Seven tips for becoming an EH&S rock star

environmental health safety rockstarFrequently, I get called into organizations to provide environmental, health and safety management support.  The reasons for this support are varied, but often it is due to a sudden departure of existing management wishing to pursue other opportunities.  After a brief evaluation period, frequently I discover individuals within the existing environmental, health and safety department that are educated and talented, but simply haven’t been provided with the opportunity to be challenged or grow within their department.  In other cases, I find individuals that just don’t realize the level of commitment that it takes to get to them to the next level that gains them “Rock Star” status.  For those wishing to gain Rock Star status, here are a few tips:

  1. Become the best at what you do. If you’re going to achieve rock star status in the environmental, health and safety field you need to be not just good, but great at what you do.  This is going to require a lot of hard work and hours.  These hours are likely going to come at the cost of your personal and family free time.  Rock stars spend a lot of time practicing on their own time, so start acquiring skills that you don’t have.  Become the expert in one specific area, but also expand your knowledge into areas such as potent compound safety, sustainability, business continuity, compliance management systems, biosafety, etc.  Expand your skills in non-EH&S areas such as presentation skills, negotiating, and leadership.  Get an advanced degree.  Get a certification, being a CIH, CSP, etc. helps.  If you’re working in a technology driven industry, such as biotechnology or pharmaceuticals, you need at least a master’s degree to gain rock star status and get that promotion to director or higher level.  So right now I can already hear the whining and the thoughts of “give me a promotion and pay me more money, then I will do more work.”  Sorry, that’s not how it works.  It didn’t work that way ten years ago and it doesn’t work that way today.  If you really want to gain rock star status, you have to prove that you can play with the best.
  2. Recruit great band members. Yes you can try to be a solo act, but you really should recruit others that are also great at what they do.  Make sure that they have great presentation skills.  A rock star band would never think of hiring a band member without hearing them play first – and neither should you.  Require that any potential recruit for your group, prepare and deliver a presentation as part of the interview process.  If it’s not great – don’t hire them.
  3. Create amazing and original music. Don’t think that you have to follow the crowd and run your programs just like everyone else – be creative and original.  Don’t be afraid to try different approaches to solve problems.  If you think about it, in the past 30 years most of the approaches to EH&S have been quite boring – review regulations, write programs, conduct training, and conduct audits.  Try new and creative approaches that will add value to your organization.
  4. Work on your stage presence. Rock stars typically have a great stage presence.  If you don’t believe that you’re a great public speaker then get help.  To achieve rock star status you can lack skills in any other area but this one.  You have to be a great communicator and have the ability to effectively communicate to all levels of employees.  You need to be comfortable at speaking in front of any size crowd.  Practice your skills, observe the great speakers with different styles.  Steve Jobs of Apple Computer has a different style than Tom Peters. If you’re the type of person that still reads from the slides, you really need to work on your presentation skills.  Don’t be a boring stiff.
  5. Get some bodyguards. Anytime that you are going to create change, you will ruffle a few feathers, and become a lightning rod for those that wish you to fail.  Prior to going on tour with the full program make sure that you have built up an adequate supply of body guards in terms of management support.  Build relationships with the key people in your organization that will support your cause.
  6. Go on tour and have fun. You’re not going to gain Rock Star status by sitting behind the computer in your private office all day.  Despite the number of locations under your control, make it a point to visit everyone of them.  Create raving fans and be approachable.
  7. Get to know and hang out with other Rock Stars. Figure out what associations and groups that the best in your industry participate in, and network like crazy.  While you don’t want to mimic their style, you can learn from them.

Achieving the elusive rock star status takes hard work and dedication.  You won’t get to that status overnight, but when it’s a down economy there is no better time to start.  Get out there!!


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About Dean Calhoun

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Dean is the President and CEO of Affygility Solutions. Affygility Solutions provides environmental, health and safety software, potent compound safety, industrial hygiene, containment validation services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industry. "Dean's Google+ Profile"

Affygility Solutions - provider of potent compound safety, webinars, and compliance management software