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#49: The power of reflection

February 12, 2020 | 1 hour 7 minutes 45 seconds

​In this episode, podcast series host Jill James talks with an old friend, Dr. Todd Loushine - a returning veteran of the podcast. Jill and Dr. Todd explore the role attitude has in safety and much more! Todd is a professor at the University of Whitewater-Wisconsin in the Occupational Safety degree program and is also the vice president of the Council for Professional Development for the ASSP. You won’t want to miss this one.

Transcript

Jill:

This is the Accidental Safety Pro brought to you by Vivid Learning Systems and the Health and Safety Institute. This is episode number 49. My name is Jill James, Vivid's chief safety officer and today I'm joined by Dr. Todd Loushine. My friend of a quarter century, holy cow. Todd was also our guest for episode number seven at the beginning of this podcast journey. Todd is professor at the University of Whitewater Wisconsin in the Occupational Safety degree program and is also the vice president of the Council for Professional Development for the ASSP.

So I decided to ask Todd back because, well, we've been friends for a long time, but also that means we're collaborators. We talk often. We share ideas with one another and lately, the thing that we've been talking about is professional development, and where as professionals, we can be spending our time in the age of so many options. Maybe what should we be expecting to get out of professional development and what does it really mean?

So as Todd and I are having this conversation today, we both want you to know that these are our personal opinions. The opinions that we're sharing, certainly, as Todd wants us to know, doesn't reflect his position at the university or with the ASSP, rather things that he and I talked about as cohorts and friends, and have been for the last 25 years. So welcome to the show, Todd.

Todd:

Thanks, Jill and you are really kind. You didn't ask me. I've been begging you for weeks to do this.

Jill:

There was no begging involved. There was no begging involved but thanks for coming back. I appreciate it and kudos to you as well, because this whole podcast thing was actually born in your brain and was an idea that you brought to me almost two years ago now. So thank you.

Todd:

Wow. Yeah, of course. I'm glad it's been so successful for you and for Vivid.

Jill:

Yeah, we have a really we have a really big following. Our producer Will could tell us the numbers, but we have a really big following. So thank you so much to everyone who follows the podcast. So Todd, today, professional development, maybe we should start at the beginning and define it, and what is professional development and why as safety and health professionals do we really need it?

Todd:

That's what we should be talking about just because there I mean, you and I had spoken offline that there are too many options, I think right now. That it's kind of difficult to organize or to kind of understand where people are in the whole mix. So let's try to detangle this web and begin with, I believe, how I would define professional development would be career dedicated learning. When I say that, when you learn something, the process of learning is a conscious effort to somehow either augment or change your knowledge, skills and abilities.

Unfortunately, we all have limited time, we have limited money to dedicate to that. So therefore, we have to be very judicious with our plans, with where do we want our career to go or how do we want to become an expert in a particular area, to which occupational safety health has many, but at the same time, we want to be better at our jobs. We want to advance our careers and therefore let's dig into this and find out what sort of recommendations or our own experiences or those we've borrowed could we give to your listeners so that maybe they could start taking a measured approach to their own professional development.

Jill:

Yeah. So as we go through this episode, Todd, maybe let's throw out some questions to listeners. So as people are listening to this over time, they can be thinking and interacting with our community. We have a Facebook group for the podcast and we share this on LinkedIn and lots of other social platforms. It would be interesting to hear our listeners views and feedback on this as well.

As we said in the beginning, these are conversations that you and I have, it'd be interesting to hear what other people's takes are as well. So maybe one question let's just put out one at a time, would be how much time are you our audience spending per year or month or week to invest in your professional development? Whether that's your time or your money or both? That'd be an interesting thing to hear.

Todd:

Yeah. Also, how do they rate it to do they do it by week, by month, bi-annually, annually. I'm just curious as to what people are doing. Because someone in my position, I'm continuously professional development, I'm expected to interact and monitor what's going on and then attend different sessions. So my learning it is measured, but it's measured by semester, basically, because that's the way, that's the suit I swim in but I'm very interested to find out what other people think.

Jill:

Yeah, and how does it change over a career as well. So someone who's listening who's new to the profession versus someone who's been at this for as long as you and I have or longer, how has their professional development changed or their attitudes even about it? Back 25 years ago when you and I were co workers with OSHA, if you remember that crazy form we had to fill out every week that Alec, where we had to explain what we did with every 15 minutes of our work week, do you remember that?

Todd:

I do.

Jill:

There was a piece on there for I don't know if it was called professional development, it might have been called professional development or continuous improvement or something like that. There was an allocation where there was an expectation, a certain percent of every week was spent on that. Which is just crazy to think about, right?

Todd:

It is, but I think it was because we had that and that was my first job of my career. I think it actually put me on a path to desire professional development continuous learning. It was my experiences both within doing the job, but also they really heavily promoted us to seek out, go to conferences, speak at conference, go to meetings, to join the professional groups and engage and it was through that that drove me, that was one of the initiators of me thinking about going to graduate school. So I'm indebted to Minnesota OSHA, their leaders for promoting that.

Jill:

Yeah. I agree with that, because you actually had to reflect on it every week when you filled out that report. Like what did I do? Did I do anything? Yeah, it was interesting. So we were talking at the beginning that there's so many options right now in our wider world and what does that mean for us. So maybe Todd, do you want to run through what some of the options are for professional development right now?

Todd:

Sure.

Jill:

Kind of the messaging around that.

Todd:

Yeah. Please just entertain this for a second. I came up with the highest level, what professional that would be of course pursuing some form of degree and I try to break down by rhyming what the goal is.

