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Making Safety part of your life with Jason Anker

Making Safety part of your life with Jason Anker

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In this episode, Jason Anker discusses the work incident that paralyzed him from the waist down at just 24 years old. Mental health in the workplace is a popular topic of discussion these days, but it’s rarely linked to worker safety. How does mental health affect decision-making at work? What impact can a work accident have on your life and the lives of those around you? What can supervisors do to support workers? Anker tackles these tough questions and shares the inspiring journey of how he overcame the trauma from his life-altering incident.

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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 incredibly excited to have with me Jason Anker. Jason is an incredible speaker on safety. He’s got an MBA from Buckingham Palace in the UK. Jason, welcome to the show. I’d love for you to start out by sharing a little bit about your story and then we’ll take it from there.

Hi, Eric. Thank you very much for inviting me to speak today. I suppose my story starts on January 3rd, 1993. Hmm. I was just 24 years old, married with two young children. I’m I was working as a roofing contractor on a building site. Right. It was not my job by choice, but it was a time in the 90s in the UK of the recession. So work was hard to come by. So, I’ve been a family man.

You were the cook from January 3rd and October three was the first day back after the Christmas break. I had a particularly very nice Christmas problems with my marriage. It wasn’t a great Christmas back on the road side that it was a really cold day. It was foggy, icy cold. I really didn’t want to be on site box right for the day. I pass off much like every other day, but then around. Half past 2:00 in the afternoon, things changed the way that Russia came in the work.

Mm-hmm. And when he was asked if he could try and get to our job done in just one hour, as little as daylight was fated, Sasha. So, you can imagine being a contractor on site, trying to please the client. We decided that we would attempt to get the job done. After a half hour into the job, I unfortunately fell 10 meters, 10 feet, three meters from untied unspotted ladder. Sorry to hear that.

Yeah, yeah, and Insley realize I can’t feel my legs more than the usual drama at Amherst Hospital by ambulance, initially after an X-ray, they concluded that they couldn’t actually find anything seriously wrong with me and may be suffering from a condition known as spinal shock caused by the fall. Over the next couple hours, a couple of days a week, a few weeks now I get all the sensations. Back then, I was taken for a CT scan just for closure, just to confirm what the doctors suspected.

But fortunately, the news wasn’t great. I was told I suffered severe spinal injuries and I was paralyzed from the waist down. And the most likely scenario was that I’d never walk again. Wow, you’re 24 years old, you know, right? Well, it’s just something you I expected and still these things happen to the people, then it’s not always somebody else. All right. This was actually happening to Mel. I spent four months in rehab, spinal rehabilitation, hospital, learning, the NOVA skills, you did spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair.

Now, when I first went there, I still believe I got there to not walk. But that is not the case now. I was told I’ll be doing the rest of my life. So, you have all the indignities of when banks bite on your leg and a daily routine to go to the toilet. I was 24 years old then. I spent all the hospital were focused, almost your physical rehabilitation that had all the practical skills you need rush off in a wheelchair and very little at the time was focused on mental health.

I was actually cheered by some. I still believe that as soon as I got out of hospital, I would just find a way of coping. Just today, I’ve been out of office before April 25th, 1993. I’ve been on for one day and my then wife, she walked out with two young children. Oh, wow. So, if you can imagine that, yeah, the enormous impact I’m so sure to imagine six competitively of life will go from really happy, you know, fate, 24-year-old to suddenly being told you spent last night in the wheelchair.

You’re totally incontinent. And my wife is actually talking to young children and their traumatic time. But again, looking back, we never spoke about how I was feeling. And if I asked you that roundabout way, are you okay? You always want to put a smile on your face. Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just a natural environment. People have. Yeah, I’m fine. No, no, no one ever asked me that second probing question.

Why don’t seem far. I really, it’s just that asthma sounds okay and let bull, you know, like my life was imploding. Didn’t realize the speed to I was seeing a counselor obviously trying to deal with things uselessly mismatch depressants which showed me that I started to abuse my senses like I was drinking really hard at the time. You know, you hit the debt. I think you can’t get any worse things to get worse. I quite ashamedly got mixed up in taking illegal drugs as well.

It wasn’t. I was trying to get high or it was just trying to forget all the pain. But that downforce resulted in nineteen ninety-five of unintentional overdose. So, which resulted in me being seventeen days machines and dad being advised to turn the machine off. And it was just looking back now I can’t remember any of this. I was in a mom that was live more than two years previously told us to walk over fallout from that and now faced with an impossible decision based like time machine of.

I’m watching this and I. Wow. Look, they may look at, but that’s a No. So, I spent five months in rehabilitation is very simple. The last thing that was very similar to a stroke and so can the hospital again, people thing doesn’t the trauma. How you feel that your life will pick up. And unfortunately, I couldn’t sleep. I was feeling right. And a knock-on effect was Masafumi. I was effective, I was I did not speak about how I was affected, and I suppose my talks in the UK really focused on not the accent and not rehabilitation, but the impact on your life from a decision I made at work one day, this is how your life implodes and I can always play by at that moment.

So now are you still drinking? Was a big problem for me. I’ve been off the weekends trying to blot out the problems. I’ve found a way of coping. You know, I got myself into a state church and came back to me full time. So, I focus. And I wasn’t really thriving in life. Nothing really meant anything to make sure low on battery compensation that finally got resolved at 14 years. So, a lot of people have. Yeah.

And again, a lot of people have accidents. And I strongly believe that compensation is the end of the trauma. And maybe it was I still had money in the bank and yeah, I was just really unhappy. I was on the cycle of displaying material things, cars, holidays, things that I just trying to get myself feel better. At the end of the day, when I was in the mall, when I opened my eyes every morning, the very first thing I see is the wheelchair.

I saw my dad. And go back to that moment 28 years ago, when I was still about the opportunity to speak up and it was by chance actually a chance meeting one time when I was actually drunk to party Christmas 2008 and somebody, I just approached me and asked me why I was in a wheelchair. You know, it’s not he’s not talking at a party right now, it’s important what we did was an accident and I suggest that work.

I felt that I was 24 years old and we arranged a meeting because I thought it was really not so much interested in what obviously is important to share to people. What you know is that this is what if you want if you really want to impact people and influence people to make choices on site or report on, say, facts or, you know, speak about anything unsafe on site, talk about what you’ve lost in your life, talk about the impact on your life.

You know, not be able to kick a football softball, you might say. Well, Mison, right? Yeah. I’ve got quite good to speak in its national defense as we got here. And yeah, little things like little adults try to bike. Right. Always little moments that, you know, especially as a man, as a man, because all the little moments, these things that you always remember, you never first kick the football.

The first year takes time. Lots of stabilizers off of a bicycle. You know, I sat and watched my dad let my daughter and my son have to ride a bike. And those moments all the more people. But, well, I told you guys that, you know, these 28 years since my accident and those moments. Don’t go away. So, my daughter Abby is now 31 years ago, gave birth my first grandchild. Hmm. Yeah, I have the back my grandkids on my shoulders.

Man is a little thing. And my second grandchild has just been born last week, so I got two granddaughters. So, congratulations, it is gone. And we’ll talk about in a good place because I live in less than two or three years. So now my accent, the devastating impact on my life, my family’s life and my mom and dad are by again, not my ex on a wheelchair more while I am through Avers for me in a wheelchair that, you know, mom still sees a counselor.

She still takes antidepressants. That’s it. If you talk about, I’ll push my wheelchair because you know, these emotions and so, so strong and so deep because of watching. Now, my accident happened to me and I’ve always thought that the only person I really blame is myself. You know, I was really let down by my ex and fundamentally, I made a critical error and made the journey for me. It’s been understanding why I made that choice that day at work.

Yes, I think the jury Brown since I joined partnership for 10, it’s going to cost Tidmarsh plus Tidmarsh since our joint recovery to return and new business function, not just on the safety side of an accident, but looking for from a mental health and mental wellbeing as well. Which is being absolutely crucial, so, you know, my actions actually took so much away from me. I’ve been speaking now for 12 years now and literally changed my life.

Now, I’ve traveled around the world up into amazing places since the amazing projects and always along the lines of how can we get people to say, oh, how can we safely on site always look at my accident as a. What could you say? Don’t be like me story, which are very is a lot of speakers, I’m quite friends get lost in America now because, you know, I’m a small network of speakers and we tend to be like many stories that can have the most impact.

And since I’ve changed the slant of my story a little bit, well, I do still speak about my accent. Sure. That’s the new element of looking at it from a different viewpoint, especially since I’ve been speaking out this last 18 months. I mean, the feedback we’re getting from the clients and asking public feedback we’re getting from the workers themselves. Wow. I’ve never, ever made the connection between how someone is feeling and what they did. What work.

So, yes, I think that’s an incredibly important topic, and I think that’s where we originally started as some of our conversations. Tell me more about how you’re feeling that day. You alluded to it before, but also what were some of the signs, the actions that could have prevented it even prior to that day observance?

You know, it’s such a big part in my mind. The story was told for the last 12 years has always started on January 3rd, 1993, that my ex and the date, if I would definitely time my life been totally different. If I’m allowed to take you back to the beginning of not to. And so, if you magic from school, I was very open, so my dream job as a songwriter from the school, that’s what I did.

