Monday, February 27, 2012

Clark Kent – Developing Super…..visors

Fostering excellence in front-line leadership continues to be a significant need in the world today. It is not a matter of general industry, service sector, construction industry or even government employment. Front-line leadership at the workface is a major factor in all organizations’ performance. And all kinds of organizations struggle with hiring, retaining and developing excellence in this determining factor of performance. In general, we promote the best technicians to supervisory roles…. And then wish them well in their personal battles with the demanding and challenging realities of leadership on the front-lines. This is not enough career preparation for these leaders who are truly key in delivering the performance our organizations both measure and need to be successful.

So how can we turn our Clark Kent newbies into Superman and Superwoman performers?

First, we must recognize that for them to provide us the activities that will deliver excellence in performance we need to provide them the support it takes to develop them into competent, interactive leaders. These attributes are not often naturally innate characteristics of the people who get promoted as a result of their technical skills. If we do not help develop the needed strengths for success, the Kryptonite of front-line stress and pressures ends up crushing the best trench warfare employees we have available.

Where to start on this journey? There are two strengths I have to be found critical starting points:

• Skill sets necessary to make the front-line hourly employees successful in their day-to-day tasks in varying work environments. This is what we must make sure our Super – visors are truly superstars in providing. They are coaches in what it takes to win our organization’s game. They must know all the plays and defenses inside and out. They must be SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) in what it takes to safely and efficiently do the tasks they are leading.

• Additionally, they must be competent in communicating what needs to be done. Interpersonal skills are a critical component with both seasoned and new employees. How do we “Speak Up” effectively? How do we “Listen Up” appropriately? How do we provide Recognition and Discipline/Coaching that helps our trench level employees execute their mission flawlessly?

These two starting attributes are a must for our Super – visors if they are to lead our troops successfully in the day-to-day battles faced by organizations worldwide. Sure, there are more lessons to be learned, but without these basics foundational strengths our new Clark Kents will never survive to become Super – visors.

The Doc

Monday, February 20, 2012

Paradigm Paralysis – Improving Performance

A recent safety article used the phrase Paradigm Paralysis, complaining about the tendency we all have trying to use old approaches to solve current problems. This reminded me of my brother-in-law, Tom, talking about his career in the armed forces. Tom’s observation was military leadership’s oft used approach of using the same tactics for the next war that they used in the last war. And this just doesn’t lead to optimum performance; in war – or in safety.

Our safety profession history began in 1911 with a disastrous, 100+ life ending tragedy at a New York garment manufacturing sweat shop. Over the ensuing years “we” have experienced all kinds of research, regulations, techniques, technologies, leadership, education, training and the like. Much of this (but not all) has moved us to better downstream indicator safety performance.

As I talk with past safety generation people there is often a great reluctance to try new safety concepts that are outside of their experience comfort zones, i.e., Paradigm Paralysis. Certainly the foundational approaches that have been developed in the past 100 years still apply. And yet, this decade’s safety performance plateau is not satisfactory. We must relentlessly pursue better techniques and tools to eliminate the possibility/probability of injuries/incidents.

Our current war on injuries and incidents has a new generation with its new cultures, different workplaces and a myriad of other differences from what my generation experienced. We must be open to considering and trying new approaches that can help us win the important safety battles that face us now and in the future.

The Doc

Monday, February 13, 2012

Remembering a dear, departed friend

Recently, a friend and fellow Caterpillar Safety Services consultant that I have worked closely with for more than 10 years, Todd Britten, lost his battle with cancer. I can truthfully say a finer man I have not known! Todd Britten was one of those individuals who is rare to come across. He was a courageous leader that spent countless hours assisting distraught companies improve their safety cultures. In short order, Todd Britten helped these organizations develop and live a culture where people don’t get injured. Todd had great talent and was in demand wherever he served.

There was another aspect of our friend Todd Britten that struck all who met him. Todd always had a deep desire to serve. Todd had such good credibility that he often built close personal relationships with the corporate leadership and front line employees with whom he served. They respected Todd for this, and listened to him in a way that made me envious.

There is still another reality of our friend Todd Britten I’d like to tell you about. Those of us in the consulting business often do an insane amount of air time, which in turn qualifies us for airline perks like the little black card made famous by actor George Clooney in the movie “Up in the air.” Some of you may have seen this strange movie, so I’d like to assure you that our friend Todd Britten was the exact antithesis of the character played by Clooney. Todd’s mission was to save people’s lives, not fire them. Todd never took advantage of anyone.

Todd Britten was a man, who developed deep and real relationships that touched people, and his contributions, his work and his voice are all still playing out with in the lives of those he served. May you and I begin to do so as well.

The Doc

Monday, February 6, 2012

Queen of the Pigs – Achieving Excellence

As with many professions, safety pros are often focused on a never ending quest for excellence. One of my favorite books on this journey is Leading Change written by a Harvard professor, Dr. John Kotter. This book is not about safety, it is about business excellence and how to get there. As I read through Kotter’s eight barriers to change, they seemed to be all about what impedes organizations from achieving a culture of safety excellence. Number one is complacency, being satisfied with good enough. Another of those business books, Good to Great, teaches that good is the enemy of great. And this also directly applies to safety efforts. Some of Kotter’s other barriers include things like; the lack of leadership engagement, vision, commitment, recognition and a few others.

All of these are business issues that directly relate to the struggle to achieve safety culture excellence. As I have worked with organizations that are trying to get from WOW (Worst Of the Worst) to BOB (Best Of the Best), they all have had a face-to-face confrontation with Kotter’s eight significant barriers to change/improvement. Most of these organizations have reached a point in their maturity where they are on a passionate mission to achieve ZIP (Zero Incident Performance); most, but not all. There are some that get good enough for their management and the focus goes back to feeding the Operations Gorilla while maintaining an acceptable number of injuries, i.e., at or somewhat better than industry average injury rates. These organizations stop at BOW (Best Of the Worst). They are in my hall of shame, or as I once heard a college friend muse, they become “Queen of the Pigs.”

Where are you on the continuum of safety excellence; WOW, BOW, BOB? Please stay the course in the relentless pursuit of excellence. Your employees do not want your organization to put forth the less than adequate effort and become yet another Queen of the Pigs.

The Doc

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