ENDURING THE HARD TIMES

Thank God for the tough times. They are the reason you are there – to be the leader. If everything were going well, the people wouldn’t need you.”

JOHN MAXWELL

Last week was exhausting. I didn’t say it was terrible, but it was difficult. You know when you have one of those weeks where you get knocked down, get back up, only to be knocked down again? Well, that was me last week.

Being a Health and Safety Professional during the COVID-19 crisis is pushing every button and pulling every last string I have. Every day consist of multiple virtual conversations, meetings, and phone calls. Last week I made decisions that were contradicted; I issued a process that had many grammatical errors. And I gave people advice that was off from our company position. But one thing I can admit, is through my ability to endure and be patient, I was able to overcome my difficult week.

But on a practical level, where did I build the endurance and patience I needed to get through last week? As a leader, I look to grow my leadership capability in many ways, whether reading books, taking on challenges, creating leadership classes, or merely writing my blog. However, I base my leadership foundation on the Word of God. With this knowledge base, I can persevere through difficult challenges and difficult times.

Last week brought me to consider this bible verse. Colossians 1:11: 

11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have high endurance and patience,….

This verse gave me the answer I needed to get through last week: God’s power produces endurance and patience within us. 

What I found is endurance and patience will empower leaders:

WHEN CONFLICT ARISES

WHEN DIFFICULTY ARISES

WHEN CHALLENGES BECOME IMPOSSIBLE

WHEN A CRISIS OR TRAGEDY STRIKES

WHEN THE TEAM LOSES HOPE

A weak or passive leader would fail in everyone one of these situations. During difficult times, people want leaders who can endure the worse conditions and who patiently employ faith and grit.

If you are afraid to fail, you will never do the things you are capable of doing.

JOHN WOODEN

We are in a time where many friends, families, and colleagues are dealing with difficulties beyond measure. As leaders, we need to step up and encouraging them to endure patiently.

Will next week be better? I don’t know, but I am going to continue to patiently endure through what ever happens. By doing this, I will increase my influence and become a more effective leader creating a higher morale with those I lead. YOU CAN DO THE SAME.

Denis is a former VP of Safety, HR and Risk Management. As an Executive Director of the John Maxwell Group, Denis is a certified leadership coach, trainr, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior Consultant. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique passionate and emotionally driven style resonates with many, creating a desire to become an effective leader.  

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change training, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

6 Safety Leadership Attributes Most Effective in Changing Behaviors

“Its easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

MARK TWAIN

In our attempt to become effective safety leaders, we must build strong relationships, respect, and create an atmosphere of trust and value. In my years of growth as a safety professional, I’ve learned through trial and error how to build real relationships with the workforce. These relationships resulted in respect and trust. In a recent survey to 50 hourly workforce employees, I asked the following question; 

“what leadership attributes would be most effective in convincing you to consider changing your actions and behaviors.” 

With the responses, I was able to identify 6 keys attributes safety professionals need to exhibit to convince workers to change their actions and behaviors.

  1. Clarity: Communicate the “why” of each expectation and requirement – We must be clear and concise in our expectations and requirements, but to ensure buy-in, you must present why these instructions are critical to the safety of each worker. People want to be “in the know.” They want to know where they are headed and what you expect from them so they can deliver. 
  2. Relationship: Connect with your workers – Many safety professionals are enforcers and don’t focus on conencting and building relationship. This causes tension and disrespect. Be present with your people. Please don’t leave them wondering who you are. They are looking for you to connect with them and build a working relationship. Learn names. Acknowledge people as you walk around. Recognize that life is going on outside of work. 
  3. Confident humility: Humble yourself and empower your workforce for success – Be competent and confident in your role, but lead with humility. Be decisive when necessary, and illustrate your knowledge by the reality of your decisions. Ask for suggestions and consider all solutions when looking to implement or change requirements and expectations. Safety professionals make mistakes often. I know I do!
  4. Encourager: Cheer on your workforce – While walking the work area(s), be on the lookout for those who are exceeding expectations and give them the recognition they deserve. Let those who are meeting the minimum requirements know how much you appreciate them following the rules and meeting your expectations. Encourage those doing the right thing that they are setting themselves up to go home the same way they came in. FOr those not exhibiting safe behaviors, ask them “why”, explain the expectations and “why” and encourage them to commit to working safely.
  5. Courage: Challenge your workforce – When problems occur, challenge your workforce to identify solutions. Creativity and innovation drive buy-in, which results in progress and safe performance. Have difficult conversations when necessary, and always get a commitment to do the right thing. People want to know where they stand and where they might need to improve.
  6. Passion: Let your workforce know you care for them – LOVE what you do or LEAVE! Exhibit unlimited energy and enthusiasm for your people, purpose, vision, and the values you embrace. Passion will drive buy-in and respect. It will inspire the workforce to consider doing the right thing. The safety profession is about people. When workers realize your passion is for their safety, and not just a job, they will be more prone to do what is right. Don’t be shy about your passions; let it shine through, and people will follow.