It was the best job out of my life. You know, I work every day with a smile on my face. That’s never a day off. If it was, I was still trying to get into work, but not time to be in a recession in the U.K., I’d actually be made redundant. So being a family man, find some more work. Now, at the time, I have a friend who used to work on the power stations, on the soldiers, where they repair power stations during the summer.

And what I said before, when the demand is back and it’s fantastic. At the time, I was probably than five times more money per week as a job as a songwriter. And yet. I hated it, you know, it was not the work for me, I was away from home seven days a week and that put pressure, more pressure on the marriage, because my wife, my wife at the time was pregnant with my second child.

So, I was away from home. So, what do Monday when they’re away from home, they work hard and they spend evenings in the pub like 28 years ago that sold the culture. So, it’s affecting my fitness for a few pounds because I wasn’t playing football or soccer, as you say, I was in training set. My fitness levels have dropped and we got finished the season of House Sessions. And that’s why I had to work on the building site.

And again, it wasn’t the work for me wasn’t the important. I wanted to work inside my mind morale. The job was pretty. Hey, I hated going to turn up all the downbeat mood and I think it’s an accident. I’ll take it. The night before my accident, I was actually partying in attendance with my supervisor. I know I can I can I can remember him saying to me earlier, I mean, come on now, we must get off.

You know, we got work next time and. I will say because of my mental the way I was in my mental capacity and I was feeling the time, no, no, I won’t stop until a couple more drinks. Now, if I’m being honest, I can’t I can’t remember going on that night. I can I can better not be picked up the next day. Still drunk the night before. People say, did your health and wellbeing influence your safe choice?

I say definitely 100 percent that my mind you know, I didn’t want to be that I’m going to the next day, you know, people say, what can you remember from your accent? Which I’ll be totally honest about my accent or my ex on my daddy has been in my mind, it’s been patched together from what other people have told me. Right. My clear amendment, the only way I can really remember that day was. They installed on the bottom of the ladder when it was on, it wasn’t reported that said that safety management, we always talk about the five second go instinct that something’s not right and we just expect people then just stop and did the correct thing.

Well, I at the moment, you know, I stopped at the bottom of the ladder. I thought, this is unsafe and I still do it for the last or the first. So, eight, nine years, my presentations and I used to always try and encourage people to speak about safety, always in the back of my mind, just thinking myself. But you did stop you. You’re asking people to tie in five seconds. But actually, you actually did that.

You actually realize what you do if you stop, you know, the correct things that we say that we’re going to do. And then I know what I meant. There was some pressure on now the continuation of work, but I really don’t think that was in the forefront of my mind that time. And I can’t get it down to two. One thing that convinced me to take the gamble, you know, because I know people say it’s always up to somebody else, nine thousand, nine hundred and ten thousand jobs to get away, do it.

So, we all you know, that mentality sometimes drives people to do to do the show because the things that happened to them. But in my mind, I knew what I was doing was unsafe. And I’ve got down to that. I felt so low at the time. I just wanted to go home. So, you know, me to have coined the phrase come. But I saw them two or three months. Obviously, we push our ideas backwards and forwards all the time.

And that Tim’s always told me that if you could imagine, I would be using a blue pipe. There might have been nice pipe with different sections that you might, you know, on a time and further three hours that done. The more things are on your mind, outside work, you can check. I could cook judgment. And I said, that’s all well and good. I can understand that I was distracted to understand all the things on my mind.

I didn’t climb the ladder thinking it was safe. I’d actually, you know, I can’t use that as an excuse because I don’t do that. I was fully aware of what I was doing. So, yes, I was distracted with things on my mind. I wasn’t sleeping on, eating properly, drinking too much. All these things type poor decision. But fundamentally, I still I have that moment that this is not safe.

So, you know, we basically coined the phrase the moment where, you know, it’s unsafe. And, you know, I just think self oh, I just got the job done and uncensored and using this phrase and some of the presentations, the response to that comment, it’s been profound. You know, people just not work for the management as well, because obviously they play a role in decisions. And if they’re in that moment, sat in the office where they should visit, saw that day and they Tuesday where were to stay in the office because they’re having a bad time outside of work and they bought the old fine, get the job done.

I’m not nice to the supervisor who may himself be on some issues outside work. So, by the time he realized the instructions to the workforce, what instructions is even after the work force? I mean, if you don’t give them some of the work, force them to stay home as well, because, you know, there could be a fatality. There could be problems with the family because these are not issues. You know, the pat down, if you live by yourself and it actually passed away, it was all you’ve got when you got home at night.

Surely that could change the way you could work in the morning. I know they stay. We talk about this is really no link in how well we can affect safety for sure. You know, people say to me there’s not enough factual evidence of this. Well, I use my story. I say, well, look at my story, look at my actions, all the things that went wrong in mathematics and my mindset on that day, you know, contrary to my action. 

Ninety-five, I say 100 percent. My choice that day was made on how I was feeling. Sure. You know. Could call a response, my supervisor, change the way I feel, so it’s always about having time off. I think that the fear sometimes when we start linking safety and well-being, that there be some kind of huge cost element to this. Maybe someone just picked up on the guy in my accent, Jason, a bit different.

Maybe that conversation will, you know, take my mind a little bit and maybe so when we go back to be surprisingly good, that work is good for you. And I strongly believe, you know, going to work in an ice culture when you come to where they should feel valued. You’re part of a team. Yeah, my accent looking back. And it costs the guy I was working for the customers. This is only a small contractor.

His business didn’t survive, so he lost his business and all the guys who work for the company or lost jobs. Right. It was a recession. So obviously it wasn’t easy to come by. So, it was a knock off that we can look at the supervisor himself. He was a guy there was actually footing a of without my accent. And he didn’t blame himself. My father, by the way, because they actually thought I was down.

So, when I came down on the final time, the supervisor was actually fixing the ladder as far as I at the bottom of the hill, why do I think I was down? And that’s why I called back a lot. But now you think to yourself, that attracts people yourself from my accent. Did you blame to USA? It wasn’t for the obvious thing of what can I do for a ladder? He actually blamed for allowing me on LA.

Right. He was a guy picked up in the morning at the party before he picked up in the mall and he saw what state I was in a back seat on the way to work. So, he’s guilty of my accent was not from walking away from Alabama. It was actually. Allow me on site that you’re taking site on site. Allow me to wear that day. That’s a massive impact on his life. He moved away customers marriage. He moved away.

So, you know, this just shows the ripple effect of accident. It’s not just it’s not just in your partner’s immediate family. It’s how I saw his life change actions actually in the parliament. Those rules go out now and extend these problems that people don’t talk about.

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So, I think you bring up some very interesting points there in terms of the year prior, the role of the supervisor, what are some of the things that a supervisor can do or could have noticed? Right. Because I remember somebody sharing a story where in one day that the supervisor was walking on the shop floor, this was a manufacturing environment. And then the supervisor was talking to somebody and saying, how are you doing? What’s happening? And the person shared that they had just been evicted from the home that night.

So, they hadn’t slept properly and immediately said, well, you shouldn’t be doing this job. Pull the person off, not without pay, obviously with pay, because they’re not trying to aggravate the problems, but recognizing that person didn’t have the focus and the attention needed to take on a very, very dangerous job. So, tell me a little bit about what would you reflect on the role that the supervisor has and maybe what are some of the cues that a supervisor or a leader should be looking for?

Yeah, absolutely. Just I that the supervisor actually came forward and spoke about his concerns. That was. It was said that it was a death by accident and all his knowledge of what was going wrong. So, yeah, as a supervisor, it’s like communication. How can you potentially spot people acting differently if you don’t speak, if you have a supervisor intent on your team of people? So, you spot people acting differently. And I think you hit the nail on the head as well.

You know, it’s all well and good asking Sony for OK, because we all know, OK, well, what country we live in us, which OK, I’m fine with which they fall back to the usual question. How are you the worst possible if you ask why, why are you doing. We just didn’t instinctively reply. Yeah, I’m fine. But yeah, as you mentioned on your example, I will say exactly the same conversation the supervisor had with work because he went to approach it from a different angle, maybe taking to one side and just ask him again.

You seem so different, are you? I take some of the prodding questions in our experience first and then we’ll open about the problems. And as you say, it could be something traumatic. It could be a death to the partner or something more and more like says something about that person’s children in a day. And we all know when things like our mind is hot, it’s hard to get it off. I mean, I use a very quick so I’ve got something to show the importance of when we start this journey. And a couple of years ago, presenting for a regional airline and a guy come to speak to us at the end of the presentation, I’ll always remember it was a nighttime presentation for the engineers who actually serviced the planes. The very next day will be fine all-around Europe with passengers on it initially told me stories, but in a wheelchair, I honestly thought that you want to talk about the similarities of being in a wheelchair, but he stopped me. Now, it’s not like I said, my brother’s 500 miles away and approaching.

