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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I deal with employees who do not follow the rules, but who seem indispensable?
    Some ompanies have one or two employees who march to their own drummer, out of step with the rest of the company and its culture – safety or otherwise. They behave in ways that wouldn’t be acceptable for everyone else. At the same time, it seems impossible to function without them, so their negative behavior is overlooked and excused. When someone points out the disconnect between company values and their behavior, the response is some version of, “Well, that’s just [Name].” This phenomenon is so common in organizations that we have given it a name: The Indispensable Outlier. It’s important to recognize Indispensable Outliers for what they are: Drags on the organization and destroyers of culture. There’s a good reason the qualities of being “indispensable” and exhibiting bad behavior are so consistently paired. The two work exceedingly well together to get the outlier what they really want: Free reign to behave as badly as they would like within an organization that feels hostage to their expertise. But there is no trade here. It is a one-sided agreement. The indispensable outlier wins ---the company loses! Good employees freely share information and build strong, durable teams that can function whether they are present or not. These employees are extremely valuable to an organization, but have worked hard to make themselves very much dispensable to its every-day functioning. Outliers, on the other hand, hoard and guard information and make sure the rest of the team is blind and cannot function without them. They often create issues that they can then resolve so as to solidify their importance. They manufacture a need for themselves. The first step in dealing with an Indispensable Outlier is to recognize them for who they are! And, to realize you absolutely can, will and should function without them. In our many years of dealing with the indispensable outlier this is what we have found to be true --- without exception: When the indispensable outlier is removed from the organization everything gets better! We recommend you give them a clear choice: Either live up to company values, or leave. This can be a scary step for a leader. You might first think of what you will lose, but the key is to focus on what you will gain. Everyone knows this person has flaunted company values and culture. This undermines not only your culture but your credibility as a leader. With the outlier no longer able to play their game, the people who matter can have confidence in your leadership and in an organization, they know will do the right thing. This allows them to take ownership of their jobs and act confidently, no longer having to deal with fabricated drama and arbitrary consequences. We suspect in asking this question you know who your Indispensable Outliers are. And we assure you, the rest of your team knows who they are, too. There is no better way to move an organization forward (no way in fact to move forward at all) than by addressing them. Have faith that in doing what you know is right it will lead to a good outcome.
  • How can I be sure when someone has learned from their mistake and earned the right to move on?
    Everyone makes mistakes. But that’s not a bad things as is often assumed. When viewed correctly, instead of being a barrier, mistakes are the indispensable means to our growth. When someone in your organization makes a mistake and they learn (grow) from it, they have become a better, more capable contributor. In that case the only reasonable thing to do is to let the person move on from their mistake. This confirms the better person they have become instead of anchoring them to a past that is no longer relevant to them. The key here is learning from the mistake. There is no moving on from a mistake that you are likely to repeat over and over again. That must be addressed then and there with an appropriate consequence. So how do you know? The easiest way is to illustrate with a common example. Think of an instance where someone has been injured due primarily to their own unsafe act. You are sitting down with them trying to determine if they have learned from the experience. In the best case they own their actions, correct them as best they can, show they have learned from it, and then move on a wiser person. Did they own it? It’s tempting to think so when they come out and admit what they did, but in most cases this is not ownership – it’s a confession of undisputable fact. A confession is not ownership! It is also usually accompanied by outside blame: circumstances, others, fate…. anything but what they themselves could control – their own actions. There will never be learning without ownership. Why would there be? If everyone and everything else is to blame for your misfortune, all you have learned is that the world is a dangerous and unfair place. Hardly something that will protect you in the future. Did they try to correct it? Another clue as to whether they owned it is if they try to correct some of the harm done --- which is not always possible. If it was someone else’s mistake, then there really is nothing they should be required to do to make amends. If you have to tell them what they should do to make it right, then they have not really owned the mistake. Which leads us to: Did they learn? In the end, if they have learned, grown and become a wiser more capable person than they were before, you will know it. Ask yourself if you would be shocked, or even just surprised, if something similar happened with the person in the future. Would you be surprised, or would you think, “Yeah, that’s about what I expect from them.” If you honestly believe the latter, then you cannot let them move on without a consequence. If this seems an arbitrary and somewhat unfair way to assess what is in someone else’s head, all we can say is you know it’s true, the other person (regardless of what they say) knows it, and everyone else in the organization knows it. And being honest with yourself also grants you a great level of predictability. You know who is likely to get hurt because you discern who does and who does not properly value their safety --- by their actions! This gives you the opportunity to work with the people who need your help before they injure themselves. The other option is to feign ignorance and just allow them to get hurt. And how fair is that?
  • It’s easy dealing with people who do the wrong thing for personal benefit, but what do I do with employees who do the wrong thing in an effort to do something good for the company?
