and there really needs to be. And this can only come from leadership.

I think there needs to be an absolute zero tolerance for any violations in policy and procedures. This has to be there. And to me, putting it there and having that zero tolerance is showing, hey, I care enough about you that I’m going to protect you. And 100 percent of the time, this is going to be the way it’s going to be, period. I like the example of the parenting. And that is if you think about us as parents.

Every time we get in the car, we make our kids buckle your seat belt. Zero tolerance for anything other than you, but the bulk of your seatbelt you don’t want isn’t going to drive the car until your seatbelts on. And that doesn’t change. And if I think about my own kids, this has been from day one in their lives. And the minute they get in the car, they buckle their seat belts. That’s because zero tolerance and why do I do that, because I love my kids so much and I don’t want them to get hurt and I know that that’s something that.

Going to help protect them now, on the other hand, in all honesty. When my kids are out riding their bikes or skateboarding, they wear helmets and elbow parts. But if they’re riding their bikes just around the driveway, I don’t always make them wear their helmet. So, my kids don’t always just go get their helmet when they get their bike, I have to tell them. So why is that? It’s because I haven’t had a zero-tolerance policy on that, I’ve let that slip.

I’ve let them once in a while ride their bikes without a helmet. Well, I’m telling you, kids are going to go ride the bike without a helmet if they can get away with it. Because it’s easier. It’s quicker. It’s oh, I don’t really need it. But doesn’t that parallel us as adults when we’re in the workplace? If we see there’s a place where we there isn’t going to be a zero tolerance and maybe we can get away with it this time.

And gosh, it’s a lot quicker if I don’t have to, you know, I don’t want to have to put my you have their hard hat on or I don’t want to have to, whatever it might be, walk out that machine this time. I’m just going to really quiet, go in there and fix it. And that is seen or noticed by leaders that lets it go. Well, then it’s going to be more likely that’s going to happen again.

Right. And but I think a lot of it also depends on how it’s done, because what you’re talking about is from a product standpoint, it comes with would love you care about the person. I think it gets me to the to the next topic, which is really round actively caring and the importance of actively caring in terms of having safety outcomes in how leaders show up. What’s your experience around this and what are some of the stories that maybe you’ve seen in terms of leaders that demonstrates that active care?

And why is it so important in your opinion?

And, you know, I think you’re absolutely right when you say that because it’s so 100 percent true. It is where you’re coming from. And that’s my point as well as a parent, you’re coming from a place of love as a leader. You’re coming from a place that’s truly, like you said, actively caring for the participants and your employees and the people that are there. And I have seen this in so many different places. And is it actually.

Makes me so happy when I see it. And the funny thing is, too, it makes the people around the leader happy. You can just feel that people are they feel safer, they feel cared for. And the leader that does that and I have some really specific people that I’ve witnessed doing this, they actually don’t just go out on the floor and look for things that people are violating procedures. They look for things that people are doing correctly.

And they notice those things and they make sure they take the time to let them know, hey, I noticed that you were doing this. Thank you for wearing your safety lenses. You know, thank you for having your hearing protection on. But they also asked them what they’re doing. What is it that you’re working on today? Can you explain to me, you know, what you’re doing? Also, is there anything we can do to make this better or to make this safer?

How do you feel? And. Leaders that go out and ask their employees these questions and then stand there and listen, but not just listen, but then go do something if a change needs to happen. Those employees feel valued and they feel like, wow, they actually do care about me, this isn’t this isn’t about money and it’s not about numbers. My leader actually cares about what I’m doing and what my job is. And they maybe even ask about my children and then remember to ask if they said, yeah, Johnny has a football game tonight, that leader would remember the next day to say, hey, how is the game?

Because they truly are there in the moment and they truly are caring and they’re actively caring, like you said. And that makes so much difference to people. Even if you think about just work as just normal everyday relationships, people can tell when you’re not sincere. People can tell when you’re, you know, their B.S. meter goes all over the place. So being sincere and heartfelt and genuine and earnest in your job as a leader. I think it’s one of the most important things you can do to help people feel like, OK, this is a place I want to be on board with this program and I’m going to do everything I need to do to make this right and to be safe not only for myself and for my family, but for this company.

I couldn’t agree more. I think one of the themes that I remember going to a mine site and there were two leaders down the same pit, and one of them came from a position where every day he would go and scold people. What did you do? What you did not do? The other person knew everything about each individual care, and you were asking them what was top of mind for each team member. And I think the element is actively caring as a standalone won’t solve safety issues, but without it, it becomes very, very challenging to get to the right outcome.

So, this other leader, he would, as he said, talk positively reinforce the right behaviors, but knew the individuals made it very personal from the importance of safety and the link back to the families of the individuals and the choices that each person was making. So, I think this is an incredibly powerful and important message for four leaders and really appreciate you traveling across the country to share the story, to get people really thinking about how are they showing up as leaders, how are they sparking people to really make safety personal?

Yes. Thank you. And I appreciate this. And you are able to connect with people throughout the country with your messages. And I completely agree with you. And I’m so happy that you do this podcast because I think leaders, they have a hard job, but most of the safety managers and any of the safety of theirs I’ve met their heart is in the right place and they’re working their darndest, like they take this home with them at night every night, and they worry about their workers just like they were their own family.

And they care about them and they want to do the right thing. And I think anything that I can do, anything you can do, anything we can do together as a community to support that, to support each other and just say, keep going, keep doing your best. And, you know, we know it’s a tough job and we just are I’m very grateful for the people that are willing to take on those positions and work hard to keep people safe every day.

Yeah, I think very well said. And I think the other element is a lot of people have their heart in the right place but don’t necessarily connect and explain it in a way that that shows that I’ve worked with some executives that deeply, truly care team members. But when people hear their story, they they’re hearing about darted raids, target numbers, and it becomes devoid of the connection to why they’re actually doing what they’re doing, which is to help people come back home to their loved one’s day in and day out.

So sometimes it’s even just changing the form of communication and how I’m sharing something.

Absolutely. And I’m glad you said that, because that is one of the things that I talk to about other people with other people. And what I try to tell them is. Just have a conversation, maybe take a step back and simplify it a little bit, it put yourself in the position of your employer. How would you best take this information if you’re standing up there and just handing out policies, procedures and this what you have to do and you better do it this way.

And always these are the numbers. After about five minutes, they closed down. So, it is about that even training your leaders and your managers on. OK, we have this very dry information that we have to teach. Nobody wants to be here, including us. So how do we teach this in a way that’s actually going to get through to somebody and actually connect with them? And you’re right from the very beginning, you really have to make connections and you really have to make it personal and you have to do your due diligence and just learning how people learn to read.

So, again, thank you for joining me today on the podcast and for sharing such an important message.

The good fight. Thanks so much, Eric. I appreciate it.

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 teams. Fuel your future. Come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops guru, Eric Michrowski.