My parents passed away a couple of weeks ago and since the funeral, I’m not cut for my brother was in the wheelchair. So, I feel really concerned. And the presentations led me to believe that family is the most important thing. So tomorrow I’m not going to I can’t drive 200 miles and find out what’s on brother. So, he told me stories to give you some advice. Can you tell me the exact story that you’ve told me that just not time for you Chicago speech?

So, he did and it made contact over the weekend. I took your advice in my marriage. I told one story about my brother and he said that that is absolutely OK. He says, please, please, please take day off tomorrow. In fact, now you’ve told me I’m not able to rearrange shake patterns and get some bullshit tomorrow. So tomorrow it’s not just you not turned up. I’ve got some in place. So that’s a big relief for me.

But I’m not sure he said, in fact, we’re OK. It’s weather wise. See what you told me? You want to go home. I think this to me is a bit more friendly. Right? He said he said, no, I think I’m fine. I’ve offended all my issues. I think I’m fighting a shift. And the bet for me was the conversation was he then said that for the previous three evenings he got so much on his mind he remembered being at work.

Now, this guy was servicing planes flying across Europe and for three days because his mind was not on the job. He remembered being at work three days. And to me, that was a lightbulb moment. Thank you. We have to push this because. Yeah. So, the upshot was he spoke what I was feeling he was able to come to chef that night. So, you know, we’re not going to fight wars and really positive where. Well, I tell you what, I really want to get into a conversation about what may or may not happen to work.

Know I was going through his mind, you know, how many times you think about the consequences of, you know, how we’ve been working so familiar. That was the greatest connection I can say, where people say we need evidence that while the insight is collective. Well, how many do we do? We really need to go along the lines of there where we’ve been to safety for so long. Let’s wait for Madrak some time and then we work backwards.

It never happens again. Wouldn’t it be great to stop things happening in the first place? Right. You, our people are feeling is the only indicator to a society because you have that when you fight with your supervisor, because you’re in a bad mood. And I know change your supervisor or people at work start to pull out the little bit soft and withdrawn at work and work. That becomes a place where you want to control the morning, say all things about presentism, absenteeism, let’s say a production.

It actually engages work so that it’s going to give password more productive discretionary effort where you put their actual effort. And that’s where the workers will suffer and they might turn up every day. You might talk every day and you might always work out how much quality work is actually given. Exactly. So, yeah. So, you know, the cost of this is, you know, what is the cost? And the cost is normally the first on it.

It’s hard. Oxybenzone and then Macel a problem with production. Let me I find this work hole is in hindsight until we always find out the problem. The worker is suffering. But I need that vaccine. So, we have to come into a place where this is high on the agenda because, yeah, people who I’m speaking to and when we speak on the subject, only last week were small groups of worked in front of us and outside sent them introspect about how this feeling.

I would much prefer to do as well, obviously a bit more concerned about speaking up. Some of the guys were saying them among some problems outside work. And I’m bringing all into what I think to me. What more can we do to highlight that? Because there’s still some kickback and, you know, wife, well, they’re being tied in safety. I thought, well, we really, really have to start connecting the dots.

Exactly. I’m not sure exactly. I know when you speak to Ten Fuge podcast, they’ll give you the scientific reason why we need to do what we do. It’s unfortunate had my accident, but in a way, I can’t change that, you know, but I’m not in Manhattan to mix. I was always thinking what I saw, but I still want to walk. But I need a wheelchair. That’s give me a bit of a purpose in life. 

And if my purpose is that we, can we can show this connection between safety, well, it’s new for me to realize what I did. It was always about safety accidents, safety violations. I made that time. Well, for me, when I just look at it like I’m not going to I prefer to die. So, things I know we talk about. But I think for even the few of us, you can easily see the connection to mine.

Well, when I’m at that, my accident, it wasn’t nothing major. It was marriage problems, debt problems, and just the one little problem that some people can have. Yes, I’m starting to get quite difficult in most parts, Maksym, you know, all the problems, although I’m sure someone else was on my mind, but that caused me to not follow through. When I realized something wasn’t safe inside, I could cry out inside a million-dollar question.

I resigned. But I strongly believe that if my mindset had been a lot better place that I am, that I would have spoken of. This may well come out of exhaustion because I was such a bad place. Items on top of me. It was BBS last job. I get the job done. You can come home right now. You know, even some of the guys are on podcast. I agree with all your experience. How many times heard that story on?

It was all over the day; it was the most real as we all stopped for a broken violation. Do we ever, ever look for a broken person?

And I think this is the part that’s very powerful in terms of your stories really linking the importance of looking at well-being and how that impacts in a workforce safety outcome. Because if you’re focus isn’t on the task, you’re bound to accept greater risk, to maybe not focus on something that’s not quite right. But you’ve also touched on the importance of active care, essentially, really, in terms of the leader who understands, who knows their team can spot the difference.

They can ask that question. They’re going beyond the are you OK? Going a little bit deeper, maybe connecting that something’s not quite right today. But the last piece I want to touch on with you is also the element of psychological safety, which I think is another element that that shows up in your story, but also a story, an element that’s incredibly important in terms of the role of the supervisor and the leader to impact a great safe work environment so that people can feel comfortable speaking up, stopping work, escalating issues and having the right dialog.

And any thoughts on that theme?

Well, I think you saw it there and really, I think it is true that we have to, first of all, recognize that psychological safety exists. And I feel like this woman is a very reluctant to listen to their remit. They believe it’s not part of that we’re safety professionals, that this is a different area. Let’s get the experts on this and yeah, with you, with the experts. But for me, psychic safety is the next big bet, because for me, you know, when you analyze my accident, I respect the safety risk.

You mentioned the risk appetite. You know, I think, you know, the more problems you outside of where your risk appetite goes up, it’s not because, I mean, some people enjoy rationally what people do based on people. You skydive, but they all have extremes. This is the average guy going to work, you know, and I think sometimes that you can in a very good place. And the problem comes up for my engineer who like to solve problems.

So, the risk is just that you control accident. But when you look at that, the average worker, I think the appetite for risk is Ops and then they enjoy doing it. Take place. Listen, the something if you’re tired, it come to your own problems. Your mental health problems are, you know, there’s physical fatigue, management fatigue. And when you’ve got to because you’re tired and you risk appetite, actually cancel because you think I haven’t got the time to properly.

So, I’m just gone then because you’re tired and you take these risks, you then more like take the calculated risk. You might be taking these very highly calculated because you’re in such a bad place. I think for me, that’s why I cycle site safety and psychological safety. Start looking at the work and what I can do because, you know, being a nice manager and my supervisor can change how people are feeling. If I couldn’t work in a really bad makes, I had a bad day.

The first couple of conversation with my supervisor, my manager can sign up for the rest of the time and I couldn’t work. And that supervisor, you spot some just a little bit differently. I took off the day. Jason, you. Yeah. Inspired not so. Let’s go for a little chat. My timeline problems by how I’m feeling and what’s going on in the marriage. The most sort of soldier. I’ll probably feel a lot better in that moment.

And so, for me, that that is we’ve got to get across that. It is a public safety now. And the resistance we put out there, I question what is the safety world of frightened of, you know, an. A lot of conversation we don’t like get involved in this kind of stuff. Sure, I question the question is really why not? As we move, move, move, move forward to more reports come out, the more experts like turn the lie, start looking at site safety on the Internet, you know, about their work results when you come home in a bad mood, which results and that you don’t pay the kids and you probably download all of something of a couple of beers and you know why you have a bad week and then go to the sports with children.

So, then you have a bad weekend and Monday morning you’re back at work and with a mugshot on the weekend of November. So, for me, that progression of, you know, feeling down about work and your home life, the connection between the two sides, it’s a huge new area. And just because people don’t understand it doesn’t mean we can’t look at it as a huge impact on safety. Exactly.

Absolutely. And I think your story illustrates that and illustrates the importance. And as you alluded to, we’re going to have Professor Tim Tebow as well share his story and his research on this in a future episode. But, Jason, really appreciate the time you took to share some of your story and the insights around the importance of linking well-being in culture, the importance of active care, the importance of psychological safety and all of this. I think it’s a very powerful story.

If somebody wants to get in touch with you, have you spoken to them, share some insights around what’s the best way to do that?

Just through website, so much promotion across all what we take from inspirational speaking way through to coach change the expertise of Tim Miller, Global Recognized Practitioner wanting to say.

Excellent. Well, Jason, thank you very much for sharing your story, for inspiring organizations and individuals to make safety part of every day. Thank you.

Thank you so much for the invite.

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

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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ABOUT THE GUEST

After a tragic workplace fall 28 years ago left Jason confined to a wheelchair without the use of his legs, he identified as a survivor of his accident, focusing on physical recovery and turning to a combination of alcohol and drugs to cope. He was overwhelmed by self-blame and shame and too proud to say that he needed help as he believed he was helping those around him by shielding them from his true inner struggles. Today, he speaks openly and honestly about his mental health crisis and no longer hides his feelings, preferring instead to spend his time living in the present and thriving.

Connect with Jason at www.p2bs.org and www.ankerandmarsh.com

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

The Safety Guru_Donald G. James

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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.

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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 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.