Jill:

This is good-

Todd:

Give me a second here-

Jill:

This is the professor in you.

Todd:

Yup. So an associate's degree is to become an earner because it's teaching you what you need to do. A Bachelor of Science degree, you became a learner and that's really the what I'm focusing on when I teach undergrads is to try to develop their learning techniques. So when they get their degree, that's not the end. That's the beginning. A master's degree, you're a discerner which is to say you can kind of judge a little bit more what you're taking and what you want to take in. A PhD, you're a yearner. You want to learn more, you dedicated your life to it.

Once you get nowhere near the end of your career you're a returner, which is to give back and I call this the elder path, E-L-D-E-R.

Jill:

I love it.

Todd:

Geek aside, I just come up with these weird things to help people remember, but I think it's cool. So let's talk about-

Jill:

Oh my God, I'm a returner. I just realized.

Todd:

Yeah, we are.

Jill:

Though I skipped over the PhD part.

Todd:

It's not a path you have to, it's just different designation.

Jill:

So I'm a discerning returner. Okay.

Todd:

Exactly. So far as what is offered and I think there's such, let's try to categorize some of this stuff. Everything from pursuing a degree, now a degree, what is it? We just kind of laid out what the goal is, but it is, you almost get into a contract with the instructor. I'm going to cover this stuff, but in a way I'm going to monitor and review your work and provide you feedback. That is the strongest part.

So a student is given advantages that an individual learner is not given but hopefully going through that experience, you learn what you need, in order to carry on your own. I think most people, though, are seeking out education, learning, things like that whether it'd be a conference. So it's like a smorgasbord of learning opportunities, or a dedicated one day, two day, five day class, when you have an instructor in there, but again, it's [inaudible] of time, it has to be face to face.

We have a lot of online options now, which puts more onus on the learner to self monitor, to self document. Just because you don't have that face to face interaction though, depending, online learning, it's variable, isn't it? I seek out to get to know each of my students, through introduction, through meetings throughout and then a meeting at the end. But some, they may never really interact with the instructor, which there's a disadvantage there.

Jill:

Yeah, and instructional designers would tell us that online learning can have that active piece depending on how it's developed but not all of them are just designed by instructional designers or in that manner. So it varies, that varies too.

Todd:

Yeah. So what I'm trying to do for everybody is just kind of breakdown that just when you say, an online class, there are so many different types of online classes. There really is but be aware again, there's more onus on the learner versus when you're in the classroom. That's where, you brought this up Jill, the active versus passive learning. Listeners may be like, what is he talking about? In order to have active learning, sure, it can be generated by the learner themselves, but the instructors should engage, attempt to engage their students in order to allow for active learning.

Jill:

So can that happen in your standard presentation at a conference?

Todd:

Right. I'm going to try to put this in a different context and that is how people practice safety. Are you an active participant or are you a passive participant? Are you just throwing stuff out there without any sort of acknowledgement or pre work or measurement or follow up? Then there's another thing I've been teaching and that is yesterday safety, today safety, tomorrow safety.

Todd:

Not, calendar wise, actual today, tomorrow but what did you expect yesterday and can you measure it as far as were you successful today? What can you do today in order to collect tomorrow? Then also, what have you learned? So there's like the reflection of today, the look back at yesterday, and what am I doing today to get into tomorrow?

Jill:

That can be as simple or complex as an audit, that's done with frequency to be able to look at yesterday and today and tomorrow.

Todd:

Yeah. What I'm really leaning toward is, one is reflection, two is learning. That is, if you do an audit, but you do nothing with it wasn't worth it. If you go to a class, and you don't really document what you've learned to reflect on it or whatever, what have you gained? There should be a measurable change, whether it's a plan, whether it's a verification of what you already knew, and so you can keep doing it.

There has to be something and I just get worried that people wander into three day, class five day class, wander into a webinar, wander into something, and it's passive. I'm here, and I'm hoping things get into my brain but without a dedicated conscious effort, is it really and without some form of evaluation from a mentor, coach, advisor is anything gained? If we really want to become professionals, if we really want to develop ourselves, advance ourselves in our careers, become the returner, it needs to be dedicated effort and it should be something that's measurable.

Jill:

So you had mentioned reflection being critical. What was the other reflection versus what was the other side of that?

Todd:

Learning.

Jill:

Learning. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So if you're engaged in active learning, and you spend time reflecting, then would the assumption be that the knowledge is transferring?

Todd:

Yeah, yeah. What you're doing when you're reflecting is you're putting within the context of your experience, or where you would apply it. So you're comparing and contrasting. In many ways you're discerning but that's something that you have to dedicate to. It doesn't happen naturally unless you're someone like me who is a freak who is required to do that all the time. I understand that. So sometimes it's difficult to talk about this stuff, because, people are really busy.

Again, they're so focused on getting done what they're getting done but it's almost like, sharpening, we're both from a meat packing area. You got to sharpen the knife, it makes the cut easier. So they should be sharpening their knives.

Jill:

Yeah. So let's dig into that reflection piece just a little bit more. So if someone is listening and said, okay, so I went to this thing. I listened to a talk, I took an online course I took a two day class somewhere. Maybe I had active learning, maybe it was passive. I'm not sure, now Todd's making me think of this. Let's talk about how people can do that reflection piece and what that might look like in different ways.

Todd:

Sure. Now, it begins with a plan or an objective. I think too many of us just like I want to learn something, I'm going to go here, and I'm going to hope it's going to work out for the best. In order to have an objective improvement, something that's measurable, you should go in not only with the instructor's objectives, but your own. How is this going to advance me? I think a lot of us do that. I think sometimes we just think let's try it but we should plan it out.