To learn about Safety Leadership Commitment: https://www.propulo.com/safetycommitment/

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

More Episodes: https://thesafetyculture.guru/

C-Suite Radio: https://c-suitenetwork.com/radio/shows/the-safety-guru/

Powered By Propulo Consulting: https://propulo.com/

Eric Michrowski: https://ericmichrowski.com

ABOUT THE GUEST

Learn about Kina and Her Story

Kina’s fight for survival began when she found herself caught in a moving conveyor belt. The fact that Kina is alive today to tell her story is a living testament to her strong determination and fantastic attitude.

Although she had lost her arm due to her accident, she didn’t lose her incredible zest for life. Kina leads a very productive and fulfilling life, with an attitude that keeps her thriving in her world without limits.

Kina’s Powerful Message about Safety

Kina’s message is about encouraging workplace safety responsibility. The day that changed her forever started like any other day. She didn’t plan or expect an accident. Now, Kina uses her workplace injury to motivate and teach.

Kina has a significant and unique opportunity to educate employees and workers on the importance of building a safety consciousness. She is dedicated to reducing occupational injuries by raising awareness about workplace hazards.

But just knowing about safety isn’t enough. Kina can help your company by speaking about workplace safety from her perspective, which creates an impactful and inspiring message.

Kina’s Safety Presentations:

  • Grab attention and make a lasting impression on staff

  • Change lives and help reduce occupational injuries

  • Inspire and motivate audiences to make safe choices

  • Show audiences how to turn adversity into success

The Program: It’s Your Safety, Don’t Give It Away

Experience personalize safety through Kina’s story about the tragic loss of her left arm. Kina will speak about how a lack of knowledge and lack of training contributed to the day that forever changed her life.

She advocates that you are your last line of defense. Kina encourages active participation in safety. She also covers the effects injuries have on friends, family, and co-workers.

With witty wisdom, Kina will impart a message you can reflect on and share – a message that shows you how to be present, aware, and safe.

To contact Kina Hart:

Email: kina@kinahart.com

Phone: (509) 999 -1323

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Lessons in Leadership from a Career at NASA with Donald G. James

The Safety Guru_Donald G. James

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE: 

ABOUT THE EPISODE

Donald G. James, author of the recently released book Manners Will Take You Where Brains and Money Won’t shares great insights from his lengthy career at NASA. From stories of how the Challenger and Columbia incidents shaped his view of leadership and blind spots, to sharing ideas for leaders to reduce these very blind spots and create environments where people are comfortable speaking up, this is an engaging podcast filled with stories and insights on the importance of Psychological Safety.

READ THIS EPISODE

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 and welcome to The Safety Guru. I’m your host Eric Michrowski and today I’m very excited to have with me for great conversation Donald James. He’s the author of a book, Manners Will Take You Where Brains and Money Won’t. He’s incredibly passionate about careers for students and through his 35 years’ worth of experience at NASA, has seen how much NASA can inspire people around the world. But here we’re going to talk about some really interesting insights from his career at NASA.

And Donald, welcome to the show, first of all. And I’d love for you to tell me a little bit about you and your career with NASA and most importantly, the thoughts that you’ve got around the importance of a manor’s linking it back to the book you recently published.

Thank you so much. I’m very excited to be on your program, and I really appreciate the opportunity. I enjoyed a wonderful career at NASA at 35 years, starting right out of graduate school. Interestingly enough, at the very beginning of my career, I didn’t know that I want to stay with NASA. It wasn’t until the 1986 Challenger tragedy that I found my calling in the agency when it had to do with a personal experience, I had with the post Challenger activities that NASA was doing.

I was invited to participate in some of the educational activities that the backup teacher to Christa McAuliffe, as you know, who perished on challenger Barbara Morgan. She was going around the country speaking to teachers and students, and I got to join her on that journey. And it was during that experience that I realized that NASA could inspire so many people. And it was at that time I said, I’m going to make a career at NASA, that I’m going to do my part to inspire the next generation.

So, I’ve had a wonderful career and delighted to talk to you about any and all of it.

Excellent. Well, you touched on the challenger. Obviously, there was also the Columbia incident. How has it shaped your view of leaderships and blind spots? Has your book really talks about the importance of I would call it grounded leadership, but tell me how those incidents shaped your view of leadership, particularly when it comes to safety?

Yes. So, in my definition of manners, I take a very broad view of it. I first want to say that, yes, I think it’s important to develop common courtesies, you know, please and thank you staff and things of that nature. But I view manners much more broadly and deeper than that. I view it as a way we show up in the world, our sense of awareness, how we engage people. And as a leader, I found that it was critically important, particularly when it came to safety matters, to pay attention, to pay attention very closely, because sometimes you can see problems that are right there in the plane view and a lot of it from one of our former astronauts, Jim Weatherby, who showed charts that they were presented earlier after Challenger.

And he showed how if you actually look at certain parts of those charts, you can see red flags that some of the engineers were sharing but didn’t come out right and see it. So, you have to develop a heightened sense of awareness about that.

I think that’s a phenomenal point and so, so critical when it comes to leadership, but most importantly on the safety leadership side, is creating that, as some people call it, psychological safety, the environment where people are comfortable speaking up, but also that you’re aware of some of those potential blind spots. One of the things that really impressed me when we talked initially, it was a lot of your insights around how you can reduce those blind spots, some very tangible ideas.

You mentioned some FBI body language training. I’d love to hear some examples that you’ve got in terms of tactics that have worked with you and your career.

Yeah, so I’ve learned to develop and cultivate a sense of awareness around, for example, body language. We know from research that communication is not just verbal, it’s also our body. And you might be in a situation where you’re talking to somebody about a particular issue and you can tell by how they’re carrying themselves, the degree to which, for example, they’re very concerned about an issue and it could make a life-or-death difference. I had a specific example where a colleague was sharing with me a concern about another colleague who actually had a drinking problem.

And this particular colleague was in a situation where he was around students and also around equipment, equipment that could be dangerous. And I could tell by how she was carrying herself that she was really, really concerned about it. But after speaking, she was being a little bit more measured, probably because she was, you know, dancing on some very sensitive things here. And so that’s the kind of thing, as just one specific example of truly trying to pay attention to the whole range of communications that you get for blind spots.

I’ve learned to try to reward people who point out blind spots that I may have. That seems like a very simple thing. But you find that your people may not want to bring things to your attention because they feel that, you know, as the saying goes, they’re going to the messengers are going to be shot, so to speak. Whereas in my experience, I tried to reward them sometimes publicly by saying sometimes by mentioning their names or not.

You know, I really appreciated that so-and-so presented to my attention that I didn’t understand and appreciate and thank them. Then the staff knows that you value that and they’re quite likely to bring things to your attention that they might not otherwise do.

I think that’s an incredibly important point. I wish more leaders did that because it’s really about demonstrating, setting the stage recognition, incredibly powerful vehicle for that in terms of how you get people to understand that it’s safe to challenge, to raise issues, to see opportunities or look at things differently.