The Safety Guru with 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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Happiness Index for Safety and Mental Health with Nick Marks

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Happiness in the workplace matters for sustainable wellbeing, safety, productivity and business outcomes. It predicts if teams and organizations are building a better future. Today, our special guest Nick Marks shares his insights on psychological safety and mental-wellbeing, two critical drivers of safety outcomes. He also addresses skeptics by demonstrating how feelings connect to data.

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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 am Eric Michrowski. Today I’m very excited to have with me Nick Marks. He’s a statistician with The Soul. He’s got 25 years working with organizations to improve happiness, quality, quality of life and organizations in general. A phenomenal speaker has also launched a tool called Friday Pulse. We’ll get into that very soon. But Nick, welcome to the show. And I’d love to hear from you a little bit about your passion, how you got into all of this, and how you became a statistician with a soul as a client once called you.

Yes, it’s one of my favorite client quotes. So, I think in some ways what it captures is I’ve got this slightly odd mix. And yes, I am a statistician, but my mother was a family therapist and I trained as a therapist when I was young. So, I sort of have these soft people skills as well. And it probably becomes inevitable that I become the guy that starts measuring people’s experience of life, their happiness, their well-being.

It took a long time to evolve into that. You know, I did a lot of work on sustainability, quality of life, health statistics first and then slowly moved into that area. And I used to work in think tanks. So, I used to advise the Tony Blair government and then the David Cameron government on how to measure well-being and let a lot of work there in a very exciting time in the 2000s where the British government started to take this very seriously.

And then about seven, eight years ago, I started to think about businesses and moved into that area. And so, I now have a business called Friday Pulse, which measures and improves employee experience. And that’s what I do now.

That’s phenomenal background. So, one of the themes that’s incredibly important when you’re trying to improve safety outcomes is that or even wellbeing and all of those components is this element of psychological safety within the business. Can you share a little bit about your thinking, your research and what you’ve seen around the importance of psychological safety and maybe some ideas on how to drive it forward within businesses?

Yeah, I mean, it’s a phrase I think coined by Amy Edmondson and certainly popularized by Google. And it’s really trust. It’s the it’s the you know; trust is really about consistency of behavior. And, you know, in a team when, you know, if you’re going to experiment, you’re going to be innovative, you’re going to collaborate, and you need to have the freedom to express yourself and the security that you will know that you won’t be that that that the spirit of your motivation for doing that will be recognized even if the outcome doesn’t show exactly where we are.

So, it becomes more about process and about how we do that. And I think that psychological safety and of course, you know, if you’re in certain parts of the world, physical safety, I mean, there’s still parts of the of the developing world where physical safety, workplace is not guaranteed, you know. So, but, you know, we’ve actually luckily got legislation in North America and Europe where those things are covered. But it becomes really important people’s experience, because, you know, just like if you’ve got a parent who’s very unreliable, inconsistent, that’s actually the worst type of parenting.

And it’s the same. It’s the same. Same with the boss. I mean, you know, if you don’t really know if the boss’s mood is always going to change or this or you suddenly get an earful for something which you weren’t expecting to you, even when you get praised for something we would expect to, that inconsistency is very difficult to deal with. So, it’s about consistency. It’s about reliability. It’s about support. And there’s lots of evidence that, you know, when that when people are in those environments that not only that teens going to the people, they enjoy working the more and they go hand in hand.

I mean, I wouldn’t say it’s the only cause of people’s positive experience, but it’s a very significant one.

Interesting. So, the other element is that we’ve talked about when we had our conversations together, is that this element that feelings are data. Can you can you share a little bit about and have that element? And is it real? Is it being it tangible? I know a lot of leaders I’ve talked to over the years, particularly operational leaders, doubt the reliability of that data. They don’t even necessarily see it as real, tangible data. So, share some thoughts and insights on that.

So, the expression feelings that they have for me comes from both of those sources. I mean, it’s in some ways a sort of mixture between that statistics and unhappiness. And I. Actually, this is actually the draft title for a TED talk. I was going to do last year, which obviously got canceled because of it. But, you know, my idea really is that is that are our feelings. Firstly, just from a purely neuroscience perspective or psychology perspective or even evolutionary perspective, feelings come before cognition.

So, beings, animals, organisms were in a sense a sentient before they were cognitive. And we needed to feel whether we in the right environment. So, in a sense, our feelings give us information about whether a good fit in our environment had a very, very basic biological level. So, you know, we you know, we can feel creeped out by something without really knowing what it is. The sensation is there before we’ve got the awareness about precisely what it is so we can feel, you know, we can feel secure in an environment without really knowing exactly why.

And that’s because that’s how feelings work in the organism. And in that sense, can we turn them into data? What is data? So, data can be quantitative. It can be qualitative. You know, it could be different types. I, I statistically try and capture that data, which would have just basically a very simple, good, bad signal. So, I’ll ask people things like, you know, have you felt at work this week where you very unhappy to very happy and you get into one to five scale or whatever and people can answer that question.

They can think, oh, this week, yeah, it was a good week. You know what week it was a bad week. And they give you an answer on that. And that’s what I mean by turning feelings into data in this sense, that you can put a number to it. And when you do that, you get very interesting time trend data that by asking about time specific period, you see the ups and downs. And the reality is we’re not happy all the time.

That actually would be kind of dysfunctional because you would be overriding the thing. Sometimes can be bad. The environment changes. You know, it would have been pretty weird to have been exceptionally happy in March this year.

Really? Yeah.

And, you know, and she has been really hard, hasn’t it? You know, and it’s like so it’s perfectly fine to have a goal that you want to be happy, but to also accept the fact you’re not going to be happy all the time. There are not conflicting things to want to do.

So, you touched on the march and feelings and you’ve done some analysis of data through the last several months. How has it revealed? What was the main takeaway that you saw across multiple different organizations?

Yes. So we basically we ask all across our client base, you know, that question. And we basically provide data for team and senior leaders on people’s experience of work. And we do it in real time. Real time. We do weekly in saying, you know, this is how people’s weeks have gone. So, we’ve been we’ve got 52 well, we haven’t quite got 52 measures this year. We’ve got like forty or fifty, whatever it is we’re up to now.

And so, we can see the whole trend through the year. And what we had was a perfectly normal year in January, February, March. I mean, January doesn’t tend to be the happiest months anyway. You’ve just come out of the Christmas period. So, it’s always a bit suppressed after that. People are happy after Christmas to come back. Oh, well, you know, the weather’s pretty bad and its certainly Europe, certainly in England in January, February, you know, it’s the worst time of the year.

So, you know, people aren’t most happy, but, you know, starting to pick up in March, then, you know, the week beginning on the 12th of March, you know, we suddenly had I mean, I was working in London in the beginning of the week. The underground was normal. She was normal. And by Thursday, you know, half of the traffic had gone. It was extraordinary just to see it drift away from us.

And then, you know, the next week we had our lockdown and it was very, very scary in March and it hit our data, all our clients, it plummeted. And then we still a slow climb back up again. But in those first weeks, you know, there was a lot of pressure on H.R. departments, everybody to scramble home. You know, have you got the right equipment? Can we support you? How do you do that?

Everyone is, you know, worrying about their mother. You know, the kids, whatever they worried about. Suddenly kids were home from school. There’s a huge pressure. And all of that comes out in our data. And then we basically see a slight return back to where we were over a period of several months. But then it’s never got back to quite where it was. We’re still we’re still five, ten points down. We sent our data 100 scale.

Chirikova the average was seventy. It’s now 65. So, we’ve seen a drop over that time. A significant drop, actually. But, you know, not as bad as it was in the week, you know, with the Caved strike where it’s more than fifty. So, you know, it’s a big impact and you need data every week to see that. So, you can imagine it as a graph. And of course, we see that.

And lots of our clients, they have setbacks. Teams have setbacks, individuals have setbacks, but they have a global setback. I mean, we never see again, I don’t think is just huge, huge impact. Yeah.

Let’s hope we don’t see it ever again. Yeah, I certainly hope so. I’m a CEO. I get this. There’s regular data point, this pulse on my business. What can I do with that information? Because some might argue it’s too much information. How can I use that to shift? My decisions, my actions, and even if you have some examples from the last few months how it’s helped organizations and businesses would be phenomenal.

Yes. So, the way that we help people use the data is that we feed it back to the right level of the organization. I do think that the best place to act is at the team level. I’m sure it’s the same for safety and everything is that it’s the people you work most closely with. You know, can you rely on the people around you and you work together? Can you have the same goals and collaborate? And what we basically do is feedback data, a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data.

So, we think feedback you how, how what’s the score? Last week when we also ask people, you know, what’s going well for you last week, what hasn’t, and they still allow people to build on what’s gone and deal with what hasn’t. And it’s getting into that weekly flow of people’s work by doing a little and often that you make the most changes, you know, you make that you basically get them talking about their experience. And then that validates that it’s actually useful to listen to people’s experience.

And basically, everybody in an organization is kind of like a sensor that’s sensing everything around them. It’s like that that data was never collected before. You know, it’s that there’s knowledge like whenever there’s a sort of big corporate failure, when they do the investigation afterwards, people within the organization knew something was up. They hadn’t. The data is very rare that something hits, but that totally blindsided. There are people that know and, in a sense, you need to gather that data in a way and encourage people to share not only their successes, but their concerns, because it’s valid to have concerns about what’s going on.

