Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Are you playing it safe?

A safe and healthy workplace is not only important to the wellbeing of your employees but to the success of your business. In fact, creating a safe work environment can mean the difference between profit and productivity and one crippled by workers compensation, medical costs and even worse. So, it stands to reason that the company safety program meshes seamlessly into the overall culture of the business. Employees “own it” and are all vested in its success. Yeah, right.

Safety is serious business; it’s about following rules and complying with procedures; it’s about mandatory monthly safety meetings where those rules and procedures are reviewed over and over again.  It’s about best practices and being prepared for the unexpected.

With so much at stake, your entire work force needs to understand and buy in to the company’s safety objectives and the safe behaviors that are expected of them. To make that happen, safety training needs to be memorable.

One way to do that is to make your company’s safety training an experience. Scrap the meetings where everyone sits and listens. Mix things up. We all learn in different ways. Listeners prefer lectures and group discussions. Others – visual learners – like images, graphs and maps to tell the story for them. Did you ever notice any of your colleagues constantly taking notes? It could be that’s how they best process information. And then there’s the person always taking things apart and trying to figure out how they work using the hands-on approach.  Does your current training program address all of these styles? If not, your message could be getting lost on more than half of your audience! Not good when it comes to safety.

Think about including something for everyone in your training; maybe a short lecture, a video, an interactive skit; create a song, a demo, an actual walk through of a situation – anything that gets your people engaged in maintaining a safe working environment for all.  An investment in your training program can lead to a rich future.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Creative minds are rarely tidy?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Why? Because I admit that my desk is not the neatest in the office. To the untrained eye, it may appear messy and disorganized. I prefer to think of it as organized chaos. It’s how I function best – all my stuff around me in piles, easily accessible when that germ of an idea hits. I know where everything is, what pile it’s in, what scrap of paper that note or phone number is written on and pretty much what’s on deadline and what’s not. And I save things. For me, it’s a healthy and creative working environment. Others may view it as a safety hazard.

My colleague across the room is totally opposite. Rarely do you see papers on her desk, a pen out of place or a file not filed. She saves only what is absolutely necessary. It’s her style.

According to an OH &S blog posted by Jo Eismont, each of us fits into a work style category: the Information Junkie, the Home from Homer, the Machine and the Chaos Theory. My co-worker is the Machine; clarity of focus, only necessary items on her desk, regularly cleans up her area getting rid of anything old or irrelevant. If you borrow her desk space for any reason, you better make sure that everything is back in its place when you are done. Sometimes I move things on her desk just to see how long it will take her to move them back.

I am a proud student of the Chaos Theory. Notes and scraps of paper everywhere; evidence of being struck by the idea that I need to write down before I forget. There are random notes pinned to the wall, jumping from one idea to the next; stacks of magazines to read, a coffee cup and numerous pens found strewn about.

We make a great team because believe it or not, our styles complement each other. She doesn’t try to convert me to her style and I don’t try to convert her to mine. It just works. Working from my desk would drive her crazy and vice versa.

The point being, just as each of us learns differently, each of us has our own working style. And it’s how we work best. There’s no right way to keep your desk and there’s no right way to work. Our workstations are comfort zones. They are an extension of our personality. So, if you want to get the best out of your employees, don’t mess with their system.

That is all.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Friday, June 12, 2015

Are you “Rockin’ Down the Highway”?

Summer is upon us. The days are longer, the sun is brighter, the air seems cleaner, flowers are in bloom and many of us take to the highway and interstates in search of fun, adventure and the perfect vacation. Sounds great doesn’t it? You bet! Until it isn’t.

Yesterday, I witnessed an example of when it isn’t.  I’m on my way to work and traffic is actually going at a pretty good pace for the morning commute. Oops. Spoke to soon. Turns out a motor home pretty much ran up the tail pipe of a somewhat compact car that now looked like an accordion gone bad. Fortunately in this case no one was injured. But just seeing the motor home brought to mind some of the perils of driving that are more specific to summer.

Face it. Highways and interstates are already congested. The volume of traffic that daily travels these highways is intense. Add to that “vacation drivers” and the chance of accidents, traffic jams and road rage jumps like the degrees on the thermometer. Make sure you plan for delays; full tank of gas, bottled water and snacks on hand; give yourself extra time so you are not in panic mode when the unexpected happens. What about your car? Before you head down highway, make sure you’ve checked tire pressure, fluid levels, windshield wipers, and air conditioning – anything that could cause a problem on that long stretch of highway.

Take into consideration that school’s out. That means more teens on the roads and an increase in the risk of accidents.  Lack of experience and distractions can lead to questionable decision making. In addition to sharing road space with teens, watch out for the cyclists – motorcycles and bicycles – and be prepared for one darting out in traffic.

And what about those dreaded orange barrels? Construction and maintenance work definitely increases during the summer months. Be aware. Have you left yourself ample cleared distance in case you suddenly have to stop? Are you going the speed limit or are you pushing it just a little too much?

Do we all know these things? Yes, we do, but a gentle reminder never hurts. As I always tell my nieces; have fun and be safe.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

We’ve got SPIRIT how about you?

We are talking team spirit. The Cleveland Cavaliers are in the NBA Finals! To say that there is excitement in the air is a huge understatement.  It’s been a wild ride this season – ups, downs, injuries, trades – but through it all the Cavs persevered and as they say, “when the going got tough, the tough got going.” Not one of them or a few of them but all of them.  It wasn’t all about LeBron or Kyrie or Kevin, it was about a “group of athletes with complementary skills, committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they are mutually accountable.” And that’s the definition of a team.

The most effective teams have a lot of traits in common.  Team members share a common vision, they trust each other, they are willing to co-operate and blend their strengths together to create the best outcome. They all pull their weight – in the same direction. They give each other the benefit of the doubt, they support and encourage each other and they step in to lend a hand when needed. They communicate – openly and honestly. They resolve conflict and move on. They adapt to the circumstances.  Leadership is strong.

Work teams need to follow the same guidelines to be successful. To build a great company you need a great team. Just like a coach you need to build and inspire your team. Think about your team. Does it exhibit the elements needed for success? Or is it stuck in the same place; never moving any closer to achieving the goal, getting more frustrated and disengaged by the minute? Does chaos prevail when things fall apart? Is everyone taking on the role of superstar? If so then you’ve got some serious work to do. Just like a coach, you may need to make some substitutions or even bench a few players.  You may need to alter your game plan. Who do you want ready to rebound that three-pointer if it bounces off the rim? Who do you want to step up if another player gets injured? Who can withstand the heat when the going gets rough? Pick your team wisely. A great team can be the difference between success and failure.

Go Team! Go Cavs!

Posted by MJ Thomas