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Leadership Development Archive



Beyond Behavior-Based Safety: Why Traditional Safety Practices are No Longer Enough

Traditional safety management practices are built on the assumption that human behavior is rational and occurs primarily through conscious decision-making. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are, in fact, irrational by nature, creatures of habit and deeply influenced by past experiences. To create the next step change in the practice of occupational safety, we must revisit existing paradigms defining it, revise them to better align with research emerging from advancements in neuroscience, and adapt to practice realigned strategies of an affective nature. Irrational by Nature In 2016, a municipality in western Virginia experienced a fatality when a maintenance worker entered a confined space containing lethal atmospheric conditio…

Using a Learning Management System to Augment Lineworker Training

“You can’t learn how to climb a pole by looking at a computer screen.”  That’s a sentence that has been repeatedly used in our industry to discredit web-based learning. And it’s true; in any skilled trade, neither distance learning nor classroom work alone can replace the skills and confidence gained from practicing tasks and building up muscle memory in the field. But does that mean there’s no place for distance learning? Absolutely not. When properly used to augment a field skills training program, online training can speed the development of skills, make your training program more efficient and keep your crews in the field longer. Three Different Approaches In 1984, educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom performed a study of three di…

Does Positive Feedback Improve Safety?

Our client is an international utility company with more than 10,000 employees that provides electric and natural gas to 20 million U.S. customers. Their vision is to achieve a generative safety culture in which both employees and leaders are actively engaged. Characteristics of a generative safety culture include proactively resolving issues, focusing on leading indicators, and welcoming bad news as an opportunity for improvement, not for implementing discipline. The company is well on their way to that destination, and it’s due in no small part to their employees’ dedication to their jobs, the training they’ve completed to excel in their work and their passion for wanting to create one of the best safety cultures in the utility industry.

‘But I Don’t Wanna’: 6 Sources of Employee Resistance

“I forgot.” “I don’t want to.” “It’s not that serious.” “It won’t happen to me.” If your employees are forgetting, ignoring, pushing back against or actively resisting the protections you’ve put in place to ensure their safety, then you know how frustrating it can be to get them to follow the rules. Crafting a safety initiative so that you end up with employees who want to follow your safety procedures depends on addressing the driving causes of their resistance. Following are six sources of potential resistance and strategies you can use to help overcome each one. They don’t know. The source of resistance could be a simple knowledge problem (i.e., they don’t know what they need to do). If employees are new to the workforce, the indus…

From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘The Success Principles’

During the research and writing process for my new book – “Frontline Leadership: The Hurdle,” published by Utility Business Media Inc. – I read a lot of books, and I want to share some highlights from a few of my favorites. This article will focus on “The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be” by Jack Canfield. I hope you find this article useful, and I also hope it inspires you to read both “The Success Principles” and my book as part of your continuing personal and professional development. To highlight how much I believe in this book and want to encourage you to read it, I completed the program to become a Canfield Certified Trainer in the Success Principles after reading it once and being exposed t…

From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘Extreme Ownership’

What actions can you take to solve problems rather than blaming, complaining, defending and denying? During the research and writing process for my new book – “Frontline Leadership: The Hurdle,” published by Utility Business Media Inc. – I read a lot of books, and I want to share some highlights from a few of my favorites. This article will focus on “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win,” authored by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. I hope that you find this article useful, and I also hope it inspires you to read both “Extreme Ownership” and my book as part of your continuing personal and professional development. Overview Have you ever read a book and ended up with so many margin notes, highlights and sticky notes as placeho…

From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’

Understanding, developing and applying these habits enable us to better respond to stimuli, making us more effective people. I am excited to tell you that Utility Business Media Inc. recently published “Frontline Leadership: The Hurdle,” a book that I wrote. During the research and writing process, I read a lot of books and want to share some highlights from a few of my favorites. This article will focus on “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the bestselling book authored by Stephen R. Covey. I hope that you find the article useful, and I hope it inspires you to read both Covey’s book and my book as part of your continuing personal and professional development. Overview Most people are familiar with the title “The 7 Habits of High…

Just Like the Real Thing: Training the Next Generation of Lineworkers


The Missouri Valley JATC offers comprehensive training at its new state-of-the-art facility. “Many people say that a lot of [lineworker] rules are written in blood, and there is literal truth to that. Safety is our value. We don’t have any competing priorities over safety. It’s not number one. It’s on a list of one.” That’s a quote from Tim Vassios, a lead instructor at the Missouri Valley Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC). Both Vassios and his organization – with the support of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association – are working diligently to train the next generation of lineworkers in the Upper Midwest region of the United States. Recently, Incident Pre…

3 Keys to Transforming Safety and Organizational Performance

3 Keys to Transforming Safety and Organizational Performance Engaging in these activities can help companies manage all types of risk holistically. Utility organizations have an opportunity to transform their safety and organizational performance by adopting a proven strategy and approach. This approach – which consists primarily of the following three components – requires leaders to think and manage differently while also challenging industry paradigms and assumptions: Study and learn from success, not just failure. Integrate the organization’s safety and loss prevention system into other existing organizational systems and processes to achieve business goals and objectives. Implement a leadership development model with a road map to …

9 Safety Axioms You Need to Know

Safety works with just the nuts and bolts, but not as well as it will if you apply these nine axioms. Too often we focus so much on the nuts and bolts of safety (e.g., grounding procedures, Ohm’s law, work methods for a pole-top rescue) that we lose sight of the big picture. There’s no doubt the nuts and bolts are important, but they lose value if we don’t understand and apply the following nine safety axioms. 1. Safety must be led. There is a video clip of Mike Rowe interviewing a crab boat captain from the TV show “Deadliest Catch.” During the interview, the captain said, “My job is to get you home rich. If you want to stay safe, that’s on you.” I won’t take the time to debate or explain that statement, but I will say this: In the abse…