Then when we're there, we should be taking notes, we should be interacting with our peers, our classmates, or on a discussion board, they're all viable ways. In interacting with the instructor for clarification, are we getting the true message that needs to be done? The reflection comes out of, how does this relate to me? How does this relate to my world, my truth, and in doing that it gets absorbed into different parts of the brain in order to be accessed in the future.

Whereas when it's passive, it's just a matter of luck and happenstance, when certain pieces get in there, but the problem is, then it's not a dedicated attachment or connection or links. So therefore, the message can get garbled up, because our brain, in order to save energy and time will make connections that aren't true. We just kind of hear something by and by, and therefore we adopt it and sidetrack, I was interacting with some of my graduate students just this morning and they're all on their own path.

So there's no wrong answer but what I try to do is just redirect them on the path. One of them wants to study this proposal, I guess I shouldn't have said he, but they're mostly males. He's proposing to study how social interactions and safety culture affect workers and I wanted to write the response, well, that's like studying, how does attractiveness affect love? It's like, if you're going to study something has to be very direct, very concise.

Some of his references were from magazines, which is you're not supposed to do that in the class. They're supposed to be refereed peer review. So redirecting, again, you got to reflect on it versus what seems right in the world, it's got to be something that you can really get down and look at it at from a nuts and bolts perspective. I'm very much a nuts and bolts guy, you know that. I like to do hands on stuff. That's why I enjoy so much doing the, as I teach to learn.

This past week we did a root cause analysis on what students could do, what they should be doing in order to get better quiz scores. We broke it down to what we can do to prepare for lecture, what we can do inside of lecture and what we do post lecture. They had the planning of what's going to be covered, reviewing so you have an idea going into it. While you're there taking notes, asking questions, engaging really what's the most important things and then afterwards reflecting and talking to each other and I'm just indebted to my students for being so honest.

Jill:

This is hilarious. So our audience who's listening is like, wait a minute, what did he just say? Root cause analysis, but you used a safety practice to help students discover how to improve quiz scores. So everybody who's listening, who's a parent, remember, you can use those root cause analysis for a lot of other good things in life. I'm just thinking how you could apply this to kids and behaviors and family things. And oh, my gosh, we could use root cause analysis for lots of stuff, right?

Todd:

Oh, definitely. It's a technique to try to uncover why and when you understand why, the connection of what I do today affects what I can measure tomorrow. We sometimes realized that even though we're well intended to do something, that the outcome is not what we wanted. So learning that is super important, and I'm trying to teach my students that the way I cover things in class. The way I set it up, you should be able to figure out which topics are going to be on tomorrow's quiz and what if we did that in the workplace, that by listening to someone talk, we can prioritize where they are, what they want. Then when we pursue those wants in a measurable way, we're going to be more successful, they're going to be happier, and then everything works out better.

Jill:

So backing up a little bit to this reflection piece. So we're talking about how to do reflection and you were talking about having a plan and an objective and really kind of reviewing what it is that you took in and how can you utilize that and to utilize that as well and that's like a solo endeavor, but reflection can happen in community as well. Right?

Todd:

Definitely. It needs to be refereed, if you will. It needs to be controlled because otherwise can turn into a show shouting match or what you sometimes see on comment threads. I got this really bad habit of reading comment threads, and then attempting and then I don't reply. I try to control my emotion, which is difficult, but it's actually served me really well in my career to not respond with emotion but to respond with logic.

Jill:

Curiosity.

Todd:

Yes, exactly.

Jill:

Yeah. So, reflection, so you just talked about something. Reflection could happen in community in an online format, but it also can happen one on one as well, which I think is something that you and I often do with one another. Either if it's, we're coming up with a new idea, and we want to test something out with one another, or we want to talk about something that we just learned. We are doing that reflection in community but over the phone, which is another way to do it.

Todd:

Yeah, we could actually start talking about the mentor type thing.

Jill:

Yeah, we can talk about that too, and yes, let's do that but I guess one thing I wanted to pick up and go back to, for people who are listening, you explained the earner, learner, discerner, yearner, returner and we were talking about people who have higher education in safety and health practices, and then how you can continue to educate yourself. How about our listeners who are not degreed because we know there's many of us out there who have taken on this job of safety and health and are trying their best, as we all are, but don't come with that formal education.

So it would say To me, and I don't know what your thoughts are on this, that would be a time to really think about where are you spending your time? Where are you spending your dollars? What is your investment to be able to get the most for yourself in an active learning capacity, would you agree with that?

Todd:

I totally agree with that. I'm just going to refer back to what you just brought up with the formal education. As you move from masters to PhD, you're required to continually think about what I don't know, I don't know. My concern for the people who don't, people who readily just accept what they hear is truth or are unwilling to at least consider a dissenting concept. I can listen to all different types of concepts and then put them in context.

That we're both pursuing the same thing but you're just taking it from one individual viewpoint. You got to take it from multiples, which some people think, oh, that seems like he's intelligent, because he does that. It's because I question, is what I'm saying true? Can I refer to something or can I provide measures for?

Jill:

Can I prove it?

Todd:

There are some people who have a natural curiosity. There are some people who have a natural ability to contextualize to reflect on thing. Then we have others that don't, who charge in, I know this stuff already and you and I have dealt with that in our careers and I don't like to confront because they're on a path. If I can somehow provide them with some different viewpoint or direct them in a way that, that is interesting what you have and I see where that comes from but you also have to consider these other things.