    It’s never pleasant dealing with poor behavior. Most leaders would rather not do it at all, but still it needs to be done. And it’s easier when the person you’re dealing with has acted out of a desire to serve themselves, and in the process harmed the company. But what about the employee who does the wrong thing while trying to help the company? This is a situation where many leaders choose not to act, but this is a mistake. When it comes to safety, this usually takes the form of an employee putting themselves at risk by cutting corners. They skirt the edges of the procedures and policies that were designed to protect them --- but that, in their view, hinder operational efficiency. If a lock-out procedure causes a delay, they skip it. If there is a production upset, they don’t wait for a non-routine task analysis to be done, they wade right in and quickly get things going again. Too often, this kind of behavior is rewarded by the company with a wink and a nod of approval. We don’t like the risks, but we like the results and appreciate the loyalty and devotion. There is a name for people who act like this. We call them “Good Employees”, with an emphasis on the quotations part of it. We coined this term because when a leadership team discusses their people – who does and does not do the right thing for safety – these people enter the conversation. Inevitably, a leader will speak up and say something along the lines of: “Hey, you do realize we’re talking about some of our best employees here?” And in a way, we are. They are some of our most loyal and devoted people – qualities that can be hard to find and treasured when we do. But here’s the only proper response to that question: “Yes, they are. But how much longer are we willing to let them trade their safety for our benefit?” Hopefully, the answer to that is, “It stops now,” because this is a poor trade. It’s an immoral trade. The way to deal with people who trade their safety for company benefit and approval is to sincerely tell them that you appreciate their dedication, but that you can no longer stand by and allow them to risk their life and health. That change may be very hard for them to accept. Much of their identity at work might be wound up in this behavior. Taking it away may seem like a punishment or lack of appreciation. Hopefully these people change, but they may decide to leave or they might force you to terminate them. In that case, your message to them should be: “You can’t work here because we can’t allow you to continue putting your life and health at risk. But you’re going to work somewhere. Please use this as a learning experience, so your future employer doesn’t have to tell your family and friends how good an employee you were.”
  • Sometimes the “correct story” as I see it is not how others see it. Given that some things are unknown or unknowable, how is my opinion of what the reality is any more valid than the opinions of others?
    Let’s begin with what we all know: information is never perfect and rarely complete. You can always rely on that in business! If perfect information were possible, there would be little question or debate. And, as you know, if you wait for information to be complete, you will almost certainly miss the moment. In the absence of perfection or complete, judgement is required. As a leader, using good judgement and telling yourself the correct story is one of your most critical responsibilities. But not everyone sees it the same way as you do, and due to the information “gaps,” it’s impossible to absolutely prove your version or to disprove others’, no matter how unlikely they are. The key to telling yourself the correct story is to be objective. Too often, the story we tell ourselves (and others) falls somewhere between our hopes and our fears; our wants and what we want to avoid. In short, the story is based on us rather than on the issue at hand. As the leader, your goal is to view things objectively. This doesn’t mean as the leader you are “always right.” It does mean you are responsible for gathering all reasonably available information, all valid points of view, and assembling them into a rational (reality-based) story. When someone proposes a story that is not reality-based, it is usually done out of selfish insincerity. People often squeeze some of the most fantastical and unlikely premises into these information gaps. They do it simply because it serves their interest and they think their “story” cannot be disproven. This can take the form, for example, of someone who has been repeatedly trained in a procedure and who performs it regularly, taking a shortcut that results in a bad outcome and saying they “forgot.” It’s impossible to say what is going on inside someone else’s head, but this statement strains believability. A reality-based assessment tells us the person almost certainly knew what they were doing --- when they circumvented the procedure and/or safe-work practice. It’s critical that leaders don’t consider, debate, or otherwise lend any credibility to obviously self-serving, incorrect stories. The best thing to do is to look the other person in the eye and say, “That’s not the way I see it” and move on. Don’t worry that you cannot “prove” it. The other people on the team, the ones that are reality-based, will see it in pretty much the same way that you do. They will appreciate working for a rational and predictable leader. And, they will know they can perform their jobs with the confidence that the right decisions will always be made, given the best information available.
  • Where can I acquire a copy of the book?
    The book is complete and is currently available as both a print book and as an e-book (Kindle & Google). It is also currently being produced as an audio book. The link to each is on the homepage of this website. We also recommend you check out these resources: This is a related Modern Casting Magazine article jointly written by book authors Dr. Ken Chapman and Tony Orlowski in 2019: -Print Version -Audio Version Here are two 24-minute podcasts about the book and seminars: - "Safety Beyond The Numbers" on Brain Chatter podcast with guest Tony Orloswski - "Safety Beyond The Numbers" on Business Alabama Podcast with guest Ken Chapman Below is the registration form for the first seminar: -Online Registration Form
  • How do I register for a seminar?
    Return to the homepage of this website. Scroll down to the REGISTRATION section, where you can fill out the short registration form. We will contact you with payment information at a later time. If you need the registration form in any other format, just let us know.
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