Exhibit these six attributes, and you will build strong relationships, gain respect, and create an atmosphere of trust and value. Accomplishing this will reduce risks, prevent injuries, and make a difference in others!

Denis is a former VP of Safety, HR and Risk Management. As an Executive Director of the John Maxwell Group, Denis is a certified leadership coach, trainr, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior Consultant. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique passionate and emotionally driven style resonates with many, creating a desire to become an effective leader.  

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change training, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

Managing Work/Life Balance

 

o-WORKLIFE-BALANCEI recently began a new job. Yes, I said a new job. The last two years have been very challenging, but that is a topic for a future blog. Man, I wish I could keep a job like I keep my wife (we’ve been married for 32 years).

With a new job comes the need to re-balance the commitment to work with the commitment to life. That takes a lot of effort. Let’s face it, a new job not only takes a lot of effort to build relationships, learn the job and become familiar with the organization, but it creates a desire to make a great first impression.

However, our personal life is the most important. Whether you are married, dating or simply just like your alone time, work-life balance is essential to your physical and mental health.

As leaders, we want to set the pace and set the expectation. If you are a true leader, the best way to do that is to exceed your own expectations. I find many leaders do this by coming to the office early and staying late. In fact, if I come to the office and someone is already there, I find myself questioning my commitment and leadership. Even though I know better, I will fall into this thought process sometimes.

I think the challenge of work-life balance is one of perspective and mindset. I heard someone say,

In order to change the way we work, we must change the way we think.”

I agree, to achieve balance we must think like the leader we are and not the doer we want to be.

I’ve heard it said that being “busy” is the badge of honor among leaders.”
I used to model that saying. However, I realize I was merely wasting time. There is a time within the end of a day (for me about 9-10 hrs) where my concentration and focus lacks. I only exist at the office to create a perception. Longer days don’t generate accomplishments.

As a leader, here is what is needed to create a fair work-life balance:

  1. Make a list of things you need to do. And make a list of things you want to do. Create a combined list based on both “need” and “want.” This will generate a desire to accomplish both while creating a more enjoyable work environment.
  2. Identify your priorities each day. Priorities change, so it is essential to take time in the morning, and afternoon to re-evaluate and make adjustments.
  3. Schedule time in the early morning to give you an opportunity to achieve items on your priority list before people start interrupting.
  4. Look for ways or opportunities to overlap projects.
  5. Limit emails, answering calls or checking voice mail.  Set aside an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon to answer emails and voicemails. In fact, I have a code for my staff and family. If there is an emergency or critical situations, they are instructed to use the code, and I will immediately answer.
  6. Assign appropriate roles and responsibilities to your staff. This will reduce your workload and free up time to accomplish your priorities.
  7. Trust your team. Some of you will say this is easier said than done. If that is the case, I suggest you reevaluate your team members. Give them a challenge and the freedom to perform and succeed. I use the approach of “Ready, Fire, Aim.” Meaning I let them do what they do, and we course correct as needed.
  8. Learn to say NO! It’s ok to say no. People will respect you more when you do. When we figure this out, we free up time to accomplish other things and spend more time with family or taking care of ourselves.

Creating a healthy work-life balance doesn’t just happen. It takes commitment and persistence every day. However, seasons do come and go. There will be situations where the balance is off, however, be persistent in trying to maintain and create the balance because a good work-life balance will create a better you and stronger relationships.

balance

 

I’m Arrogant! 14 Principles I Use To Reduce My Arrogance

I recently presented a Keynote titled “The 8 Attributes of Character Defined in Great Leaders”.  The talk was not intended to identify past and present Great Leaders, although there are many, rather it was designed to provide information so individuals could evaluate their current character and consider the adjustments required to achieve the character needed to become a Great Leader.

In the talk, I identified “Humility” as being one of the attributes found in Great Leaders.   Leaders are typically those who have ambition, are talented and confident when making decisions and interacting with people.  But I bet when most of us think of leaders, we don’t typically describe them with the word “humility” or use the term, “humble.”  If they did, it might not be viewed as a compliment.