I try to do it in a kind supportive way and that's not the typical way we respond. We tend to, especially in today's society, we tend to fight, that there's a winner and a loser. No, there isn't. There is a way and there's a better way and there's a way in which people can do things that are less risky and that's what we're desiring. There's a way in which people can have a plan dedicated approach to their professional development and learning.

Then there's the passive. There's value in passive too, but understand you're going to get, the more you think about things, which is the reflection, the more you think about where you want to be, who you want to be working with, or being mentored by or in a group learning environment, you have to pursue it, you can't just let it happen.

Jill:

Yeah. So this critical thinking, critical learning piece that you've been talking about, I'm thinking about how do we apply that and how can people think about that? We're suggesting people ask questions and be curious but it also can be just backing up to some real basic principles that when we are doing our own research on something, or maybe we are reading something, or reading someone's comment on something that was shared, on LinkedIn or some other social media, when it comes to our professional practice, to really look at the citations that are involved with that.

Is this something that's true? How do I know that it's true? What is the sourcing here? We all can hit Google and ask a question, like how often do you have to do medical evaluations for respirators and you want to look at, what's your top hit? What's that source? Where did it come from? I always go back to the OSHA regulations when I'm going to double check something like that, because sometimes the information that's out there someone else wrote it better and wrapped it better and it's easier to understand than digging into a regulation. So if I'm using a source that I don't know, I'm always going back to confirm it.

Todd:

Right. I don't want people to think that I'm a reading snob or something because I brought up the concept of a peer reviewed journal. There are certain experts that I've been able to identify, subject matter experts that if they were just to read an opinion piece, it's pretty powerful, because it's based on background. The response I have to that is one thing that concerns me and this was me early in my career. I operated by rule of thumb, which is to say decisions were made heuristically, that my decision making, my actions tended to be more of an if then algebraic, versus a well thought out, understand what's going on, break it down and move forward.

Humans, we tend to be that level of thinker. You have to train yourself to get beyond that unless you have a natural tendency for it. In safety, that can be detrimental to react to something. So when I meet new people or I'm working with students in there, or this situation, here's the answer, you got to pause, you got to really think it through. Sure, and you may be correct 90% of the time, but then you're incorrect 10% of the time, and that 10% of the time could result in death or serious harm.

So, when it comes to whether it's pursuing reading with reference, pursuing experts, it should all be taken with judgment and I hate using these terms. Do you remember when you brought your son to UMD and he's like, "What do you what do you do?" I said, "Well, I'm an optimistic pessimist." I want things to work but I constantly am critical and I question but I do it in a kind way.

I would hope that people would see that, if your initial response to reading something is this is garbage, is it? You got to look at it from the writer's perspective or just say, oh, this disagrees with everything that I've lived. So this must be correct. That's a bias too.

Jill:

The writer's or the listener's perspective, if you're listening to someone to a presentation, same thing.

Todd:

Right, exactly. I'm not trying to bring people down or anything like that. What I'm trying to do is be more realistic, that I guess, the best thing people can do is through their own opportunities to train or educate, look for feedback from the listeners. Look for feedback from the students. That's how I've gotten to where I am, to expect failure, to learn from failure to improve thyself. Really, and I've been talking to students about that, that don't think of it as a right or wrong answer. Think of it of this is what I expect. Did I get what I expect if I didn't, what can I do differently? The continuous improvement cycle, and also people are thinking, oh, plan, do, check, act. Yeah, I've been bringing that up in class every lecture.

Jill:

Yeah, so if people are thinking, gosh, I'm just on the edge of, I'm thinking about signing up for some kind of seminar or a class or I'm seeking education on something like I have a friend right now who's looking into a class to learn more about explosive dust. Someone who's been in our practice for a good 15 years and she's looking for a class because she needs education because it impacts her work right now. So if people are looking for those kind of things in our wider world, what should they be reading for and looking for in maybe descriptions? Particularly if it's a presentation or a seminar?

Todd:

That is a great question, and it depends one, what their needs, two what the what resources they have available. There's a lot of free material out there, which is fantastic but not all of it is good.

Jill:

So you can self educate?

Todd:

Yes.

Jill:

So you don't always have to spend money learning, we can self educate too.

Todd:

Let's go back to networking, not back to it but let's talk networking. If you have a strong network, then you have the expertise within it. Because, people that you know, you've told them contact me and then I can guide them. So for me, that's the easiest way. If I have a question, I've got a network of people I can go to. If people ask me that they need a certification or some sort of specific training, I begin with local and online because travel is expensive. It depends on how much you're going to use it.

If I need a little bit of knowledge to do this, then a little bit will do but if it's a big deal, if it's something you're going to be doing, it's going to be part of your career, it can be part of your expertise, then you may actually have to search out going to a place and learning in a group setting or a face to face setting or a well refereed online class, in which you have experts who are going to deliver it. They're going to provide you not only with knowledge, but how to approach the issue.

What are the resources available out there? Then when you get done with it, the ability to self keep current on your own. So again, it's what is the need and really thinking about what your need is, is important, what resources are available, and then making the best use of both your time and the money that's available.

Jill:

Right. So you've said before, actually in episode number seven, when you are the podcast guests before you talked about this concept of your network is your net worth, which was beautiful, that stuck with me. I love that. I think that's a piece of it and so our education can happen in our network as well and important to do that reflection, like you said, for the learning, so things are transferring and sticking in our brains when we're talking with our cohorts.

Todd:

Right. So that people might be thinking, where do I start-

Jill:

Yes.