That’s right. That’s right. And NASA, we developed after Challenger a whole separate structure, engineering and safety structure that ran parallel to the program management so that the issues of safety could be brought up a separate chain of command and the issues involved in the program management. And this allowed people to raise issues to a level where somebody can question or stop something that wasn’t necessarily driven by concerns of budget and schedule. And you know very well that budget and schedule is what often drives us to make poor decisions or to operate with blind spots, because what we’re rewarded for is meeting a schedule or making budget.

We’re not necessarily rewarded for avoiding a mistake because it’s awfully hard to know when you’ve actually done that. And yet when you do make a mistake and it’s costly, then it can actually be deadly and people lose their lives and their jobs.

And I think it’s a point that’s incredibly important, a lot of the it’s still the early stages, but a lot of the investigation of what happened behind the 737, Max. And the recent episode speaks to two similar themes. It was about meeting a budget and a meeting, most importantly, a timeline, because it was huge pressure to make sure they would be beat Airbus in launch of a specific upgrade to the aircraft. And that’s where certain things maybe didn’t surface.

That’s right. And I’m particularly sensitive to that because my brother, who’s also my collaborator, is a 737 captain. In fact, he’s flown the 737, Max. So, when this came to light, of course, you know, I peppered him about questions, many of which either couldn’t answer, didn’t know, or you got tired of answering. But for me, it brought home very deeply that a problem that could have been caused by who knows what and where it could have ended up costing somebody that I love very dearly his life.

And fortunately, you know, there were only two catastrophic accidents and now they’re just in the process of retraining their pilots on the new systems, on the max. And so, I have faith that, you know, they’ll get it right. But these problems have deep roots, and it’s important for leaders to have, you know, an imagination as to how problems can actually come about like this or that. You don’t intend doing that. But obviously, a good place to start is looking at pressures on budget and schedule.

And you know that that was a lot of issues with NASA as well.

And when we spoke before, you had a very inspiring quote that had shaped a lot of your thinking around this, and it had to do with essentially when somebody says as a problem, to what degree do I trust that problem? And can you share maybe a little bit about that that quote and some of the thinking behind it?

Well, I’m trying to remember this specific one. Maybe you can help me out here, because I don’t want to, I don’t want to go off on a tangent here. But I do know that, you know, there’s times when if you’re involved in an operation or a system, particularly a complex system, an engineering system, and you’re aware that there is a variable that’s present that probably wasn’t present before. So, if you take the example of Challenger, the variable that was present that really wasn’t present before was the very cold temperatures on launch day.

And so, there was concern about the impact on the system, particularly the O rings that ultimately failed. And so, what I what I took away from that was that if you are aware that there is some type of variable in the mix and you’re had a consequential decision, it behooves you to kind of pay attention and ask, how do I know this is going to going to work just the same? So, you think about the 737, Max. And I just want to be clear.

I am not an expert on that aircraft or systems or the accident or the and neither am I. But I I would I would start with the idea that what’s new is that they had developed some type of a safety system in the plane. And the way they approach the training of that, they felt that it was a simple software thing, that it could it could work just fine and it didn’t work fine. And I’m probably over abusing my knowledge of what actually happened.

But I think the lesson from leaders is and this can be applied in many circumstances, that if you see that something is new in the dynamic, if you do things over and over again and you don’t do something new, even if it’s a software thing, you need to ask yourself, what is the possibility that this can have an unintended consequence and then explore that a little bit and find the naysayers, find the people who are concerned to make sure that you got it right?

Because I’m telling you, when you’re a leader and issues come to your desk, they’re usually not easy. That’s the reason they’re on your desk. President Obama said this. You know, when you when I get a problem, it is a hard problem because of the energy problem. It would have been solved in the Lomi. And that’s just the price you pay as leader. You have to be able to deal with complex and confusing information.

And I think the coach just said that you chaired had to do with somebody in Houston and that the comment had to do that. Sometimes when somebody raises an issue that it may not appear as strong, they may downplay the importance of severity of it. And part of it is to read between the lines.

That’s right. And I’m like, yeah, I’m not remembering this specific example, but the point is, is very well taken. It’s important to triangulate the information you get, you know, and this is hard. For example, if you get an email and you’re not sure if the email is telling you something that you’re not reading, you need to check it out with different, different people. And I always did that, particularly with consequential decisions. I would ask different people in the entire organization what they think about things to make sure that I wasn’t missing something.

And sometimes I did miss some things. So, body language is an example where, you know, you’re in a staff meeting. Sometimes I walk into a room for a staff meeting and I started on my agenda. And I can tell in the meeting that something is wrong because people are being very quiet. They’re all in their iPhones. We call it the iPhone. Crouser, you know, they’re just like their heads are buried down there in your table.

Nobody’s looking at anybody. And I can tell that something is not right. And what I learned as a leader is that if I don’t stop right then and there to try to check out what the issue is, I’m probably going to end up with a problem down the road because people aren’t paying attention or we’re not going to be focused on what we need to do. Then most cases in my example, the consequences were more dangerous. We’re talking about flying astronauts.

Blind spots can be deadly. And I know a lot of astronauts and I know when there were some close calls. And you can’t afford to be wrong when you’re in space because it is unforgiving.

Absolutely, in your book, you mention also you have you have a chapter that speaks to what you call a pink suit. I think it would be great if you shared a little bit more about what that idea.

Yes. So Pink Suits is a metaphor. And I talk about wearing a pink suit and how there’s a pretty good chance I’m not going to go to a store and buy a pink suit. Now, with all due respect to, you know, creative people out there that wear all kinds of different colors. This is not you know; this is not a criticism of the attire. It’s meant to be a metaphor. And the point of the metaphor is to be willing to try on an idea or something, even if you don’t want to.

You feel uncomfortable, you feel strange, and you might be embarrassed. Sometimes trying it on gives you an insight that helps you. Let me give you an example. That’s not an example. There is a story that’s well documented that Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computer, got a great deal of insight into new fonts for Apple in the early days by taking a calligraphy class. And he did it as a fluke. He wasn’t doing engineering any of that kind of nature, but he went on to explain how he appreciated doing something different like that, gave him an appreciation for how he could apply those skills in a different environment.

By the way, just a little fun aside about Steve Jobs, and I like to share with the listeners the reason Steve Jobs got interested in computers is his father took him on a tour at the NASA Ames Research Center where I used to work, and that’s where he saw his first computer and that got him excited. So, if you don’t think you can inspire people by just taking them on a tour or showing them something, think again. You could end up creating the most valuable kind of.

Wow, I didn’t know that story. That’s a that’s a phenomenal story on the on the on the power of the NASA. That’s right.

That’s right.

So, you’ve shared a lot of ideas about increasing how people on your teams get more comfortable speaking up. Do you have any other pearls of wisdom in that regard? Because it’s so, so critical at NASA in that we talked about the 737-max scenario. But in all industries where hazards are present, there’s constantly this theme of I wish I had spoken up or leader saying I wish I had listened.