You know, and if you collect that quickly, you can act on it quickly. And I think that’s what most organizations try and do in some way is be responsive to what’s going on. And we have a product that helps platform that helps with that. And we’ve seen lots of different examples. You know, I mean, the issue is covid and working from home was it’s so variable, the experience for people. Sure. You know, people like me whose children are left home and I, I, I live with my wife, who I not only love, I like you know, I enjoy spending time with her.

So, it wasn’t a difficult spend time with Zoya. Some people, you know, my sisters got divorced in covid. I mean, that would be a horrible experience. Yeah, well, three years too late in my opinion, but that’s a different matter. But, you know, but, you know, and other people was stuck at home with young children, which was very, very difficult. Three or four. My team have got children under the age of five and they were driving them up.

The wall wasn’t about their work. They just were a very difficult. So, there was different things that we needed to do. And of course, when you’ve got a bit of data on that, you can start thinking about how, how, how you did. And then you’ve got teams that are struggling. So, you know, I mean, my organization has not been adversely affected by covid. I mean, we’ve had to change. We’ve had to pivot.

I had to lay off some people that were doing events work, but we’ve actually recruited into other areas. So, we’d have to do some changes. And but it hasn’t been a disaster. But if your inhospitality you know, it was right the way across the board. It was you know; it’s just appalling. And if you’re in businesses depend on that or you know, so it’s how do you respond if large organizations have got sections, one sections that haven’t.

And it’s how do you differentiate your policies towards those people? And we’ve you know, we’ve got clients that have done, you know, brilliant work in this area, really, really helping people, you know, cope with it. And I mean, even in my organization, we’ve gone to a four-day week, for example, because I think boundaries between work and life so collapsed and burnout is such a big issue with people working from home and remotely.

They haven’t got that human contact. But they also, you know, just works with their sort of, you know, working for them. I’m working. I’m you probably are. You were completely you know, it’s like how when does work stop? When does life start? Becomes harder. So, I’ve actually just made a bargain with my employees that let’s work hard for four days and have three days off and do other things. And, you know, that’s quite a radical policy.

We can do that in my field. It doesn’t always work with something because it’s 24/7. So, it’s how are you how you look after you employees, I think is changing very dramatically.

Absolutely. And I think what you shared is consistent with all the organization I’ve seen. For some people, it’s been phenomenal. So, for me, the secret blessing is I normally spend almost all my time on a plane and now I get to spend time at home enjoying kind of experiences with my wife. Like you said, it’s a very different experience, but I see others who are constantly trying to balance home schooling and all of those components all at the same time and trying to do work.

And they don’t necessarily have a partner that can help, but it’s a very, very different experience. But it gives you insights on how I can lead, how it can drive change, how it can drive impact on the themes that are relevant for my workforce at this point in time when one of the themes I’d like to explore. Law is the impact that you can get from a mental health standpoint, because we know the link between mental health, mental wellbeing and safety, overall safety culture incredibly linked.

Unfortunately, not all organizations are talking about that link. More and more are trying to drive visibility, awareness to the importance of mental health. What’s your thoughts around mental health, well-being? And would you be able to gather from a pulse within your business?

So, I mean, mental health is. Still a lot of stigma around it and there’s a lot of work going on about destigmatizing it, but this is just a story from just two years ago. I know I spoke at a conference on a group called Minds at Work here in the UK who do a lot of work on mental health at work. And a fireman went off work for being injured in a fire. And he was off work for six months and 100 colleagues came to see him.

He then had stress two years later and one colleague came to see him and was still terrified of that sort of, you know, mental health breakdown, breakthrough, whatever it is. And it’s and it’s an issue that is starting to change. I mean, you know, we see it we see it being led probably sometimes. Yes. At work, but we also see it being led in the sort of celebrity world, like there’s a band, little mix.

I don’t know if you got teens who are interested into them, but one of them has decided to retire from the band for mental health reasons. And it’s not getting paid. It’s getting really supported out there is basically saying, yes, you need to look after yourself. That’s what you need to do. And so, I think we’re talking more and more about it. And it’s becoming more and more accepted and it’s more accepted in the work. But the issue is it feels, you know, a little bit frightened of it because they’re frightened of their own mental health.

They’re frightened if we stopped going forward, you know, would we fall over? I think Einstein once said, you know, life is like riding a bicycle. If you stop paddling, you fall over. And it’s just a feeling that if we don’t continue, will, you’ll suddenly collapse. I think that’s really unwise because I think when the end happens is burnout happens and, you know, burnout tends to be from people who engaged in their work, but they go the extra mile.

That isn’t the same as mental health. It’s a different issue, but it’s a problem. But mental health, I think it’s about working with people. There’s a lot of new neurologically atypical people, particularly in tech businesses and whatever like that. You know, probably 20 percent of the population are what we could call neurologically atypical, you know, and that’s a lot of the workforce. And so, it’s often brilliant, all sorts of things.

They just need some different boundaries. And I don’t really understand why. I think this straitjacket of, like, you work from nine to five or ten to six or so over time is going I mean, I he doesn’t actually work for us anymore. But I had an employee who really did struggle every few months with something. But, you know, I just used to say to him, we need two days off. You have two days off.

And I knew he’d make it up because he didn’t, he wasn’t irresponsible. He just was just, you know, couldn’t get out of bed that day. And you don’t help it by sort of saying, pull yourself together. That’s not how you do it, by being kind and compassionate to them and, you know, and talking. Yes. About the business needs. But, you know, but also about what their needs are. And it’s a sort of dance between those two.

It’s you know, it’s like employing I mean, I’m going to say particularly women, but it’s parents with young children, really. But, you know, I’ve had a lot of people have maternity leave or have children, you know, during you know, during my time working people. If you if you’re kind to them, they come back and they give you everything. So, it’s being enlightened in your leadership. And doing a mental health is the same really in the you know, it’s accepting that people’s anxieties, their panic attacks, it’s depression.

This is something that they’re living with. It’s not something. And it does get triggered by environments in that, you know, if you put too much stress on them or put them in a team that you know really doesn’t help, then, you know, it’s going to get exaggerated. But you can work with it, you know, like one of the supermarket chains in the UK. They work with a lot of people with depression. And you know, what you don’t want to do is shove them at the back of a dark warehouse because that’s basically going to make their problems worse.

If you put them in a bright light place where they can interact with other people, which might be, you know, in the car parks doing trolleys, it might be helping pack bags, it might be doing shelves, whether in the light they’re much better. If you put them in a dark warehouse, they’re not going to do well. It’s understanding what the triggers are for them, listening to them and working with it. And people tend to thrive when they feel cared about.

So, and I I’m you know, that’s definitely the side of the fence I’m on. I know that other people some people have other views on that. But I think that we can work with people from all walks of life. And if you if you respect them, they respect you back 95 percent of the time and the five percent of time they don’t. Well, then deal with it. You know, let’s assume the best. And then occasionally you deal with the things that they work.

Yeah. And I think with the pulse that you’re advocating is you’re getting a sense for themes within the business that are emerging so you can better adapt and be more enlightened. In terms of your comments before that last question I want to throw, we talked about feelings or data. How do you deal with a skeptic? Because I’ve come across. Engineers, though, say it’s not real data perception data input of that nature is not real data. How do you overcome that challenge?

Well, I mean, one engineer is a brilliant to talk to about this because they understand feedback and if you start explaining to them in analogies, they can hear about, you know, basically a thermometer, a governor in a steam engine, whatever is a feedback loop, just basically through the and steam engine, you know, where more steam goes through and it starts closing the steam. And it’s basically a feedback loop. Emotions are the same in lots of ways.

Some of them are positive reinforcing. Some of them are negative dampening, but they’re basically helping us act efficiently in the world. And so, it is data, it’s not the same data. So, you know, when you when you’ve got so-called objective data, you know, you’re counting physical things. When you have subjective data, you’re using scales. You’re using things which basically people are giving you a sense of the difference. So, when I ask people how have you felt at work this week, I give them five response codes.

Very unhappy, unhappy. OK, happy. Very happy. If I can answer that. We don’t know precisely three to the four is the same as from one to two. In fact, I can tell you, isn’t the data quite well? It is, but it is ordered. The data is ordered. And so, you can work with that data, which just you have to work with it differently. You also have to understand you’re not maximizing.

People often think that you’ll take any variable going to maximize your optimizing with subjective data. You know, actually, you don’t want people to be not you don’t want them to be. It’s unrealistic for people to be very happy all of the time. You actually kind of want to know when they’re feeling very happy and you want to know when they’re feeling happy and want to know when they’re feeling OK. And that is data is feedback and it’s learning. I mean, the whole way that organizations and us as individuals is that we learn, we learn.

So, we need to have feedback that helps us learn. And I use that’s how I use the data. And so, you know, we create effectively what we call happiness KPI for business, which is this data weekly team happiness. And it’s a people metric for people, for organizations and organizations don’t have good people metrics. They tend to have what we call lagging indicators like; you know, how many people didn’t turn up for work, how many people left us, or do we do an engagement survey once a year, which gives you a snapshot experiences really fluid.

