Lessons from a Life in Safety: #8

Lessons from a Life in Safety: #8

Jill James

Jill James

Chief Safety Officer

Jill James brings an unrivaled perspective on risk, regulation and liability. With 14 years of experience as a Senior OSHA Safety Investigator with the State of Minnesota, and nearly a decade in the private sector as a safety program manager, Jill is a passionate advocate for training ROI.

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Grace is your place.

A long time ago, I was investigating a death.

A maintenance employee had fallen from a ladder after he was shocked while changing a fluorescent light fixture ballast.

I was talking with his co-workers, men who had all worked shoulder-to-shoulder with him for years.

We were standing in their maintenance shop, when I asked if I could see the tools the victim was using that day.

By this time, we were in a circle.

One of the guys broke away and came back pushing a cart.

In the center of the cart, was the deceased co-worker’s tool belt.

I looked around at all their solemn faces, quickly realizing that something larger than me was at play in my simple request.

This tool belt was their friend.

He gone and the tool belt was left behind.

It was an extension of him, a reminder of years and years of working together, day in and day out.

The tool belt held many jobs and many stories.

I looked them all in the eyes and asked if I could touch it.

They looked around silently at one another and silently, solemnly, nodded approval. 

Those employees let me into their circle.

I needed to lead with grace and appreciation for them, their colleague, and their work.

When you make yourself a trusted advisor, people will:

  • Bare their souls to you about their work or their family. They may share private information. Your job is to be confidential and listen.
  • Hopefully, they will tell you what’s happening at work when no one is watching or what scares them most about their work. 
  • Your job is to listen, ask the “Tell me more” question, and then respond to their concerns as best you can, triaging what you must. 
  • Take time to treat people the way you’d want to be treated. Yes, you will be burned sometimes. Don’t let that cloud your reaction to the rest of the people who need your wisdom and help. 

How many of you grew up in homes where one of the wage earners in the house complained about their boss around the dinner table?

The boss who didn’t understand their work, the boss who was cruel or didn’t listen, the boss who only cared about themselves or the bottom line?

I did.

It was palpable when my dad started talking about a particular boss and when we passed that bosses house which was on my street growing up, I thought some sort of evil person lived there by the way my dad talked.  

Just maybe, if you lead with grace, you will be the person someone talks about to their family or friends around the dinner table, only in a positive way, as their trusted advisor. 

Read the next post in this series, Lessons from a Life in Safety: #7

Earlier post from this series:
Lessons from a Life in Safety: #9
Lessons from a Life in Safety: #10

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