Yes, it’s fact. You know, NASA is a very technical organization and we’re never going to hire you to be an astronaut because you have good manners. You have to know how to fly the spacecraft. But I can guarantee you, and I know this for a fact, that if you don’t have good manners, you could be stuck on the ground. I know for a fact that there are astronauts who actually went all the way through selection, but somehow mysteriously were never selected to fly.

And I used to think it was only because they weren’t trained for the right mission or any number of cases. Now that I’ve been on the inside, I know there’s one or two cases where the reason that they were not manifested for a flight is that they had something lacking in their manners, skills that the leaders of the organization that puts the crew together decided it wasn’t a good fit. I happen to know that there is one astronaut who did fly and he will never fly again because the crew did not like that person and how they interacted.

And I want to be careful here because I’m not here to out anybody. That’s the point is that manners do matter. But you do have to know how to fly the plane, right? My brother says that, you know, he works as a 737 captain in a very technical field that’s bounded by the laws of physics. But manner set the tone for interactions with the most important resource, and that is his flight crew. And, you know, NASA even did a lot of research on flight crew, crew interactions and provided to the FAA some suggestions about how to change certain protocols.

So, it’s not just the captain is the only one who says this is how we’re going to do it. They’re actually trained now to take in opinions from other people, even dissenting opinions when they’re faced with certain challenges. And this is actually shown to save lives. So that’s my argument, is that manners are a skill set that’s very important to learn. It’s part of a range of skills that are important. It’s just not good enough to be smart if you want to work in a place by NASA.

And I would argue it’s not good enough to be smart to work in a lot of other places. You need to develop these skills. And that’s why I wrote this book, because I wanted to share this with students and early career professionals and I hope there is something inside it that will help them take them, you know, where their brains of money.

What I think is a very important point. They are very familiar with the airline industry. That’s where it started in the safety space. And you’re absolutely correct, the impact of crew resource management, how people can challenge each other, how they speak, the dynamics so, so critical to saving lives. And we’ve seen time and time again where that dynamic was not well balanced, how it cost in several cases, hundreds of people’s lives due to a fatal error.

And what are some of the approaches if when we’ve talked before, you really talked about the importance of those range of skills that are needed to be great leaders, how does one start cultivate that that broader range of skills, not just that the technical skill set?

Well, I suggest that one place to start is and I have a whole chapter on this called Who is on Your Team? It’s Chapter 10 and that’s proactively cultivating a group of people around you that you invite them to really support you around manners and other aspects of you as an individual. And I make a couple of points about this. First of all, I don’t mean team like a sports team where you get together at the same time and you meet when I’m talking about is a set of people from different areas of your life.

And I have a model in the chapter about the different sources that you can find team members. But the key is. What you asked them to do for you, the key is to ask them to please be sincere and honest about what you see, even if you think I don’t want to hear it, which means that you have to be willing to risk your relationship with somebody because they may tell you things that you don’t want to hear. I’ve had a personal example of this that I share in the book that in some circles, in many cases, probably could have gotten my boss fired from what he told me.

And yet I realized after I was upset with what he said to me, I realize he was giving me some wisdom that to this day has helped me greatly. That’s the kind of relationship that I talk about. So, the sources of those relationships are you can be your family members, you could be your friends, it could be your professional networks, it could be professional experts. It could even be your higher power. But it’s important to cultivate those relationships and ask people to mentor you, but not just to be your friend.

You don’t want your friend just to tell you, Eric, you know, you’re great. Don’t worry about anything. You want them to tell you the truth as they see it or to affirm things you think you’re doing right and to call out things when they think you’re doing wrong. And then it’s up to you to decide what you’re going to change in order to do it. So that’s one place you can start as a team. One other quick example in terms of interviewing, because most of us have to interview.

I have a whole chapter on interviewing. And my hypothesis in that chapter is that you’re always interviewing, so just be mindful of that. But I particularly talk about the importance of doing mock interviews and being videotaped, because it’s amazing that when you see yourself on a video, you look you look very different than you look like. It’s sort of like someone showing you a picture of yourself when you’re naked and you’re like, oh, my God, you’re like, that’s horrible.

And yet you look at yourself every day when you get out of the shower. Right. And you don’t think so. It takes an external source to show you a version of you that you don’t see to help you realize maybe I better get in shape or even your body language, how you show up in videos, etc. completely agree. Haven’t done the exercise. As much as I despise the activity, I think it’s a it’s a phenomenal if we’re only important tools.

So, I think these are very good ideas. Thank you. Thank you so much, Donald, for sharing this wisdom, putting a put it together in a book to help young professionals orient themselves from a career, bringing a lot of your learnings from your experience at NASA in terms of how to become a more well-rounded leader. And the book Manners will take your brains and money.

Thank you so much. Absolutely. Thank you so much for coming in and sharing about your experience and your thoughts around you.

Thank you. I appreciate it. It was great.

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 teams. Fuel your future. come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops guru, Eric Michrowski.

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Donald Gregory James, an executive leader, a manager, a facilitator, a public speaker, a mentor, and author. Donald began his 35-year NASA career as a Presidential Management Intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland in 1982. He transferred to NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA in 1984 where he served in a variety of roles of increasing responsibility and complexity, including Public Affairs, Government & Community Relations and Education.

Donald decided to make a career at NASA after the 1986 Challenger tragedy. Asked to support the post-accident speaking tour of back-up Teacher-In-Space Astronaut Barbara Morgan, Donald was so inspired by the overwhelming love and support for America’s space program – and education – that he realized NASA was a special place where he could make a difference. His journey of public service would take him from being an intern to the senior executive service and member of NASA’s senior leadership team.

James served as Ames’ Education Director from 1999 to 2006. In the Fall of 1996, James co-led the record-setting Open House at Ames attracting over a quarter of million visitors in one day. In early 2006, James worked on the Orion crew spacecraft at NASA Johnson Space Center, where he drafted the program’s first project plan. Later that year, James was named Project Manager for NASA’s (successful) bid to host the International Space University’s 2009 Summer Session Program (ISU- SSP), attracting an ISU SSP best 136 students from over 33 nations, involving over 15 corporate and non-profit partners.

In August of 2014, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden selected James to serve as the Agency’s Associate Administrator for Education where he led an enterprise comprised of 75 civil servants, over 250 contractors organized to strengthen NASA and America’s future workforce. Under James’ leadership, NASA learner and educator engagement reached over a million people a year. James retired from NASA on March 31, 2017.

James holds a BA in International Relations from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He was awarded a three-year graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation to pursue his MA in International Economic Development from the American University in Washington, D.C. James also studied economics and history at Cambridge University, England, and attended Harvard’s Senior Executive Fellows program. He is the recipient of numerous awards and citations for exemplary service. 

James was inspired by the places he’s lived overseas, including Ghana, Thailand, Kenya, and Niger. He’s also traveled to Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Spain, Uganda, and the United Kingdom.

His forthcoming book, Manners Will Take You Where Brains and Money Won’t: Lessons from 35 years at NASA and Momma’s Wisdomwill be released February 2nd. Donald and his wife Tanya live in Pleasanton, California. They have two children, 28 and 25.