It’s not a snapshot. It’s not even a series of snapshots. You know, you could have done a snapshot in February this year and then three months later and three months is a really frequent pulse survey. You know, your set up march, you may well, you just basically see almost a flat line. You’ve just missed the whole dramatic, interesting part, you know. And so, you know, by taking data more frequently, you get that fluidity.

And basically, our experience is fluid. It’s always ebbing and flowing. It’s you know, you can you can take people’s I mean; I measure weekly because that’s convenient. It’s good for work. But, you know, sure, you could measure people’s experience through a morning and you’d have it going up. You could measure it through an hour and it’d be going up and down your year, a lifetime. You know, there’s different wavelengths if you want to do of it.

So, it absolutely is data. It’s data that’s correlated and predicts things. We know that people who have more good weeks and bad weeks are happier at work, are more productive. We know they stay longer. We know they’re more creative and innovative. We know that they have a better safety record when they go back to that, because if you care about the machinery you’re working with or you care about your colleagues, you know, you take care and you and you avoid you deal with risks and you avoid you avoid things getting out of control, which, you know, most accidents are a series of errors, aren’t they?

And if you’ve got that communication and collaboration, well, it works out better. So, you know, it’s not only is it data, it’s useful data and it predicts future good outcomes. So, I take it seriously. It’s my opinion.

I think that’s phenomenal. Last starting point you launched recently a tool called Friday one. Can you share a little bit about what it is and how it can help businesses?

Yes. So, Friday one is, say, Friday Pulse is the business we have, which creates platforms for teams and organizations. So, we wanted to do something that was for individuals. People always ask us how can we do something on our own? So, we’ve created Friday one, which is basically a sort of an individual. These are the key drivers to happiness at work. How are you doing on it? So, if you’ve ever taken one of those tests, like six personalities organize breaks, you do them and give you a report back, that’s the same thing, but it’s context.

So, one of my critiques of those sort, the personality test, is that their context free. And actually, we change personalities, we change who we are. We change how we feel, giving context. So, our context is very specific to your work and it’s your work now when you fill it out and basically, we ask you how you doing on the five big drivers which we call which are which are about relationships, about fairness in the system, about autonomy, about learning and about purpose.

So, we call those connect, be fair power challenge, inspire. So, you ask three questions on each and some demographic questions. I give you benchmarks and you get a lovely report and it’s to help you reflect. On your work and how you doing, and that does form part of our Friday post when we do it for whole organization, but this is just a free tool for individuals to do and have fun with.

And can they track themselves in terms of time and how they’re progressing, or is it a one-time snap?

It is a one-time stop, which is why we called it Friday one. And the reason we haven’t done that is also to keep our problems of storing people’s data with a free tool. And you do get into, you know, sort of things like we decided we do a snapshot. We may we may do something tracking, but we you have to get a little bit you have to get a little bit fancier with that stuff. And so, at the moment, it’s a snapshot and you can say the PDF and do it again three months later and look at it.

But we don’t hold your data in any way. We didn’t want to get into that really. And you just go to Friday, one dot com and, you know, take the test. And it’s just that’s it’s just free and fun to use.

Love it. Well, thank you very much, Nick, for taking the time for connecting, sharing your thoughts, their own feelings and the impact on the business and great insights in terms of how people can shift from week to week, from day to day from hour to hour based on the context, the environment they’re in.

Thank you very much indeed.

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

Nic Marks, Founder & CEO, Friday Pulse

Described by one client as a “statistician with a soul”, Nic has been working in the field of happiness and wellbeing for over 25 years.

In 2010 Nic gave a TED talk on his previous work in public policy, which has now been watched over 2.3million times. Named as one of the Top Ten Original Thinkers by the IoD’s Director Magazine, Nic’s work was hailed as one of Forbes Magazine’s Seven Most Powerful Ideas in 2011.

As Founder and CEO of Friday Pulse, Nic shares his creative thinking with leading organisations on how positive emotions drive productivity and profit.

For More Information: https://fridaypulse.com/

Discover More: https://www.ted.com/talks/nic_marks_the_happy_planet_index?language=en

 

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Holiday Special – The Top 10 from 2020: Key Insights from the Safety Guru

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A year in review. The Safety Guru’s Top 10 themes and ideas from our 2020 season! Get caught up with the ideas that will help you leave a legacy in 2021! Happy Holidays! 

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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 your host, Eric Michrowski. It’s hard to believe it, but 2020 is almost coming to a close. Our show started broadcasting this year, this tumultuous year in 2020 as a passion project to improve the world of work. I wanted to bring ideas to leaders and executives who are committed to making a difference. Ideas from a diverse set of thought. Leaders from academia and from real world practical application does not speak technical safety, not push a set of ideologies not to pitch something, but rather to bring a collective of insights from inside and outside the traditional world of safety.

That’s why we’re live here on C-Suite Radio, the largest business network in the world, and their listenership keeps growing. I have two awesome episodes to cap off this year. Today, I will share a reflection of the top 10 ideas I heard from my guests on this podcast. In 2020, the next episode on December 31st, we will ring in the New Year with safety is twenty-one four 2021. The top twenty-one ideas to shape your safety strategy for 2020.

One must listen to episode with one of our top guests. None other than Dr. Josh Williams. So now let’s start with a year in Review 10 inspiring ideas for safety leaders. Number 10. It would be hard to end 2020 without talking about mental health in the workplace. We had two great schisms insights on this important topic. First, Dr. Madison Hanscom introduces the impact of mental health in the workplace. She shares an alarming stat, including the disproportionate impact mental health is having on a younger generation and the impact on safety. She highlighted strategies for leaders to speak about mental health and remove the stigma. The second guess we had was Kathleen Dobson, who talk more specifically about the disproportionate impact on the construction industry. She talked about the importance of checking in with people. Kudos for the work in trying to increase a dialog on mental health in construction as she presented a World Mental Health Day topic number nine, Dr. Stephanie came to talk to us about some research that was being done in the health care space, particularly as covid-19 hit the industry at an alarming rate, an industry where the focus was dominated by focus on patient outcomes but didn’t often speak about safety from a worker’s standpoint. She talked about the huge toll, the exhaustion within health care workers as a number of health care workers were often being reduced despite the huge impact of covid-19 in most wars, some truly alarming and considered concerning data points. And we’ll try to check in with her in 2021 to see an update on her research. Next, we go to number eight. As the world was marking Distracted Driving Awareness Month, we spoke to Brian, who spoke about his book The Long Blink, which tells the story of a driver shuttling a truck across Ohio and having a long blink with a cocktail of meds after a first shift, falling a short night’s sleep and permalink altering the life of a family, he shares the quest of the father and taken to try to legislate more, focusing on safety and how, unfortunately, given the nature of the industry, it’s unlikely safety will truly improve with a greater focus on legislation.

Food for thought as you travel across the interstates. While some progress has been made, too many people continue to die on the roads unnecessarily every year, and it’s time for safety to really drive into the driver’s world. Number seven. And speaking of distracted driving, in a long blink, we had Rebecca present top ideas to proof sleep and to improve safety outcomes, a topic we heard a lot of in 2020 as work life boundaries got stretched and people were having trouble sleeping. She shared some tangible ideas from her research in the space of sleep and strategies to get more of it. Yes, less alcohol, less computers before bed, and of course, many more ideas. And also, the importance of leaders speaking about this topic to reduce injuries, i.e., the person who got evicted the night before. I mean, the conversation I had with the leader recently, and it was only uncovered because the leader showed active care. Can you imagine if that worker was using some heavy piece of equipment?

Could have been very easily a. Kudos for that organization for having had that leader actually killed. Then we go to number six, we have to talk about safety. Communication is such an important topic that we even dedicated two episodes to too many businesses. Just mail it in regard to safety communications. First, we had Dr. Josh Williams speak to the importance of one on one with employees, how employees who feel listened to put in more discretionary effort. And he also speaks that he created a free quiz with no catch to help leaders see how they’re doing at Zero Harm Leadership Dotcom.

A self-assessment to help think about how are you doing and how could you get better at safety communication? Well, we also had Dr. Archana, who speaks about the importance of upwards communication, the lateral communication. In other words, how do you get ideas from key members to leaders? How do you get them to collaborate more with each other to prove the rule of safety? So, so critical key things. And we go to number five. Chris came to talk to you about making safety personal while I’m staying safe, both at the frontline level and the leadership level, introducing themes like pictures of loved ones, introducing a personal conversation from leaders on the importance of safety. Such a simple idea, but something I’ve been passionate about and advocating for a very, very long time. I wish more people helped make safety real for everyone. We need the discretion for people to stay safe. We need to stop blame, stop getting people to just mail in their safety. We need one hundred percent from each team member and an extra hundred percent from the company. So that were 200 percent in for safety. Then we go to team number four.