Todd:

Because when people go to a university, it's like built in. They got their professors, they have the guest speakers, they've got the events, they've got tours, they've got their cohort, it's kind of built in. LinkedIn is an interesting experiment in which you can reach out to people, you can see where they are and reach out to them. The problem is, it tends to be passive, it tends to be indirect. That's where if people just google search as far as a local safety council, a local ASSP chapter, a local, whatever their expertise is, or join an association and become part of a technical group, so you're with like minded people.

Then dedicating time, I think time each week just to watch, see what's coming up. What's coming down the pipe, interacting with people, starting to identify who you would consider experts in certain areas, and possibly attempting to find mentors or advisors, who is someone who's willing to invest time into providing you with not only advice, but critical feedback for improvement because you don't want a yes person who's just like, thumbs up, everything's great. You want them to be truthful. You want them to be critical? Because I mean, an unchallenged muscle doesn't grow.

Jill:

Exactly. So what you were talking about LinkedIn being an interesting experiment. So if someone is wanting to use a platform like that to grow their network or be able to ask those questions when you're trying to figure something out, don't be shy for anyone who's listening to reach out directly and ask for a conversation. That is a way to grow your network. I've definitely met some fabulous, fabulous people from my network on LinkedIn by sending them a message and saying, "Could we have a phone call?" And being able to talk with them in that way.

This morning, I was reading LinkedIn, someone had shared an article about the coronavirus, which is something that's top of mind right now. My company is getting questions about, what can we do to educate our workforce? How can we protect people. So that particular paper interested me. So I opened it, I read it. I looked at the sourcing, I looked at the author, and I thought, okay, this is what I'm going to come back to, because this is probably a person I want to send a message to and say, "Hey, could we have a conversation? I want to know more about this and where else can you send me for more information?"

So don't be shy. If you're new to safety and health, or if you've been added a long time, it's okay to say, hey, can we talk and guess what? I can't think of a time when someone turned me down.

Todd:

Right. What's the worst thing they can say? No, I don't have time. I do tell students and anybody that if they reach out to me, and I don't get back to them within 24 hours, contact me again. It's just because of the quantity of emails and messages I get, sometimes things get buried and I didn't do it on purpose, I always try to get back to people. People have been really great and professional and LinkedIn was sending messages or just reaching out and I think that's good.

I think more people should take advantage of that and I guess I don't understand the shyness because I wasn't born with that particular gene but if electronic is not your way, the face to face meetings, the local meetings are fantastic. They're all going there to advance knowledge to network. The bigger the conference, or the bigger the meeting, the more people you meet. I go to these national and regional conferences really just to talk to people and get to know people and share ideas, versus sitting down in a class and trying to actually learn something.

My objective is different than others but there may be someone you go listen to, and not only do you learn something, but they really affect you. They gave you glimpses of things that you want to be, go up and meet that person shake their hand, get their card. It's not like you're asking them to make life decisions for you but just kind of following what they do and maybe once in a while dropping an email is helpful. It's someone who can provide life advice, path advice, and possibly save you from the pitfall, because sometimes some of us have been through it all.

We have to make all the mistakes before we make the right one and sometimes you can save time and effort by finding those people. There are a lot of people out there that want to give and share and you can pretty much tell who they are just by either talking to them or seeing them speak for like 10 minutes.

Jill:

So we're talking about building your network, but also your mentors as well and being bold, and like you said, it doesn't seem like It should be an intimidating thing, but it often can be for people to reach out. I know that just for this podcast alone when I reach out to someone to be a guest, I've noticed this pattern. It's a sad pattern, but it's a pattern that I've noticed. When I ask anyone who's male to be my podcast guest, almost 100% of the time I get a yes, I will do that. When I ask a woman to be a podcast guest, they say, I'm not sure I'm smart enough to be on the podcast.

Todd:

Oh, no.

Jill:

I don't know if I, I've listened to it. There's a lot of smart people. Yes, we have a lot of smart people on our podcast and they are of all stripes and backgrounds, of all professional and training and not training and people who taught themselves and people who are just starting out and people who've been at it for way longer than you and I. So I end up most of the time doing coaching with women and saying, "You have a story. You have something to share that's important and interesting and yes, you can do this."

So ladies, if you're listening and you want to be on this podcast, you are smart enough. It's just this interesting dynamic where women ask me a lot more questions. What are you going to ask me? What is it going to be like? What can we talk about? So I spend a lot more time on that. So it is intimidating sometimes to reach out to a network. Just know that this our profession, I feel in the quarter century you and I've been at this, it's a really welcoming place. I haven't found people who have been like, I'm too good for you. I'm not going to talk to you. That's not happened.

Todd:

There are abrasive people in our field-

Jill:

There's abrasive people everywhere.

Todd:

I see who they are, but the thing is, I'm at the point where hate, that's their deal. Don't take things so personal. I know a lot of people do that. I've got a few identified people on the list that I'm like, I'll take them with a grain of salt. They tend to replicate their attitude depending on where they're posting or when they're presenting but that's their thing. I've almost come to appreciate it. Sometimes you need people who stir the paint, get things moving, or get discussions going on. It's good to have debates because then you really get to challenge what your beliefs are.

If everybody just agreed on the same thing, how would we ever progress? People need to stop taking things so personally. I say that almost kind of tongue in cheek because they react the way they're going to react. That's the way it is and perhaps part of this professional development, part of this guiding of people, we should have more mindfulness type training. Something that I brought into my class, if the students are all over the place, we stop lecture, we do a mindfulness exercise, I get to bring them back.

That when people go listen to someone speak, and it's like, oh, it didn't agree with what I have lived, or they feel that they've detected some form of attitude. They feel attacked, oh, I hated that presentation. Or I hated that person. That's your own personal view. You're preventing yourself from being honest and truthful. You are.