For More Information Visit: www.donaldgregoryjames.com 

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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 and welcome to The Safety Guru. Today I’m very excited to have with me Michelle Brown, who is a chief operating officer at Pinsight, one of the leading and most sophisticated platforms for leadership assessments and development that delivers a lot of great leadership essentials for organizations that want to make sure they’ve got really their top talent in the organization. The reason I’ve got Michelle here, she was probably one of the most influential thinkers around safety leadership that I’ve come across over the years in terms of what she’s thinking, how she’s influencing a lot of leaders. And I wanted to have a conversation with Michelle around leadership and the role of leaders in shaping safety and safety culture. So, Michelle. Welcome to the show. Thanks so much for having me. Eric, it’s absolutely delightful to be back talking with you and about a topic I have so much passion for. So, tell me a little bit about that passion because you got into the safety space a long time ago, touched a lot of leaders across that journey. Tell me about your passion for leaders and for safety. You know, it’s a bit of a funny path and probably not a linear one. My first career was as a clinical psychologist. I was working in health care settings. I was working mostly with children and families and certainly nothing to do with safety at that point. But what became really clear for me is that incredible relationship, that dynamic between a parent and child, is incredibly transformative things that the parents do. They say the way they act has a huge impact on how children behave, grow and develop, think and feel. And over the course of my career in clinical psychology, I had the chance to transition into working in workplaces, bringing a lot of the same fundamentals of psychology and decision making and job relationship dynamics. And I just sort of landed, if you will, in working with safety. And what I thought was not a hugely taught connection, in the beginning, was an 11-year incredible career, working with some extraordinary organizations and absolutely inspiring leaders, and had the opportunity to blend that passion for psychology with my absolute fascination in the way of leadership and team member dynamic that’s phenomenal. So, you’ve worked with a lot of leaders globally, seen some phenomenal safety leaders. What are some of the key themes that were consistently visible across all those amazing leaders? You know, the amazing ones, the ones that stand out, the ones that I would sort of leave a day of work with and just think, wow, you know, they really get it. You know, I think the thing that I observed with leaders that could have a really incredible impact that could really, you know, shape a culture that could really move people to think differently and feel differently and behave differently. These are the leaders that were incredibly self-aware, you know, when I say they got it, but they really understood that their role mattered, that it wasn’t just that they had a position of authority or that with the boss. But I think they really kind of got the awesome power and responsibility of being in a position of leadership. And they took it very seriously. You know, they had colleagues that I used to work with that would tell leaders, you know, the good news is, is that you have more power than you think. And the bad news is that you have more power than you think. And I think it’s the leaders that were really incredible for me to watch was the ones that really understood that power and that responsibility for people and their safety. That’s amazing. So were there any other themes like one of the parts that I’ve noticed and I know we’ve talked about this before, is the importance of there’s a desire to leave a legacy, there’s a desire to do something with that power, that ability that I’ve got to shape other people’s lives with. Was there something there as well? Yeah, we often, you know, we come together and. You know, when we work together and talk about those leaders that were really, we just had such optimism for their journey and their ability to create change often because they would start at the core of people, you know, I have you know, I can list off some extraordinary leaders that I’ve had the ability to sit with and work with and support. And it’s always talked about their love of people that they really understood that that safety, the people’s ability to work, to go to work, to do good work, to feel productive, feel engaged and to be harmed free at the end of it was really starting at their desk that that, you know, safety, leadership and safety management was very rarely done with a pen or a policy, but it was their words and their actions. And, you know, when they got that and they could really understand that their words and actions were going to make a big difference. You know, many of them really wanted to harness that power. They wanted to do good with that power. And some of those leaders were coming from positions where they really had been confronted with either a terrible workplace event or they saw the tears in children’s and spouse’s eyes when they had to tell a spouse that know somebody that wasn’t coming home from work or that were critically maimed, that they felt that serious impact of their actions. And I had often called them legacy leaders, that they were really conscious of wanting to leave that legacy and do good and make the company better and safer through that leadership. Interesting. And so, the ultimate question is, can that leader be made, or is that somebody who comes that way? So, can you harness some of those skills in those capabilities and a leader, or are you better off finding somebody that you’re recruiting for that skill set? Well, that’s such a good question. You know, this is at the heart of I think most organizations struggle when they’re trying to create change in safety, culture, and safety outcomes is, you know, who takes the lead on doing this? Where are those leaders, not managers? So, I use that term deliberately. And how do we build them and cross them? And I kind of have a bit of a theory about the effectiveness of safety leaders, that it’s sort of you know, if you sort of an equation of the effectiveness of safety leadership is that that passion and that why multiplied by the skill. And so, I think you have to have both to be most effective. I think some of the most effective leaders have really got that clear. Why I’m clear in their head, they understand the awesome power and responsibility of their words and actions. They have a deep passion to do well for people that have a deep passion to never have to bring news to a family. They have a deep desire to make people’s lives better, and they know that they can do that with leadership. So, I think that’s part of the equation. The other part of the equation is absolutely skill, that leadership skills like riding a bike, learning a language, learning a musical instrument is a set of skills, things that we can all learn with focus and practice. I think the big difference is, is that if you don’t have a driving long and a deep desire to be included, to be an effective leader, you’re probably less likely to invest in developing those skills. But I, I certainly can be effective if I really focus on developing the skills. But that does the multiplying effect of that passion and desire as well. Hmm, interesting. So, the other element you’ve often talked about is this concept of transformational leadership. Can you talk a little bit more about what that is in a safety context? Yeah, I think that this is where this notion of skills really comes to the fore. And the debate I’ve had so often with organizations when thinking about, you know, they have a desire to create change in safety. They’re unhappy or unhappy with their lost time injuries. They’re disappointed with the number of people that are getting hurt or harmed in their workplace. And, you know, they want to at first bring in more groups. They want to manage safety well; they want to manage injuries, or they want to manage risk. And they first want to do that through policies and consequences and harm and. Training and telling, and, you know, they desire to manage a ride like that where a lot of people stop, but then that’ll get you a little bit of the way, but not all the way into a sustainably strong, self-sustaining, strong and positive safety culture. And I think this is why, you know, my background in working with families and that through did between parent and child was a natural blend for me to be jumping into Sipi leadership. Because what I think those leaders struggle to contend with is that relationship between the leader and the team members that died in itself is also transformative. There’s a wide array of literature out there that says that the parent-child relationship, that dynamic in itself, is transformative for both the parent and the child, the way they interact, talk, and behave with one another. But the same is true for leaders and team members. You know, next to our parent’s relationship, the relationship I have with my managers and my leaders is probably the second most important relationship and the transformative relationship we have to have in our lives. And I think we all have a story or two about, you know, a bad boss, but also a great boss that helped us with our esteem that we you know, we’ve opened up our opportunities. We grew new skills, we developed empathy. We you know, we grew as humans inside the you know, the leader