We are back with Dr. Josh Williams, who came with another great set of ideas around safety incentives for year organize. For years, organizational leaders have used safety incentives to try and motivate safety. The rationale was that providing financial rewards for not getting hurt might motivate employees to try harder, quote unquote, for safety. In reality, this often this current encourages non-reporting. Plus, people are already motivated and should be motivated to avoid injuries. Effective incentives should be focused on proactive safety behaviors and efforts.

Rewards should be symbolic and safety. Feel genuine appreciation. Recognition trumps every other incentive and remains the most important. And yet, here’s another free quiz. No cash, no gimmick. Human Performance leader Dotcom, which explores this theme of safety incentives with self-reflection in terms of how are you doing and what you can do to drive improvement, then we go on to theme number three with Bryce Griffler, who spoke to the importance of diversity in safety, how diversity and inclusion is about, bring different perspectives and opinions to the table, starting with maybe a union leader to non-traditional leader that came from a different part of the company, maybe in it to the person that has a completely different background.

Imagine the power of ideas, the most innovative company in the world powered inside your business to improving safety by tapping into diverse and inclusive group and increasing the diversity and inclusion within your safety team. I wish more people spoke about spoke about this. Then we go to theme number two. Now, this was powerful breathily a couple of weeks ago, shared some tangible, sorry, articulate a tangible leadership equation for safety. Wow, what a story.

Two leaders, one had a two point four and another one of zero point five. The first one had only improved by fifty three percent over a few years, the other one by eighty six percent. So, one was a wow success story. The other one was OK. What was the difference between those two leaders? Three key themes. The first one is the wow leader had sixteen items that were articulate with tangible themes and objectives for the team members, things like inspections, corrective action, safety projects and the way rated at twenty percent.

The not so wild leader only had four themes only we did have five percent NEC’s. The commitment theme of leaders. The leader that wow spent 15 hours per week speaking about safety on the shop floor, reinforcing safety, interacting with team members in safety talks four times more than the leader that did. Wow. That leader only spent four hours per week. They were mailing in. A third theme is one leader showed up at seven a.m., six a.m. Stanishev meeting.

So showed up after the starter shift meeting. That was, of course, the non-wild leader versus the wow safety leader showed up at five thirty-eight y five thirty because they started each day. Thirty minutes with our leadership team to talk about safety operations, and then she joined the start of shift meetings to be present. At that point, three key items showing true leadership have been met with real results when it comes to safety. And then we go to number one theme for this year.

I absolutely love the name to Dr. Josh and bring brought to the table. He called it BeHOP: the Integration of behavior. Behavior safety, human performance. Essentially, too many safety leaders have a dogmatic approach to safety, very strong ideology. Who cares? The world at business need results, not ideologies that are fighting with each other for airtime. It’s time to stop fighting, stop fighting between BeHOP and cognitive psychology and any other tool that helps safety.

There is no silver bullet. If there was, we wouldn’t have a show here saying that behaviors don’t matter, and people have no free will makes no sense. Yet some people say that to articulate that our ideas make more sense, he brings some very pragmatic ideas about pushing through a plateau and safety performance and bring ideas from some of the key performance tools to reduce if to behavior-based safety. Some cognitive ideas really bringing different themes from different perspectives to give you real results.

Wow, I love his pragmatic approach to making a difference in safety. What a great set of ideas. Those are my top ten for twenty. Listen in on December 31st as we look forward to the top twenty-one for twenty-one. The top twenty-one safety ideas to make a real difference in twenty twenty-one. Are you ready to leave a legacy? Join us in 20 or 21 as I have another phenomenal lineup of guests and ideas for you.

Hey, and if you know somebody that should be on the show, let me know. Let’s make safety fun, simple and useful for executives and leaders. Let’s make a real difference. Happy holidays from The Safety Guru. Thank you. Happy holidays.

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.

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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Leaders Owning It for Safety! with Brie DeLisi

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Today we are in conversation with Brie DeLisi, Associate Partner with Propulo. Safety Leaders know that Leadership Matters to drive the right Safety Outcomes. In a must listen to episode, Brie helps make that statement real. She demonstrates through her research what Owning It means for safety and how it translates into tangible outcomes. If someone needs convincing on the importance of investing in your leaders, listen in!

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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 Brie DeLisi, she is our associate partner with human performance and business transformation, with years’ worth of experience around safety, safety, culture. She’s done a lot of incredibly powerful work with a lot of different organizations to assess, understand their safety cultures and drive meaningful impact across them. And I’m really excited today because we’re going to talk about a really important topic, which is really around the critical role of senior leaders and how they could drive effective impact in terms of a strong culture.

So, Brie, welcome to the show.

Hello. Thank you for having me.

Excellent. So first, I’d love to hear a little bit about how you got started in this career and some of the goals and experiences that you really had that got you to where you are now.

Yeah, absolutely. So, it’s kind of funny. When I originally picked this field, it was because I had a very strong desire of making. I wanted to help people and I wanted it to be sort of scientifically based. And it was a little bit tricky figuring that out. You know, did I want to go in the direction of the medical field? Did I did I want to go into some of the sciences? And I ended up landing on occupational safety because it felt like such a tangible way to help improve people’s lives.

Yeah. And then it was kind of funny because as I progressed into my you know, I studied occupational safety and health initially, and then I went into the aerospace industry to actually practice occupational safety. And something that I found out pretty quickly was that I was not going to be able to make the impact that I wanted to from a health and safety perspective, because I kind of realized that just as a safety professional, I’m not the one that’s really influencing employees on how to work safely.

I realized pretty quickly that it was the leadership that influenced safety the most and how I could go about influencing that. So that was kind of a turning point in my career for me.

That’s amazing. So, tell me a little bit about that and what kind of triggered that thinking, because I completely agree leaders have such an important impact, how they show up, how they speak about safety, whether they’re part of the conversation or the delegate that has such a significant impact. Tell me a little bit about how you got to that realization was the AHA for you.

So, the AHA really came about when I was, I was actually working with two facilities and noticed that one of them, the one that I worked with, you know the most unfortunately was had terrible safety performance. And I was looking at the other facilities sort of, you know, an hour down the road from us that had much better safety performance. And I just couldn’t understand, you know, we all worked for the same company. Why? And we and we had to follow the same requirements.

Why was there such a difference? And it really started to dawn on me when I was taking, I was actually getting my MBA at the time and I was taking a course in later habits. And I started looking at the leader habits between my facility general manager and the general manager. And for both facilities, this was the senior leadership, the manager, the general manager at the other facility as well. They had completely different leadership styles. So, I decided to take it upon myself to do a little bit of a study between the two facilities.

And tell me about that. What did you find when you started peeling the onion behind the two?

So, the process that I took was I had to be a little bit discreet about it because obviously one of them was at my site and it was the poorer performer when it comes to safety requirements. So, I had to be a little bit discreet. But what I did was I looked at a number of items. I took a look at, you know, I had the opportunity to see, you know, my gym’s schedule, how she worked throughout her day.

And I was also quite close with a lot of folks that were on her leadership team, so. They would give me insights as well, and then and what I did was actually pulled artifacts from both locations, so I pulled people, offered up their performance evaluations for me to review. I had the opportunity to look at sort of the leadership practices on both sides. I also looked at some of the inspections there, their audit performance, and then also, of course, their injury rates.

And I did also have the pleasure of being able to interview the senior leader at the higher performing location. She was very gracious in allowing me to sit down and talk to her for two hours about what she. Implemented from a safety perspective and how she emphasized it, and I had some really interesting findings as a result of this study.

And so, tell me more. I’d love to hear those findings. This is really exciting themes for somebody who is passionate about safety. Should be no surprise behind it. But the problem is often it doesn’t get quantified, right?

Yeah, absolutely. So, part of it was I had sort of my qualitative and quantitative sides of this. So, I’ll start off with the qualitative side. So first off, I started looking at sort of leadership practices. And one thing that I found on the for our poorer safety performance facility are our GM there. She would arrive at 7:00 a.m. when the field shift started at 6:00 a.m. So, she was coming in an hour after main operations had already started.

Another thing that I noticed was that she only had staff meetings about once a week and there was no expectation from those staff meetings that those discussions be carried out with the rest of the employees as well. So, it was a very sort of isolated event. Interesting. She didn’t go out into the facility that much. And also, some feedback that I had gotten from employees was that people would be, you know, breaking safety rules right in front of her and she wouldn’t do anything.

She didn’t say anything at all. So that was sort of the one thing that I felt kind of from the leader habit side for her. And then on the flip side, at the higher performing location, that general manager started her day at five thirty in the morning and the field started at six 30. So, she was there an hour before and the main shift started. And what she said was there was an expectation that all of the other all of her leadership team was to be there at five, 30 as well.

And she began every day with a 30-minute staff meeting. And in that staff meeting, they would discuss everything from safety to operations to finance to whatever perhaps quality was included in their just what were the high priority items. And then there was an expectation that that information then flows out to the operations for their start of shift meetings at six thirty. So, it was this continuous flow of communications from the senior leader down through the field. And with that, she also was very engaged with safety.