Jill:

So what does that look like in your class? You said you stop into a mindfulness exercise. What do you have them do?

Todd:

I've got three different YouTube videos on the ready. They're about five minutes each. I close the shades, turn off the lights, I play the video.

Jill:

So it takes people through maybe like a breathing exercise or something?

Todd:

Yeah, it's mentally, I think all three of them have some form of, think of your feet, how they feel in your shoes. Think of your legs, think of your buttocks, going all the way. I don't think it says buttocks. I'm making it up as I go but it brings it to-

Jill:

It's a guided meditative practice.

Todd:

It's a guided meditative process exactly, to yes, you have other things to think about or you're tired or you're hungry, whatever it is, but for the next 45 minutes, we need you in the now.

Jill:

That's awesome-

Todd:

And to be positive too.

Jill:

Is it working to bring your students back?

Todd:

It does, they actually enjoy it. I think they must have received it somewhere else.

Jill:

It's a great practice for all of us to stop. You were talking earlier about a reflection on learning but reflection can be in that way as well, where we stop and are reflecting. Maybe sometimes that's why some of our best ideas are in the morning when we first wake up because we've had, we've had that time of quiet. We've quieted our brains. Yeah.

Todd:

When people do training, I know people get frustrated with, oh, the workers aren't paying attention or they're making comments, learn from it. Find out what is the source of it? How can you connect to them? I've had to swallow a lot of pride in my career and at times, yes, I may be responding from an emotional perspective. You just got to go through your own meditative exercises, get back to it, what is going to make us progress? How are we going to learn and get better? Fighting is not going to do it.

I got to understand from their perspective, and again, I'm going to be, not again, I keep saying that because you and I talk offline so much. So I think it's more of a one on one. I'm going to be producing and posting videos on my YouTube channel and on LinkedIn, on the things I'm doing in the classroom, things that have been successful for me to create more of an active learning environment for my students.

If people can take that and apply it to their own professional development, I think they'll see a marked improvement not only in what they're learning, but their attitude towards it. One thing we just talked about in class is that one of the basic human traits is pleasure seeking, pain avoidance. Some people label hedonism, that I need you guys to enjoy coming here, to enjoy being challenged, to understand when to ask for help, and how to ask for help properly.

These are the skills we need the students to have when they leave school, it's going to make them more successful. It's going to make them better workers and people are going to want to work with them, versus what did you get on that one test? What was your GPA, which is supposed to be reflection of those things, but they're not. There's some indirect going on there. So if people can develop that within themselves, then they don't have to rely on mentors or guides or instructors to bring it to them. I'm trying to instill that into them, again, bachelor's degree you are the learner, master's degree, you're the discerner.

Jill:

So Todd, let's talk about and just give people maybe some questions that can be asking themselves, both some questions to be asking when they're looking into some kind of professional development, whether that's trying to do something where they're self teaching, and so they're going to do some reading on something, whether they're signing up for a seminar, they're going to a conference, what are those questions they should be asking before they sign up for it? Then let's turn that like, oh, crap, it's too late. I forgot to do what Dr. Todd suggested. I'm already here. So let's do that before sort of reflective, should I sign up for this thing? What questions should you be asking yourself?

Todd:

Right, and what's interesting too, is when we have to justify an investment to our employer. These are things we should be doing anyway and that is the planning of it, to really thinking of, we had talked about it earlier in this podcast, how is it going to contribute to my career, my mindset, or to the value for my employer? Think of it from that perspective. I know some people are like I want a paid vacation, I'll go to this conference, it's in Orlando or someplace nice.

Okay, that's a different. At that point, then you're satisfying just by getting approval and going, but if you really, truly want to learn, and it can come in so many different forms. To think about how it's going to affect you. What is the marked improvement? What changes are you looking for? Or is it passive? You can accept that as well that going to this meeting, I really don't have any plans to learn anything. So what can you do while you're there? Can you expand your network?

Are you identifying potential mentors? Are you just going for verification of what you already know? To remain positive, I think is the key. I think sometimes, and Jill, you'll know this too. When you go do a presentation, you got a handful of people that no matter what you'd say, if you taught them how to turn iron into gold, they'd still hate you for it. There are going to be a negative people. There's the people that aren't really learning, they're preventing themselves.

So if you get to a place and you didn't plan it out, but you're there, at least be positive. At least be active. Really listen. Reflect while you're in there, look at the people around you. Maybe jot down a few things. Do you want to go up and meet this person after they're done or say it's a webinar or whatever, do I need to follow up with this person? Do I have questions? Should I take this to LinkedIn or another social media site? Do something, be positive. That could be a learning experience and a way for me to vent experience because that doesn't benefit you or anybody.

Jill:

So that you can have something stick in the brain, like you were talking about earlier. So, Todd, let's talk about maybe some pitfalls. What do you feel maybe keeps people away from professional development or the or the pursuit of it or taking that first step?

Todd:

Well, I think, in many ways, it's maybe people who haven't been afforded the ability or afforded the opportunity, excuse me, to have a mentor, a strong mentor to guide them. That they perceive going to a conference, going to a meeting, signing up for a webinar as a waste of their time. It isn't an acknowledgement that maybe I don't know what I don't know. I'm refereeing to earlier concepts. Okay, realistically, time is probably the first, money is the second, but when it comes down to things are available for free, and it only takes an hour of your time, I think it comes down to the person just not fully appreciating. For me it's the enjoyment. I love to be constantly learning, I'm always searching it out even when, it's like pizza, even when it's bad it's still good because it's pizza. Speaking as a overweight guy. Way off track, Todd.