member, the boss subordinate relationship. And so, if we want people to grow and make great choices and to manage risks and to speak up when they’re unsure, you know, all the behaviors that we want team members to employ, you know, those behaviors come out of safe and productive and trusting relationships with these leaders. And I think, you know, that’s kind of when I come back to that, the notion that legacy leaders, those leaders that really get the awesome power that exists in that did, they’re the ones that want to harness that. They’re the ones that are paying attention that sure you can’t manage safety just with a handful of policies that you pop in a bonder and hope people read and follow it. It’s not how it’s done. It’s done through leading. And if I can deviate just for a moment here, I think that the current circumstance for whenever folks are listening to this session today, we’re talking about a time in the middle of a global pandemic where the hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives. And I think while the debate has been this has been a pandemic about science, I think that this is a pandemic about leadership. Sure. I think we felt the impact of leadership, you know, how leaders’ message and what they message about how they communicate, what they role model, what they pay attention to, what they know, what they measure, what they don’t. This, I think for all of us, we’re seeing, you know, the impact of leadership in how it transforms our perceptions, our decisions, our choices, our feelings, what we do in our lives and in our backyards and our in our decisions is impacted by leaders and the health outcomes follow. This is sort of a meta-study for what goes on with safety inside organizations, what leaders talk about, what they don’t talk about, how they talk about it, what they pay attention to, what they measure, what their role model. These are the transformative elements of safety, leadership, and in leadership literature. We call these transformational leadership behaviors transformational safety, leadership behaviors because they are the things that transform other people’s actions. Ways that people can really change the way that their team members and their organization think about things, feel about things and then behave and the choices they make interesting. And when you bring up the pandemic, it brings up two thoughts to mind. One of them is a number of leaders I’ve spoken to talked about how in the span of six months, they did more to empower or they had more impact, more positive impact in terms of their safety culture than they could have probably imagined in six years because they had to demonstrate active care. They did all the right things versus others who threw their hands in the air and thinking, oh, this is all happening to me. And the other piece was really interesting. I was reviewing some work with one organization, and it was really interesting is despite the pandemic, those leaders who spent a lot of time on the floor connecting with team members, interacting with them, those who previously spent a lot of time continue to find ways to spend a lot of time connecting with their team members. But the interesting piece is those who spent less than 40 percent of the time doing it, that drop; they found excuses not to be able to do it. It’s a choice that you’re making. And I think they set it right; there is the choice you’re making about where you invest your time as a leader. And I think that there’s some interesting, you know, other research similar to what you’re saying, that, you know, great leaders produce great outcomes, poor leaders that don’t do a lot of this investment in these skills of transformational leadership has poor safety outcomes, but even mediocre kind of wishy-washy leaders that sort of dabble in a little bit of safety leadership, but not consistency. We very frequently they don’t have mediocre outcomes. They also have poor outcomes because people find them inconsistent and in genuine ways there. With your guidance and I think this a talking with some other colleagues in this space recently where they’ve said, you know, this pandemic has been a real macrocosm, if you will, of how much leadership influences health and safety outcomes, that this is not a medical crisis. This is like a leadership issue. And yeah, I’d say it’s I think we can all study this one from a how do you make a change in safety performance? You pay attention to the leaders that have got it right here and around the world and in leading to this pandemic. Absolutely. So, what are some of the things that leaders can do to become better safety leaders if they want to take action the way they want to make a difference? What are some of the things that you’ve seen really work in that space? Yeah, I think the first thing is if leaders, I think you should do a little self-reflection on why they want to do this. And this comes back to this notion of those leaders who have consistently, through their career, really worked hard and struggled through even when it’s tough and to get in touch with building a legacy and having a positive impact on people. And so, I think it’s it can be a useful exercise for leaders to tap into a Y for the Saudi leadership. Why do I want to do this? And obviously, I’m going to say that motivations like bonuses and pension and getting fired probably are not going to be massively sustainable for you. But it should sort of, you know, tap something meaningful for you. Sure. For me personally, when I started working in safety leadership, it was because I saw an ad in the newspaper back in the day when ads where I was running the newspaper, and it said, you know, to travel the world while you’re changing it. And I said, yes, I want to change the world. I want to have an impact on people. And I have this you know, I wanted to finish every day seeing someone have an aha moment and or hearing the stories of people saying, you know, that story you told all that research you did or that thing that you mentioned really made a difference for me. And I always thought, you know, if I can change the trajectory of someone by one percent, you know, you know, in terms of vectors, that can be a big difference down the line. So, I think leaders should probably start with getting in touch with why is safety leadership important for them? How does it along with their personal values and what they want to bring to the world? So, I think that’s a starting point. I think it’s a phenomenal starting point. And I’ve certainly done it with a lot of leaders. And it just struck me that everybody good at this always had an incredibly. Wider to surface, there was always some motivation, sometimes it was around Soviet leadership attributes. I was around a great father, mother that had this lasting legacy, or if you said it was somebody got injured in the traumatic event and they would never want to see that again and they realized the role they had as a leader and. Absolutely. Do you in your experience, or do you think that that is also required? Do you think that that is a foundation piece to effective safety leadership with the leaders you’ve worked with? I personally have not found a leader that didn’t have a strong why that was able to communicate generally their desire. In theory. I’m not sure if you could fake it like an actor or learn a script and create your way. But I think the problem is you wouldn’t have the passion behind it. You may be able to have the words in in your messages, but you wouldn’t be able to truly have the drive behind your actions because it’s unique that the leader is I’ve seen that have this why it’s incredibly powerful and they can relive it like there was one there was one zero I was talking to you and his wife had to do with when he was an early supervisor in his career, and somebody had passed away on his shift and he could relive it moment by moment, the drive. And it was the longest drive of his life to see that supervisor that person’s that employee’s wife. And then he can recount 20, 30 years later walking down the path, and then his wife coming, running towards him, thinking that he had arrived for there to congratulate them on their newborn. But instead, he was there to deliver a horrible message that the husband was never coming back. So that ingrained in him. And he could relive that moment basically step by step, like a movie. And it could mean it was such passion, and it shaped all his actions. But the thing is, you can’t make that up unless you’re Hollywood. But the problem is you still need the drive to take action to do something with it, which you can’t script. And I think that’s I think it’s a really good point about not being able to script. And I think it’s when you are really operating from that position of personal values and personal mission and legacy, that it sorts of fuels you consistently, that you’re not sort of a fair-weather safety leader of, you know, I only show up to the safety meetings and, you know, that’s like stand down. And, you know, after an event or, you know, I’m the only kind of vocal about it on Safety Week or, you know, I think that it’s the consistency of folks that have really tapped they’re why that keeps them going and keeps them faithful even when maybe it’s not a good run, or there’s been an injury and, you know, they’re not going to throw in the towel and say, well, this isn’t working. This is a journey. It’s like safety is like health. You don’t just jump on the treadmill once a year and say, well, that’s it, I’m good, I’m healthy. Now, you don’t eat one salad, and the rice is run on your health. It’s a daily activity of activities. And, you know, I think it’s important