One of the toughest things about teaching and speaking on leadership topics is the conscience guilt that follows you around when you are not following your own words, principles, and practices you teach or talk about. This is something I really appreciate. Because it drives me to always look at ways I can increase my influence and become a better leader.

As I continue to evaluate my leadership and my approach to people, problems, and solutions, I find myself dealing with a little of arrogance and pride. I believe I would consider myself just a bit arrogant.  Well, maybe even a bit more than a bit, depending on who you talk to.

Male manager calling his colleague

So I have been focusing on how I lessen my arrogance and replace it with more humility? The identified 14 principles that help me to lessen my arrogance and focus on my humility. It is a work in progress, and I often slip back one or two steps. But I feel it’s working.

  1. Don’t think of someone else when reading this blog.
  2. Recognize your arrogance.
  3. Know what you don’t know and admit it.
  4. Step in someone’s else’s shoes that you interact with on a daily basis and those who interact periodically.
  5. Dig deep into not so positive feedback.
  6. Acknowledge those who helped you get where you are or where you are going.
  7. Shut up and listen!
  8. Engage in conversations by asking questions.
  9. Walk around looking for things to celebrate.
  10. Quickly admit when you are wrong.
  11. Be quick to forgive and show grace to others.
  12. Be purposeful in speaking well about others.
  13. Take a seat at the lower table.
  14. Focus on strengthening relationships, not just results.

The great college basketball coach John Wooden often told his players, “Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be thankful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

C.S. Lewis said this, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

 I believe humility is the antidote to arrogance. Arrogance will cause a person to fall and ultimately fail.  Humility will cause a person to rise as they fail.  People want to follow humble leaders.

So I end with a bit of a hope……May you make an everyday choice to lessen your arrogance and give credit where credit is due and acknowledge others for your success.  May you admit when you are wrong and know what you don’t know.

 If we can honestly accomplish this, then we can continue our growth as leaders.  But never forget this, IT’s NOT ABOUT YOU………..IT REALLY ISN’T!!!

Humility wooden sign on a beautiful day

INFLUENCE, The Key to Effective Behavior Change

Influence is an overused word, but few understand the concept. Many think influence is manipulation, force, and/or intimidation based on their position or status within the organization. That is not influence, that is dictatorial power! Influence is an exchange of ideas, a persuasion of others to a known purpose or direction. Influence is gained through the respect of those who are to be influenced.

But what is influence? I want you to think of influence as salt. Salt is not a flashy spice saltlike cayenne pepper or nutmeg. Salt is merely a basic. And yet, it is essential. Without it, food is bland and tasteless. Without it, decay and rot ensue. In recipes, salt serves all the other ingredients by extracting and enhancing their fullest expression and flavor.

As safety professionals.  You are in a profession whereby your ability to INFLUENCE others will be critical to the protection of life and safety. You must learn to influence like salt; in the background, without being visible or noticeable. It must become a part of your character and how you operate.

Why is influence so crucial in the safety profession? Influence is essential because safety professions typically have no authority and cannot MAKE people do anything. However, to have employees follow the policies and procedures, apply their training and follow directions, and ultimately achieve success, we must learn how to influence.

In fact;

we must learn to influence WITHOUT Authority!!!

Influencer and opinion leaderThroughout my years as a safety professional, I’ve found that there are more opportunities to influence than any other position within an organization. Think about it. Executives are relegated to an office.  Managers and supervisors have assigned areas of responsibility and seldom venture outside of their designated area. They may understand the departmental dynamics, but not necessarily how it affects the rest of the worksite or organization.

YOU, on the other hand, have responsibility for the entire facility, region or area. Much of your workday is spent in the field or on the floor (or at least it should be!). Safety Professionals are expected to have a broad range of knowledge and an array of information concerning the business and are supposed to solve a full spectrum of problems. So think about all the opportunities to influence; practically every conversation, interaction, and the situation will offer a chance to influence.

However, not all safety professionals take the opportunity to influence like salt. No, a lot of us prefer to pour salt on the wound instead. Because we cover or touch all areas and all departments, we often become very familiar with organizational practices, the people and the dynamics of various personalities and relationships. In doing so, we become aware of problems, inefficiencies and identify opportunities for improvement.

This is both good and bad.

On the one hand, you can use this information to analyze the safety needs and influence for change. On the other hand, the Safety Professional tends to be solutions oriented and strives to solve everyone’s problems.