So, whenever she went out onto the shop floor, she would make a point to talk to employees about safety feedback that I had gotten from their health and safety managers that they had at that location and said that she was the one that was driving a lot of safety conversations with operations. It wasn’t the responsibility of safety to have those conversations. He viewed it as the responsibility of leadership. So those were kind of the quality or the qualitative sides there of sort of how they as leaders showed up differently.

I think this is phenomenal. I think the start of shift, meaning it’s talked about so often in terms of safety, in terms of operational performance, it just shows up in terms of that that element, the transparency, the showing up part. Was there something between the two leaders? And I don’t know if you actually looked at this in terms of that triggered why safety was so critical for her?

Yes. So, this was actually quite interesting at this higher performing site when she had started in as GM, the most alarming metrics to her. And this was in comparison to the rest of the company, to be perfectly honest, their safety performance was terrible. It was actually worse than the site that I was working at the time when she first started as GM. And there was a change also in operations where at that time the head medical staff at that location started reporting to her as well, because they lost that that middle management.

And it was coming to light to her that they had a whole bunch of gaps in their safety systems, in their emphasis on safety. And she had a really good understanding of also honestly what it was costing the facility. So, there is the human side of it that she totally respected. But she also had firsthand views as to how much these injuries were impacting the company, both from a financial and a personal perspective. And on the flip side, at the at the poorer performing location.

You know, she had been in that role for 20 years at that point, and it was kind of, you know, at the at the beginning of those 20 years, you know, safety was not the highest priority. OSHA was kind of at that point, it was definitely requirements for OSHA. Compliance was good enough. Injury rates didn’t matter quite that much, and there was just no motivation for her to change.

Wasn’t it? So, it was not something that she was passionate about that really resonated, it sounds like, versus for the other leader. This was something that was very personal, which is consistent. I’ve definitely seen that all great safety leaders I’ve seen there’s always a very strong personal motivation for safety. It’s not some metric, it’s not a piece of paper. It’s something tangible. It’s about people making sure that you’re not harming them, that you’re returning them back to their families in the same shape or better than when they came in the morning.

Yes. Yes, definitely. And then also on the flip, so that was the qualitative side on the quantitative side. This is what I found very interesting as well, was I actually got access to performance evaluations for the leadership teams, for both of these GMs. And then I also had access to their calendars. So, I got to see how they actually scheduled out their weeks. And a couple of very interesting findings came in. So first off, for their time personally at the poor performing location, the average amount of time that she spent with any touching safety whatsoever, whether it was in meetings, reviewing metrics, having meetings with the health and safety manager, all that came out to about four hours per week now at the higher safety performing site that GM spent 15 hours per week touching safety in some way or another, whether it was in her staff meetings and safety would always come up in her staff meetings.

It was always in that sort of shift, meeting those 30 minutes every single day. And then she would also block out time on her calendar every single day to walk the floor and talk other toys about safety, among other things. But safety was always a pressure conversation. So, she was spending 11 hours more per week focusing on safety. And then on top of that, there was the expectations of their leadership teams. What were their what were they holding their leadership team?

So, I got to I got to look through some of some folk’s performance evaluations. And at the poor performing site, they had four items listed on the on their performance evaluations, and it was weighted at five percent of their entire performance evaluation. All safety items were only six percent. And those items were incredibly vague, like reduce injury rates and follow safety requirements. There were no tangibles there. It was very vague, whereas at the higher performing site, they had 16 items for safety on their performance evaluations and the safety items were weighted at 20 percent of their performance evaluation.

So that meant she there was an emphasis, 20 percent of their performance evaluation. They had to perform for safety and it included specific tasks like conducting inspections, corrective action, completion time, completing safety projects. It was very tangible and accessible for these managers and supervisors to know what the expectations were of them and that would matter for their bonus that they were going to get. And also, it was fabulous that it was tied to mostly more of the proactive and leading indicator types of behaviors.

It wasn’t focused on just reducing injuries.

I love both of these data points four times more, almost four times more time spent talking about safety, leading for safety. That’s huge. I have for four years I’ve been telling leaders, just build a pie chart and say whatever your number one priority is. If you if you keep saying it’s safety, the safety actually represents the biggest chunk of time when you spent or is spending more time on financial is more time in in meetings, on other topics because people notice it.

If you’re spending fifteen hours in a week, people say she’s serious about safety. It’s important to them and therefore maybe it should be important to me. Same thing with you with the weights in terms of that. The importance. Five percent is like, whether I do this or not is not that important, 20 percent is starting to get my attention. I need to do something. And you’re guiding what that looks like. Love it. This is this is phenomenal stuff.

Yeah, absolutely. And after so looking at all of this data and looking at the differences, I’d also like to share what their actual injury rates. Sure. It was. So, they had at this poor performing location at the time of this study their total recordable incident rate or their trial was two point four. So that means two point four recordable injuries for every hundred employees. And over the course of the two years, so it was from 2012 to 2014, they experienced the fifty three percent reduction in recordable injuries, which I will say is quite commendable.

That is sure. That is a great it’s a lot of people would love that.

Yes, yes. At the higher performing location, they experienced an eighty six percent drop in their total recordable incident rate. And that meant at the time that I had talked to them, they had a zero point five try R, which was totally different circumstance. Yeah, completely different. And I will say the two years at the beginning of those two years in 2012, the R who we call now our high performer, they were twice as bad as the location that I was that I was working at.

And they managed to turn everything around in a matter of two years. And it really, really was quite impressive.

This is phenomenal, and I think you’ve really captured so many of the key variables in terms of how leaders not just show up, it’s not rocket science to improve safety. It’s where you show up, what you do, what messages you send. So can you can in your words, what would be the major takeaways from the work, the study that you did here and exactly the same company, same environment. So, in theory, you should have the same culture, but so, so different, right?

Yes. And what I really got out of this was two major learning. So, the first one is that the emphasis that a leader puts on safety will directly correlate to a reduction in injuries and are very important about how that emphasis is placed. So, if it’s a, you know, yelling at people saying reduce your injuries, that’s going to get you very different results. But when you put an emphasis on let’s be proactive, let’s have conversations, let’s make this a learning that’s going to directly influence your injury rates.

So, if you’re if you’re an organization that’s looking to lower your injury rates, you know, take that that proactive and. Almost excited approach to it. I don’t I don’t quite know how to phrase that. I think she was she was happy about it. She was passionate about it and made it very clear to her employees that this was something she genuinely cared about for them. So that was my first learning. The second learning is that, you know, both of them in theory had this had the same management systems.

But the way that you use your management systems, those effective management system practices are crucial. As a leader, you need to be specific about your expectations of your management team and your supervisors. What exactly is it that you want them to do? We don’t want to just say reduce injury rates and follow safety requirements. We want to ask them how are you going to show up as a leader and prove that safety is important to your teams.

And with that, you know, how much time am I spending in my personal day? If safety is such a priority to me, how much time am I spending out in the field? So, we’ve got we’ve got these fabulous management systems out there, but they are only as good as the effort that you put into them and the clarity that you put into them.

I love it. And I think this this element that the tangibility of is showing up. Obviously, we’ve got to show up the right way. Like you said, I need to show active care and things of that nature and make such a difference. And yet this is a choice that day in and day out. I keep emphasizing with leaders and it’s probably the hardest thing to really get in is like show up consistently, own your safety own in terms of the expectations, make it real.

Show to other people that the safety matters to you, right?

Yes, absolutely. And you need to own it as much, if not more, than what you want your employees to own it. They are they’re only going to match what you are role modeling to them. IT leaders don’t understand that sometimes the influence that they have, they are the number one influencer on how their organization performs. And that doesn’t just include safety. That includes quality. That includes your operational performance, your finances. Everything falls under that.

I couldn’t agree more. Fantastic story, fantastic research, data points. You’ve shared the criticality of the role of the leader and can only ask everybody to really start thinking and having a personal reflection. We’re coming into the New Year. It’s time to the New Year’s resolution. This is the time to start thinking of my showing up the right way. Am I spending and misspending the amount of time that I need to spend showing that safety matters day in and day out? Or is it something I’m fluffing off to somebody else? I’m only doing the bare minimum. This was almost four times more time spent on safety, and I’m willing to bet that her performance overall was probably even better, not just from a safety standpoint, but across all the other metrics.

You know, I would be willing I don’t have the data in front of me, but I am willing to bet that you are probably right on that.

Brie, thank you so much for sharing a story. I think it’s a very, very powerful story. And thank you for all the good work that you’re doing to help organizations improve their culture, help leaders realize how they can make a difference. It’s you’re fighting a good fight. Thank you.

Well, thank you so much for having me. It was wonderful having this conversation.

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.

 Read more on Safety Leadership Commitment: https://www.propulo.com/safetycommitment/

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

More Episodes: https://thesafetyculture.guru/

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Brie is an expert in Occupational Safety and Health, specializing in client safety culture assessments and transformation. She has many years of experience in the Aerospace industry, working for United Technologies Corporation and Lockheed Martin with roles ranging from direct front-line technical support to corporate headquarters program management. Her occupational safety technical experience includes risk assessment, root cause analysis, injury reduction project management, compliance audits, training and program development. Brie holds a B.S. in Occupational Safety and Health from the University of Connecticut and an MBA in Management from Indiana University.

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