Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Safety Purgatory – Escaping the monotony of status quo mediocrity

Safety Purgatory: Safety people stuck between a rock and a hard place. They don’t have the authority to really lead the group and the executives are sending messages that undermine the safety efforts. They are just sitting around and waiting for things to go all to “heck” (I’ll thank the Dilbert cartoon creator Scott Adams for this phrase).

How’s that for a definition? I imagine many of you in the readership audience (myself included) have had this purgatory experience on more than one occasion. Over the years, I have learned some approaches that have helped me in escaping this kind of purgatory. Remember the blog articles a while back on “Island Hoping,” “Boundaries” and “Complaint Equals Goal?”

I look for what options are available to me and the team with which we can make a positive difference. The first one is what group is open to getting out of the box (purgatory) and willing to put in some concerted effort to improve their performance. This is the island I hop to and start dedicating our scarce resources to help them escape the drudgery of mediocrity. No matter where I have worked there has always been an island of people who are willing to take this kind of chance. However, I do have to put in the effort to discover who/where they are. They don’t just jump up and pound on your door begging you to enter in and help them.

Next comes discovering where in the boundary limits we can start this initiative. Once again there has always been an area in which the leadership is not micromanaging or actively trying to crush initiative. After all “they” cannot be everywhere all the time. There is at least one little corner in your culture of “heck” that can be worked on.

What do we do with our island of opportunity within our boundaries of possibilities in order to escape safety purgatory? Some inspiring words from Eric Clapton provide guidance: “It has been up to me to inspire me.” Where is the focus for this inspiration? Go back a few blog articles to “Complaint Equals Goal.” You now have the team, the target and the method (hard work within a limited scope).

With a little knowledge we can ask the right questions and lead in a way that opens the doors to true excellence. We can both know the truth and can practice it in such a way that we can be set free from all kinds of purgatories including those in the “heck” of safety mediocrity.

The Doc

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