As a consequence, this mindset is often interrupted as “knowing how to do everyone’s job and do it better!” This has the tendency to isolate our position and decrease our influence.  When we do things to decrease our influence, we decrease our ability to lead and ultimately get things accomplished by others. In their book, Influencing without Authority, Cohon and Bradford state “You need to INFLUENCE those in other areas, departments and division’s, those you don’t have control over.”  You must learn to influence without authority.

I want to share with you an example of real influence. While flipping through a TIME timemagazine issue listing the 100 World’s Most Influential People. Two individuals were listed, that I suspect are known to very few. Had influence been determined by a vote, I suspect that most readers would have never picked them. Their names are Brady Gustafson and Mary Scullion.

Brady, just 21 years of age, saved his fellow Marines when they came under direct attack in Afghanistan. Though Brady himself had suffered a life-threatening injury, he fought to save his friends and fellow Marines until help arrived.

Mary works tirelessly with an organization to help the homeless in Philadelphia, stating that “none of us are home until all of us are home.” As a result of her efforts, there are now less than 200 homeless men and women in Philadelphia.

These are real stories of influence. In society, influence generally indicates power over others, the power that inevitably reflects back on the one who is influencing. But for Brady and Mary, influence has very little to do with their own glory.

Indeed their influence is not about making a name for themselves, but rather about lifting up those without names and faces who have no influence or who most of the world will never know; homeless men and women and small-town young men who defend America.

What makes Brady and Mary so influential? I believe it is their behaviors. For Brady, he decided to take a risk to save others, knowing full well the potential outcome. However, his desire to defend and protect others generated a behavior that resulted in the saving of many lives. For Mary, it is having a subtle, but effective method of support to change the way the homeless population behaves.

So how does that relate to the Safety Profession?  When we consider the process of eliminating injuries, one must consider behaviors as the single most crucial aspect of a person working safely. With that as the case, changing or modifying behaviors will reduce or eliminate workplace injuries.

How does one influence change in a person’s work behavior? The answer to this question is simple. You must influence the person to exhibit the right safe behavior because it is the right thing to do. To accomplish this, you must do the following;

  1. Realize your character will be crucial to having influence.
  2. Give encouragement. Start every conversation or interaction with something positive.
  3. Let them know you need them. Make sure you establish their importance in the organization.
  4. Create a memory of the conversation. People will refer back to those memories when they are in similar situations.
  5. Say the right words at the right time. What we say is very important in our influence.
  6. Encourage them to make the right choices and decisions.
  7. Remember, you are there to support and influence them. It’s not about you!
  8. Listen to what is not being said. Make sure you listen to understand before you reply.
  9. Find the key to their motivation. Everyone is motivated differently. You must learn how to motivate in short period of time.
  10. Be the first to help. If there are issues, look for realistic solutions and be helpful in solving problems.
  11. Everything is in a name. Use their name throughout the conversation. Nothing is more influential to a person than referring to them by their name during a discussion.
  12. Encourage them to work safely. Get their personal commitment to exhibit the right safe behaviors.

Our ability to influence others is the core of changing behavior and ultimately eliminating injuries. As Safety Professionals we must focus our efforts on becoming influential through our consistent interactions with all levels of the organization.

All You Are Is Full Of Hot Air! Moving From Words To Actions

c700x420Last Saturday morning I stepped out on my apartment balcony and saw several hot air balloons passing overhead. In fact, one was lifting off from the field across from the complex. As if I were a little kid, I excitedly called my wife over to show her the activity. She reluctantly came, and I began telling her how I was going to buy a hot air balloon, and I would take her up on a beautiful evening flight with a bottle of cabernet, and we would gaze into each other’s eyes into the evening sunset.

She looked at me and said, “All you are is a bunch of hot air.”

Hey wait a minute, I was romantic. Maybe that is why I was “full of hot air.” I am not well known for my romantic side.

Has anyone ever told you, you were full of hot air? If so, you are not alone. I think this post will help you understand why our words should not be hot air but rather backed up by the foundation of our actions.

It came to me that day while watching hot air balloons drifting overhead, that our words have a great impact on those we speak too. In fact, I realized that our words indicate our intended actions, but the follow-through is more important than any word in our vocabulary.

My intention is not to be a know it all, however, I think I know it all. If you don’t know it, then how will you solve it? Another, a fault I have is answering before I thought it out or committing before I realize what I committed to.  Had anyone ever say that to you? I hear it often because I talk too much. Regardless of the situation, I have the answer, and you will listen to it. My intention is not to be a know it all, however, I know it all. If you don’t know it, then how will you solve it? Another, a fault I have is answering before I thought it out or committing before I realize what I committed to.