for the safety leaders that are listening in to this instance is, you know, you don’t have to be confronted with a traumatic event to find out why. You know, I think there are plenty of leaders that have unfortunately walked through those fires metaphorical and literal, and have come out with a deep understanding and a deep desire to never do that again. Desires and their values are never to repeat that situation. But there’s also leaders there that also have a tremendous amount of fuel and passion because of the opportunity they want to harness that it isn’t that they’re trying to avoid an injury. They’re also really invested in saying, you know, like great safety. Leadership also has some remarkable byproducts that, you know, this is spillover. A great safety leadership is, you know, employees tend to perform better, and they’re more productive, and their quality of work is higher and their well-being is better. They’re more engaged. They stay in their roles longer. You know, all of those sort of business outcomes aside, that people are happier and do better work great. And that’s great for, you know, our communities and our workplaces and our society at large. And leaders, just with their words and actions, can and do so afterward. Yeah, absolutely. So, I think that’s the first thing that that leader, if you want to do this well, you can really sit with this to get in touch with their own. Why does safety matter to me? Why does my safety matter to my team, and what does it mean in the alignment of values? So, I think that’s the first journey for leaders to start to walk. Yeah, I would completely echo that. I think it’s a personal reflection. Like you said, it doesn’t need to be a traumatic event. There could be just a deep desire to make the world a better place to change people’s lives, whatever that drive is. But there’s got to be something that’s there in your thoughts, in terms of leaders, in terms of once they’ve got defined their way and they clear on it, what would be the next step then? I think it’s a process of looking at the things you could do, you know, like the actions one can take, you know, the why and the purposes is really going to be the few, you know, the energy and then the actions are what turns that energy into an impact vector and thrust, if you will, like, you know, like you got to do something with that passion. And I think your story about even just being observant of how much time you are spending with your employees, it’s very difficult to have an impact on them if you never see them, never talk to them. I don’t really, you know, like I said, a great email. And I hope that really change the world. It doesn’t get like that. It’s all right. Leadership invites human to human, not email to email or not, you know, of speech to the audience. It’s very human interaction and so requires an investment of time. And so, from a really very practical level, like check your calendar every week, like being conscious of how much leading opportunities you have and they can sneak up on you like a leading opportunity can be in a meeting. There’s an opportunity to role model there to see some impactful things there to show care. You know, you might just be in a meeting, but that’s an opportunity for Sipi leadership. You might be doing some task reviews. Well, there’s great opportunities there. So, check your calendar in. How much time are you putting aside for investing in safety, leadership, and being cognizant of how you want to show up to each of those opportunities? So, you’re actively planning your behaviors ahead of time, and rather than getting caught short at the end of the week and thinking, oh, golly, I’ve got to go do a quick safety walk, hand out a couple of like safety pats on the back. And then I’ve done Friday for the very best. Go and do a quick take five out there, and then I can take off my safety leadership activities, and it’s now probably not going to get it done. So maybe intentional with their time. And then I think, you know, it’s as easy as really looking at the transformational leadership skills. And I keep coming back to that one because it’s a great model for redirecting leader’s attention away from the tasks that really do feel like our responsibilities. Check these schedules, budgets, all you know, the management of projects and productivity, transformational leadership really says, you know, you have an impact by just doing something role-modeling, just being the person that wears the PPE consistently just by being the person that wears their mask consistently, by being the person that does a range of things. That’s plenty of stories. When I was in the field with so many employees, and they could say, you know, a lot of things about their safety leaders just by watching them, you know what I’d say? You know, describe the safety leadership around here. So many of them were full of stories of this person, spoke at a meeting about safety. But then I saw them blow the stopwatch up. You know, as I was reading through the stop sign, leaving the office. And so, everything they say is B.S., you know, it being consistent with your words and actions that really can make a huge difference. And so just role modeling, those behaviors that you would want for people even above and beyond, and even when nobody’s watching, even on the weekend, when you crossing across work, making it part of who you are is pretty important. So, role modeling is, I think, really key. Its people see the actions of leaders, and if they’re not aligned with their words, it can tip over quite quickly. It’s an interesting comment you make is in conversation. Recently, I was talking to somebody who had interacted with a leader that had worked with the late Paul O’Neill when Alcoa is going through his great transformation in terms of safety and safety culture. And the part that struck me as one of the stories of that person, I have met this person personally, but. So, it’s secondhand knowledge, but one of the stories that was shared that was the most impactful to them that Polonia was real at, that safety was real for him, is they had heard early on in his career, apparently there was a fatality at the site and a CEO. He pulled everything out of his calendar, and he was there not to yell at people, not to be angry, but to learn how we fail. He was asking people to understand why we are failing, really role modeling, the learning organization. Well, what’s interesting is we’re probably talking now 20, 20, 25 years ago. And that’s the story that stuck to that person’s mind. It’s how they prioritize that safety was real to them. And as a CEO of a huge company, I’m willing to put everything to put my mind where it matters. Absolutely. You know, I think that folks that have had the opportunity to work alongside or around great safety leaders have those real stories about those moments that matter when, you know, those leaders made a tough choice in the instance when they didn’t sort of follow the traditional path of how things might get managed. But they’re prepared to be vulnerable and here uncomfortable things and to have uncomfortable conversations in the effort to get them to acknowledge that this isn’t a journey, it’s not a race we’re going to win. We never get to declare victory over safety. So, we have to continue to be vigilant about it and be tough about it and to examine ourselves and be rigorous and uncomfortable and I think yeah, I think for those people who have had the opportunity to work alongside great leaders like Paul O’Neill would certainly have boatloads of those great stories. Great. And I’d love to share. Finally, in terms of communicating, how does those leaders communicate? Is there a common theme around how they communicate, the stories they share, the insights they share with their groups? Yeah, you know, I think this is a lovely one to think about, you know, being that we’re chatting in a podcast here that, you know, a fundamental form of human communication, the way that we transmit knowledge and meaning, more importantly, how we transmit meaning to one another is through great storytelling skills that, you know, I can think of very few PowerPoint presentations that have really struck me. You know, I’m not going to be on my deathbed telling my grandkids about an extraordinary spreadsheet that really felt like, you know, we don’t have those kinds of experiences. But, you know, humans communicate with one another when they’re mindful that they’re communicating with other humans and how human brains work, that we are inherently social human to human beings, that we are people that care about being safe and care about meaning and purpose, and that we are filled with a range of needs and desires and complexities. And I guess that when people communicate with the idea, first of all, in mind that they’re communicating with other people, other humans. And so, I think, you know, one thing that great safety leaders can work on is there I’m going to say communication skills, but sort of more their storytelling skills here, the way they craft a narrative, the way they build a you know, a message that has impact, a message that can land for individuals. You know, I think there’s some great people that have distilled this into some to some easy points and thinking of Senex Golden Circle and says, you know, when you’re trying to tell people about what it is you’re trying to tell them, start with why and not necessarily the why for you, but why. Then why would someone want to listen to this thing that I’m talking to them about? And, you know, what should they remember that’s important and what should they do with this information? So, it’s important that, you know, I often