I’ve been in this field for over 28 years, and have been fortunate enough to have spent a lot of time traveling throughout the globe working with a wide variety of environmental, health and safety managers (EHS). Most are really good at what they do, but some need a drastic upgrade in a few areas. Here’s my top ten list:
- You are horrible at email. This comes first because I encounter this all too frequently. You don’t respond to people, or worse yet you never open their email and leave it sitting in your Inbox for weeks. Yes, I understand that you get a lot of email, but I know many individuals that that get way more email that you can imagine (800 emails/day) and know how to effectively manage it. Take a look at your email Inbox, if you have to scroll down to see the end of the messages, you need to improve your email ninja skills. With email there’s only a couple things you can do: 1) Delete: If you know it’s not relevant, delete without opening. If it’s a FYI, read then delete or archive; 2) Delegate: If you have staff and it’s best suited for them, forward to them to handle, but don’t wait till that last minute to let them know. If you need to follow-up to make sure it’s done, set up a “Waiting on others” folder; 3) Respond: Most email responses can be handled in one sentence, such as “got it” or “will respond tomorrow.” Those that require more thought might need to go to a “defer” folder, which is covered next; 4) Defer: This should be a folder that is for those responses that require greater thought, research, or detail than you can do in a minute or less; or 5) Do. Take care of the email request right then. After it’s done, file in the archive folder. It takes a while to get used to it, but once you starting using the “Inbox Zero” or other similar email management strategy, you will never go back.
- Lack of vision. You are just trying to get by with the day-to-day tasks and don’t provide direction to where you want the EHS program to go. The management of most day-to-day tasks can be handled by EHS software. Set some goals and let your people run with it. People want to work with leaders. They don’t want to feel like the janitorial staff and make a daily routine of cleaning up the mess someone else created.
- You have meetings that aren’t necessary or too long. This wastes people’s precious time. Enough said.
- You are a conference groupie. We all need to expand our knowledge and know about the latest regulations and requirements, but when you are never in the office and always out giving presentations to volunteer groups, your coworkers will begin to resent you. You will become disconnected from them.
- You always refer to the ways you did it at your former company. We can all appreciate experiences from different companies and perspectives. However, when all people hear is, “Back when I worked at [x], we did it this way.” Well guess what, you don’t work at [x] anymore, and if it was so great back there, why aren’t you still working for them? People want to know about the future and how it’s going to be better for them, not how it was so much better at your former company.
- Constantly negative. EHS is a tough field because we are always dealing with the potential for injuries, accidents, and regulatory violations. Unfortunately, these are all negative topics, which others hope that never happen. So, if you’re going to be an outstanding EHS manager, try to think about the things that can be framed in a positive light. Celebrate the positive things with the rest of your team. Give credit to others for achievements.
- You are boring. Your social and presentation skills are lacking and you don’t show any passion for what you do. The presentations that you do provide are essentially the same ones you gave ten years ago. Don’t be afraid to have a personality. While you don’t have to be best friends with all your co-workers, act like you care about them as a person. If you need to brush up on your skills on how to become more interesting, go here to listen to this talk by Jessica Hagy.
- You never leave your office, except for meetings. Great EHS managers get out and see the real world. They see the way that the company really operates. They make it a point to dedicate hours a month out visiting facilities, manufacturing and laboratory employees. People know who the is EHS manager and they are a resource.
- You refuse to get your hands dirty. You don’t help out when things get bogged down, or you make your staff work long hours and weekends while you go play golf.
- You are just trying to hang in there till retirement. Lately I’ve been seeing this way too often. EHS managers that are late in their career are afraid to rock the boat or do anything that might be risky. So instead they go to the other extreme and don’t set goals that are challenging for members of your team.
So what are the signs that your co-workers will give you when they think you suck as an EHS manager. According to Forbes magazine, the 3 signs that your employees think you stink as a manager are:
- They act like you’re not there. When you walk by, they don’t even acknowledge your presence. They just keep on working.
- They don’t keep you in the loop.
- Your team doesn’t play by the rules.
If you recognize a couple of those item in the list in yourself, then an upgrade in leadership skill might be needed. It takes work and there’s no free ticket. Love to hear comments and feedback.