I hear “you’re full of hot air, or that’s a lot of empty hot air coming from your mouth,” often. Probably because I talk way too much and have to get in everyone’s business to resolve everyone’s problems. Another, a fault I have is answering before I thought it out or committing before I realize what I committed to.Had anyone ever say that to you? I hear it often because I talk too much. Regardless of the situation, I have the answer, and you will listen to it. My intention is not to be a know it all, however, I know it all. If you don’t know it, then how will you solve it? Another, a fault I have is answering before I thought it out or committing before I realize what I committed to.

I know what you’re thinking, stop rambling and tell us what you are going to tell us.  Ok, Ok, got it. Here you go:

  1. Our actions build trust – Without trust, there is no influence, and without influence, there is no leadership. Deliver on what you say, and you begin to create trust.
  2. Our actions show personal responsibility – When, what we speak, is backed up by what we do, people begin to recognize the responsibility we have for achieving the desired outcome.
  3. Our actions create our reputation – You are known by your behaviors and the work you do. Make sure the things you say are truthful and backup by your actions.
  4. Actions show commitment – When we act, we validate our words, thoughts, and ideas.  We move from the verbal to the physical. Actions move our verbal commitment to the tangible result.

Our words are essential. They lay the foundation of our beliefs and our desires. However, they are merely words, actions prove our intentions and reflect our beliefs and desires.

Choose your words carefully, they must be backed up with actions.

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Legacy, It’s Our Time, Our Moment

Legacy word

We are but a speck in the moment of time situated between the past and future. We sit in the present. Every breath we breathe, every word we say, every decision we make; contributes to our legacy. Every single moment of every single day, we are creating the legacy we leave behind.

That scares me to death. However, it also creates an excitement deep within my soul. The time is now for us to create the legacy we want to leave.  

It’s our time, It’s our moment. Do something great!

We determine our legacy by our actions. However, legacy begets legacy and therefore what we do and how we do it, sets the stage for future legacies.  We all have our own lineage legacies that are the basis for who we are.  It is up to us to carry the torch or change for the future.  It is our moment and our time to shine.

We must influence others to change what is necessary to create a stronger legacy for the future.  We must be the example we want others to follow.

Albert Schweitzer said; “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it’s the only thing.”

We build our legacy from who we are and who we’ve become.  It is reflected in our actions and our social footprint.  This begins with a deep respect for our deepest values. What is it we hold most sacred? What is our purpose here? What can we pass on or teach? What is our place?  The answers to these questions are determined by our character. Character is the mark left on us by life and will be the mark left on our legacy. It’s the impact we make while we are here and the trace we leave when we are gone.

Character is what defines us.  It’s what people see.  It’s what people will say about us when we are gone.  Character is one of the most important things we have.   Character is cultivated from of our faith, commitment and the responsibility we take for our actions.

John Wooden said, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while reputation is merely what others think you are.”

CONCLUSION

Our time is limited. Understanding that life is fragile and not guaranteed is crucial in the decisions we make and actions we take. I believe our greatest responsibility is to honor those who came before us and those who will come after. The legacy we leave will be reflected in the life we live. Our actions today will echo beyond our time, creating our legacy.

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My legacy

6 R’s of Leadership While on Vacation or Holiday

IMG_3460 We all need time away from work and our daily activities.  Every good leader takes a vacation or holiday.  I personally make sure use all of my annual allotted time.  The stress and activity level is high.  The down time allows me to gather my thoughts and replenish my energy.

Recently, I spent a week on the beach in Destin, FL.  During this time, I wrote down six things I wanted to  make sure I accomplish that week.  I knew this would ensure I was able to return to my job in the best mental and physical condition.

I call these the 6 R’s of Leadership While on Vacation/Holiday.  Here they are;

  1. REST – This is what you came to do.  Make sure you get plenty.  Rest can look like mIMG_3439any things; sports, sightseeing, hiking, etc.  Whatever it is, just make sure you get plenty of it.
  2. Refresh – Take time to meditate and let your troubles go.
  3. Renew – Renew and rebuild your relationships with your family, most importantly your spouse or significant other.
  4. Recharge – Regain your strength, motivation and desire to connecting, building relationships and influence.
  5. Relax – Chill out, your on vacation!!!  Leave the phone and laptop in the room, or vehicle.  Dutch things that make you happy.  Laugh a lot!
  6. Recalibrate – Spend time thinking about what you need to personal change or do to be a stronger, better leader when you get back.

Try it next time you take some time off, I think you will see a huge difference in attitude and mindset when you
return.

Thanks and Take Care

Denis

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