Improving Job Briefings

Someone I hold in high regard once said to me, “David, if we can improve our job briefings, we will reduce our injuries by 60%.” I had some hesitation about his statement at the time, and to this day I am not sure I agree with that percentage. But I decidedly do know this: improving job briefings improves safety. I also know that the topic of improving job briefings arises at virtually every education event I am a part of and in conversations regarding almost every incident I’ve heard about. So, what can we do to improve job briefings? For starters, it takes confidence and competence to conduct them effectively. This article will briefly discuss competence and introduce you to Frontline’s Job Briefings training program (https://ip-instit…

The Safety Paradox: My Day at the Safety Conference

Here’s a hypothetical and exaggerated scenario about a day I spent attending a safety conference (the iP Utility Safety Conference & Expo, of course!). It begins with me watching a safety glove demonstration. I watch a person put on a glove, crush a wine glass, stab themselves in the hand with a needle and run a sharp knife across their fingers, all without getting hurt. Their hands are invincible, and once I get my hands in those gloves, mine will be, too! Skinning wire with my knife just got a lot safer. Then my phone rings. It’s my wife. There is a slight chance of snow tonight at home, and she and I need a plan to get our son to school if there is a delay. The expected low temperature is 34 degrees Fahrenheit, so that shouldn’t b…

How Common is Common Sense?

How did you learn that a stovetop could be hot and burn you? Some would say that’s common sense, that human beings have an innate awareness of hazards, yet I’m guessing many of you learned the hard way – by touching a hot stove. What about brushing your teeth? Have you ever hurt yourself doing that? When was the last time you locked your keys in your vehicle or slipped on a patch of ice? Have you ever run into a stationary object while driving? If you have common sense, none of these things should ever happen, right? Yet they do. And decidedly, if we all have common sense, it should be impossible to set an outrigger on someone else’s foot or your own (yes, it happened); people should be so aware of electrical hazards that they always ins…

Hazards Do Not Discriminate – Nor Should We

Hazards do not discriminate – nor should we. We do not necessarily have to like each other to work safely, but we do have to maintain professional working relationships based on mutual appreciation, caring, respect and trust. Picture this: It’s January 25, 2021. At 9:15 a.m., Curtis, who is working his second day on the job, expresses concern that the outriggers on a crane are not properly cribbed. Carla, the site supervisor, tells Rich, the certified operator, to exit the crane and join her, Curtis and Becky, a signalwoman, for a discussion about the concern. At 9:20 a.m., the crane overturns, and the boom lands where Carla and Becky had been standing just moments before. The crane is a total loss, and there’s no chance of the job being…
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A Lineworker’s Three Safety Superpowers

Workplace safety requires each of us to do our part to keep ourselves and our co-workers free from injury and illness. To meet this goal, we must understand the tools we have and know how to use them. Let’s look at a lineman’s life, for example. He can climb poles, float through the air in a bucket, safely touch energized conductors, balance poles and transformers, and construct all of these items into a working system.

Assessments: Highlights and Implementation

If you have seen the movie “Kung Fu Panda,” you probably remember the powerful and inspiring moment when Po comes to the realization that there is no secret ingredient – it’s just him. He was all but unbeatable after that. Sometimes I also think about the secret sauce Michael Jordan gave his team at halftime in the movie “Space Jam,” so they could come back and defeat the Monstars. But while we long for secret ingredients, magic sauces and silver bullets, the reality is that our jobs and lives are complex, with ever-changing roles and no exact road maps. Perhaps, in addition to Po’s wisdom, we should heed the words of Stephen R. Covey, who told us in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” “If I really want to improve my situ…
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Creating a Culture of Safety Through Elite Leadership

Leaders play a pivotal role in creating a safe work environment that brings out the best in their people and produces quality results. And this doesn’t just mean leaders at the top but at every level of the organization. Leadership isn’t a difference maker – it is the difference maker.

Emotional Intelligence: Perceive and Apply Emotions in Yourself and Others

“Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not easy.” -Aristotle From an early age, many of us were taught that there are bad words we shouldn’t use. I won’t provide any examples here, but I suspect most readers know which words I’m referring to. In our industry, there are other “bad” words that we have learned we should avoid at all costs – because they are perceived to show signs of weakness. These words include “feelings,” “relationships,” “emotions” and “caring.” My personal observation is that many organizations and individuals have become more accepting of these words due to increased understanding of le…
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Lessons Learned from the Tenerife Airport Disaster

On March 27, 1977, two 747 passenger jets crashed on a runway on the Spanish island of Tenerife, killing 583 people. It remains one of the worst disasters in aviation history.

Decision Making: Make Balanced Decisions and Avoid Biases

Do good decisions exist? Think about that question for a moment and allow me to explain the intent and purpose of this article. In these pages, I will take the position that good decisions do exist, but people define “good” differently, and that definition changes based on circumstances. That has huge implications for leadership and safety. Take a look at the following questions. What decisions would you make? I can guarantee that some of you have disagreed with family members or friends about these very same topics. When it comes to certain decisions, we have strong opinions; with others, we simply don’t care. Should you rinse off the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher? You are traveling to a destination that is a seven-hour …
This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series AUGUST- SEPTEMBER 2022
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