Jill:

That's funny. I think it can also be perceived as something fluffy, right?

Todd:

Right, exactly. I still think there's always something to glean, from every experience, good and bad. So it's really how you approach it. It's how you approach it. It's your willingness to maybe let go of preconceived notions, let go of, I already know this stuff. I'm just can argue with you, to allow yourself to take notes, to reflect during the presentation, to talk to people about it after the presentation. I think that would help out.

Again, if everyone, not everyone, but if a listener's like yeah, I've never been that engaged in my own learning or I don't really have ever thought about the importance or the value of professional development to challenge yourself, give yourself the opportunity to try it out into think about it prior how am I going to gain something from it. I look up speakers before I go to their presentation so I know a little bit about their background, but that's me. I'm a unicorn in an imaginary world.

Because I'm continuously and I, again, it's like pizza. I'll take it cold. I'll take it with stuff on it, without stuff on it, doesn't even look like a pizza. I like learning in all forms it and then I am constantly reflecting on it and trying to reformat it. I come up with these interesting catchphrases because I'm thinking about it.

Jill:

I do the same thing-

Todd:

I think it's because of my attitude. One, two would be the training, what do I enjoy? I enjoy learning and I enjoy getting to know people. What do you think?

Jill:

I think to give yourself permission, as a professional that this is part of our practice, it is part of our professional discipline is professional development, and that you should seek it out. It's a worthy thing to do, and that you're worth it. Your career is worth it and stopping to take that time to do it with some kind of frequency at a cadence that feels right for you, is important for your development.

Todd:

Agreed.

Jill:

Yeah, yeah. So as we're starting to draw to a close here, Todd, what words of wisdom, parting words would you like to share with our audience?

Todd:

I'm going to refer back to the themes I think that I've kind of drawn out, I think of it like with my students. Listen for certain things. When I start repeating things or stress certain things, write it down. So for a listener, write this down, there's a quiz that's going to happen later. First, is for everybody just to kind of frame where they are in their career, where they want their critical to go or how they're doing at work, and attempt to identify where things could improve.

I like to put numbers to it. I'm a data guy but you don't exactly have to start there. You can start subjectively, to identify what is needed, what you could do differently. To question, what I don't know, what I don't know. Most importantly is have a good attitude, to try to elicit enjoyment from it. Those are my big recommendations and I realize time and money is a restraint. I know that. I'm afforded the luxury of not having those limitations because of who I am in my career. So obviously, I was cut out for what I do.

Jill:

Because it's baked into the cake where you are a university professor.

Todd:

People are like oh, you get to go all these conference but I'm typically presenting at them. I'm trying to develop research and publication. So I'm adding to the pile. I'm not pulling from the bottom, I'm adding to it. So if people could just really take a little bit of time, like you had said, like a cadence, a time of day. I have a long drive to work and that 45, 50 minutes is so great to reflect and think about things and a lot of my great ideas pop in my head while I'm taking a shower, just drinking coffee in the morning, trying to get the kids out the door.

That's where some of my bigger ideas come from and then it's a matter of sitting down and writing it down. So I'm surrounded by scratches of paper right now that I hopefully can turn into something as I move forward, and again, it's a continuous process for me but if you have limited resources, it may become just a regular thing and that's fine, too. Got to start somewhere.

Jill:

Yeah, I think that we may be unicorns and I'm sure there are other unicorns in our listening audiences where we're often reflecting and reflection comes with the craziest time. I've been thinking a lot about our labor market lately, and where job growth is in the United States at this time. As the company that I'm working for, as we're developing solutions for different employment sectors, I'm always looking at, where is that growth happening? Where are things happening?

Jill:

So this is my unicorn moment ripped from the headlines this morning. I'm in my CrossFit class and we're doing this really long workout. I'm rowing and rowing and rowing on this machine and I start to look at everybody who's in the class and I'm, like, wonder what the statistics are in this class of what this employment sector looks like, of the people in my class. There's 11 people in the class this morning. Six of them are in health care. One's an engineer, one's an accountant. One is in tech. I'm like, yep, that's exactly what the BLS is saying of the growth market right now. It's in healthcare. That's how my head works. Welcome to the weird side.

Todd:

It is interesting our field. I'm always monitoring the employment posts, and man, this week, I don't know what it is, but I have a lot of people asking me to share openings and they are all levels entry three to five years 10 Plus, all over the United States. I thought there was going to be kind of a curve or a reduction in the demand, but it seems to keep going up. It's crazy.

Jill:

That's great news. That's great news for us. That's great news for us.

Todd:

It is, but then we need people to be valuable to those employers too, pursue knowledge pursue work and document so you can show it to them either in resume or interview.

Jill:

Yeah. So what was something real recently that you did for professional development, whether it was something you read or went to or what's something in your recency?

Todd:

Well, because I'm an instructor, I charge myself to review all my coming weeks, lectures and content, and I pride myself on trying to remain current and updating things and it's just interesting. Coincidentally, I've read a couple chapters for the next version of the safety professionals handbook and one of the top fixes record keeping. So in spending, I spent a decent amount of time on the OSHA website looking at their record keeping, but then really thinking about, and then we just covered root cause analysis, and how root cause analysis is not at all represented in what is required for record keeping.

How does that then result in the type of data and reports we have? If that's what we have, and we're judging ourselves on it, are those the right measures? So what it's doing is it's forcing me to think of things beyond what is known right now. So then I go and pursue them. It turns into class projects. It turns into potential research proposals. So when it comes to, if you ask me, oh, I go to conferences, I go to meetings.