think where leaders can go wrong is that they believe that their job is to sort of be the voice-over track to a corporate message. You know, they’re the voice over to a spreadsheet, or they’re you know, they’re just adding a couple of additional words to a document that they don’t really understand the again, the awesome power they have within them to change people’s minds about things that with a good message, a good story, people can say. Oh, yeah, I’m going to do something different today. Oh, yeah, I think I’m going to take a different approach to that. And so, I think the ability for leaders to be really thoughtful on how they communicate the message they want to communicate but to just really hold this idea in mind that those humans communicate through stories, really through graphs or stacks or, you know, the corporate words and PowerPoint presentations that, you know, things that we’ve relied on to look like we’re getting the job done. But at the end of the day, that’s good management work. Leading work is when the message that I have sent is landed for someone, they’re nodding their head. We’ve had a connection. We’re meeting the minds. We have a shared idea about an experience, or there’s an emotional reaction where someone will sign Ops is in their brain who connected together. And they will quite a little bit different, like quite literally, that they are a little bit different because of the message that they’ve that I received. I think that that’s really where leaders can craft some incredible power and love that message because the power of stories is so, so important. I think it also links back to the way if you’ve got a strong line, you can articulate and it’s a story or even if there’s a few different stories around it, I think it also makes it much more powerful. But how do you make that long-lasting? How do you make it beyond that one experience at one moment where I had a great story, great example, no disrespect to Tony Robbins, phenomenal speaker, but I went to a presentation? It’s life-changing. It’s amazing. And then you walk away. It’s the same thing next day. How do you make that stick? Yeah, I you know, I am so glad you asked that because I know I’ve been to plenty of safety conferences and had some great inspirational speakers. And you think, oh, well, we did see you guys later. What do I do with that? And, you know, in my own leadership practice, some of the values we have is about taking care of customers, deep customer care in a number of levels. And so, we have a cultural practice in at the beginning of every meeting about customers. We take a couple of minutes to acknowledge to one another a moment that we’ve seen, however small or large, where we’ve been demonstrating that value. And it serves as a moment for some storytelling, not presenting like a chart of how this might have improved our input. You know, I’m saying, you know, I talked with Kelly and we had this conversation. She said this and I did that. And this is what happened. And, you know, so we tell a true story. We get a chance at that time to reinforce small behaviors, small attitudes. And, you know, we’re not talking about hitting targets and goals. What we’re talking about the attitudes that we bring to our interactions and the behaviors that we express. I went above and beyond. So, I you know, I went just did this additional layer of risk. So, it’s our chance to, again, sort of notice and pays attention to the types of behaviors that are important that contribute to our ultimate goal. It’s a time where we pat each other on the back and get some social support and active care and check in with one another to need help with that. And well done. What a great example. You know, what became, you know, what was a bit of pulling teeth in the first months, probably even a year, maybe even 18 months of me doing this now has become a habit, a habit inside our team and our companies where we tell stories about what’s important to us. And that’s, I think, turning that leadership passion and those transformational activities into organizational habits. And they look small, and they can look geeky and kind of funny. But we couldn’t have a meeting that it just feels off. If we don’t start without burdens of storytelling, celebration, pats on the back, sometimes calling out ourselves and tooting our own where we did something well, but ultimately living our values in the things that are important. So that’s I think with communication and communicating, the impact can become so sustainable when it becomes part of your habits, not just this once-a-year safety meeting. Yeah, I think that’s incredibly powerful story. And I think that’s also the element of the safety moment when you start a meeting in a lot of organizations is you have known. But what I love is what you’re sharing is really about stories, not some random safety moment that you just pop through. You’re really getting much more into thinking of how did I show up? How did it? It back the customer in that instance or so forth, so really checking into your attitudes, beliefs, and mindsets around safety. Absolutely. And it’s the less of the moment of, you know, what I caught someone doing wrong or an issue I have fixed, which I’ve had plenty of safety moments where like, well, I saw this problem and I fix it. And there’s some great stories. There were opportunities where people have closed the gaps, but they also should be moments of celebration that we want to sort of pat each other on the back and say, hey, well done, your part of who we are and what we do and how we do things around here. And, um, but it becomes part of the fabric of the organization then, not just an event that happens. And we get used to noticing when we’re doing great things, paying attention to one another, caring for one another, rewarding and recognizing people for the great things they do. It’s a great opportunity to start an upward spiral of safety, leadership and strong safety culture. So, I think it’s really good design. I mean, it’s really the elements of even appreciative inquiry we’re back into as an organizational change vehicle is all about how do you get those the stories to start surfacing? I think what you’re sharing is how do you get into a daily, weekly ritual where you’re reflecting. You can even follow in with some powerful questions, I think, to see how your leaders are showing up in a particular way, not an interrogation, but through stories. So instead of one of the questions was, I often prefer asking is rather than saying when was your last observation, which is a binary response, you say, what have you seen from your last observations? What concerns you? Where do you think, the next potential incident is going to happen next injury? Because it pushes people to actually observe, to think. And at first you might stare, but eventually people are going to have to do something with what they see. Absolutely. I love that idea of being thoughtful about the questions that we’re asking that binary like how many safety observations would be done? When was your last year? OK, those are just numbers, right? There’s a simple thing you can put on a spreadsheet for sure. But this is I think the point you’re making is leaders have the opportunity with their questions to engage, thinking, to actually engage the neural networks that people have in their brain that are in charge of decision making in analyzing information and making good decisions and solving problems. And if you get people thinking this is the old adage, you know, sign-ups as a firing, sign-ups as wiring, the more you are having of those conversations on a repeated basis, the more that becomes the way you are. You’re inadvertently wiring people’s brains for risk awareness and for safety problems. And that’s just so cool by changing one word of how many safety observations to what were your safety observations? What did you observe? A small change in the way we ask questions. What concerns do? Exactly what positive change have you noticed over the last month in your observations? I think there’s a quote that somebody shared with me, which I think is phenomenal. This is what interests my boss fascinates me. So, if it’s interesting to me to ask those questions and it’s going to be fascinating for me, and then I think that’s how you cascade your message around safety and safety culture. Absolutely. That’s very true. Well, thank you so much, Michelle. It’s been a phenomenal conversation. I think your passion for safety, leadership and now passion for leadership in general in terms of how do you get the best talent and organization, had your influence, how they lead and how they shop is so powerful. I’ve definitely influenced me in terms of safety, leadership and my thinking around it. So, thank you for coming. Thank you very much, Eric. And it’s just such a great joy to be thinking about and talking about such an exciting topic like what we do here. 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. Fuel your future. Come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops guru, Eric Michrowski.

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Michelle Brown is the COO of Pinsight, a HR software solution providing businesses with critical insights into their current and future leaders. Michelle is also a professor at the University of Denver, specializing in organizational behavior and leadership. Michelle has degrees in both psychology and business, and uses this perspective to ensure the scientific methods used at Pinsight are translated to practical and effective solutions for HR professionals, businesses and their leaders.

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