Incident Prevention Magazine

Mack Turner, CUSP

A Can of Soup: What We Say and How We Say It

If you look closely at the label on a can of soup, you likely will notice the ingredients section, which lists the soup’s contents from those with the greatest volume or weight down to the ingredient with the lowest volume or weight. This information is good to know before you decide whether to buy the can of soup.  

If you ask senior executives of a utility or contractor what their company goals or ideal “top ingredients” are, you often will receive responses such as “outstanding customer service,” “maximum return on investment” or “the best value for our customers.” And if you ask that same question to members of middle management or frontline workers, you’ll probably hear something along the lines of “keeping customers happy by keeping the lights on” or “making the bid units.”

These are admirable goals and valuable ingredients in the success of any utility organization, but are they the most critical ones? That’s debatable. Personally, I believe that protecting our most valuable resource – that is, our employees – should without a doubt be job No. 1, our top priority and the right thing to do.

As part of protecting our employees, one thing we must do is provide them with the right information about what is important for them to accomplish each workday. Where do our employees get this information? They receive direction from their leadership, but sometimes the wrong message may be delivered to them. Here’s an example of a somewhat common message employees hear from leadership: “We need to change out two hot poles today. We will have to work hard to get that done and, by the way, make sure you stay safe while you’re executing the job.”

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