I was at a, the one I reflected on, it was a joint ASSP Wisconsin chapter in the Waukesha Area Safety Council. We had a lawyer come in and talk about, of course I get put on the spot. I can't remember exactly what it was but they were talking about things like fit for duty, and other changes to the state work comp laws and it was so interesting. I've been reflecting on its since, about how things change year to year. And here we have someone who's speaking at it from a perspective of I've been in the court, trying these cases, that here's what the law says. This is what's being discussed in the court and it's so interesting that you have standards and laws, but then you have the actual practice and how it's being deliberated on or argued in court. Then what I do is I extrapolate these thoughts to other things.

Then I got to meet some great people there too. I invested an hour and a half of my time and a little bit of driving time and I was afforded this great opportunity to meet these people who are in my field. They have great backgrounds and experiences. I got to hear from this lawyer who I never would have thought of reaching out to and now I'm connected with. One last thing is I always try to make a point of, especially, when I have a chance to go up to a speaker is to thank them, for sharing their expertise, for sharing their stories. I think more people should do that. I think more speakers need that. Sorry, go ahead.

Jill:

I had, I guess I would call what I had this week, accidental professional development. It was something that I wasn't intending for, I guess enjoyment and because I'm really a geek when it comes to listening to excellent speakers. I love to listen to people speak and how they craft a presentation and how they do it and the study of it. I had an opportunity this week to listen for the first time in my life to a Nobel laureate speak in person. He was speaking at a university that's not too far from me and he's also the former president of Columbia.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering peace between two groups in his country, a warring guerrilla group and he was so fascinating to listen to. As I was listening to him, I kept thinking, I wish I had a piece of paper because there's things that he was saying about how he built and worked for peace and how he actually constructed it. He described the construction of how he did that and with whom he met, who were his network of advisers, who were the people that he sought out to build a plan to broker a peace deal and it was fascinating.

As he was talking about those building blocks, my geeky safety brain was going on and I was thinking, man, the principles that he applied for this is how you can also build what we call culture. We're all striving toward, everybody talks about the safety culture, safety climate. I thought, oh, President Santos is talking about peace in the same way that we could frame building culture. So luckily, it was recorded and in my reflection, thanks for teaching me today, Todd, we always have everything to learn.

I didn't know about this either. So I did reflection on this. Afterward, I found the recording. I listened to it again. I got out my pencil and paper and I'm writing down these things that he had said, and it's inspired me to, how can I frame this for a blog post that I can share with people and what I learned from a Nobel laureate, about how we can build a culture. So that was my-

Todd:

It makes you feel better too, doesn't it?

Jill:

Yeah, I love it. I love it. It was just fun. So I guess I'm going to consider that my professional development this week. Now, we had told our audience that we were going to ask them questions throughout and I don't know, we did a little bit of that but let's do an invitation. So for anyone who wants to hop on over to our Facebook community group, for the podcast, the Accidental Safety Pro and when we release this recording on LinkedIn, if you're listening, and you want to contribute to a conversation, start a conversation or ask someone, hey, can we have a phone call and talk about this? Let's do that.

So, questions for you. What are you doing now for your professional development? How much time are you investing in it? How much cost, are you finding ways to do it for no cost? What is it bringing to you? Todd, what questions would you have for our audience?

Todd:

Again, because we're unique in our situation, I want to know if people would share what some of their pitfalls are, or their concerns about pursuing professional development. It can be in any form, what forms are available to you, what have you and I think last, I keep bringing this up. This self germinated during our podcasts, this wasn't, or web, whatever you want to call it, our discussion, is the attitude. The attitude you bring to listening to someone speak, the attitude you bring into reading what someone has written. That makes a lens in how you perceive and process, that opportunity, that learning opportunity.

Maybe we could talk about that too little of it, have people kind of speak to it, that maybe some people just kind of had a bad attitude toward professional development, maybe that's been preventing it, and that you shouldn't bring emotion to it. Even though we work in a very emotional trade, I think that learning is meant to be more objective, more free from passion and treated that way. Be more objective, be more measurable, be more planning be more reflective. That's how you really advance and not through preventing yourself from failing because failing safe is what we really want.

I'm coining a term from Todd Conklin. I liked when he said that. Here's the thing too, we take nuggets from different speakers, different experts. Todd Conklin says fail-safe, Ron Gans was we're all really focusing the same thing. It's just how you picture the problem and context. I'm rattling off names and I have a ton of other people that I listen to and read and they're nuggets I take, that, yeah, that's great. I'm going to kind of adopt that as a principle. So if people could think about what are their principles for learning and share that with each other, I think an open discussion, a positive discussion, toward what can we do what's available out there will be beneficial to all.

Jill:

Yeah, thank you. That's wonderful. Thank you so much for coming back to the podcast. I really appreciate it.

Todd:

I love it.

Jill:

Thank you all for spending your time listening today. More importantly, thank you for your contribution making sure your workers, including your temporary workers make it home safe every day. If you'd like to join the conversation about this episode, as we've invited you to, or any of our episodes, you can follow our page and join the Accidental Safety Pro community group on Facebook.

If you haven't subscribed yet and want to hear past or future episodes, you can subscribe in iTunes, the Apple Podcast app or any other podcasts you'd like. You can also find all of our episodes with transcriptions at vividlearningsystems.com/podcast. We'd love it if you could leave a rating and review us on iTunes as well. It really helps us connect the show with more and more of us safety and health professionals. If you have a suggestion for a guest, including if it's you, you can please reach out to me at social at vividlearningsystems.com. Special thanks to Will Moss, our Podcast Producer, and until next time, thanks for listening.