A guest post by Scott Unruh
In the EHS profession and manufacturing industries in general, we are starting to see an influx of Millennials entering the workforce. These “Young Pups” (still a nickname of mine today), are joining the ranks of career veterans and are trying desperately to prove why they should be the next CEO. Now that I’ve got some experience under my belt, I can look back on how I got to where I am, and laugh at how I made the same mistake that so many young professionals make: I followed the rules by the book.
Four short years ago, I was that strong, smart, savvy, high-potential intern who had been given the opportunity to break into a big company. I had just gotten a job as a Safety Analyst – and in my opinion – made mind-numbingly awesome metrics reports that I was getting a great reputation for! Life was going great! I had already presented to 100 of the top management in the company and I was going up, up, up! I was even proving my worth to the work force who was on average 30 years older than me. Nothing was going to stop me and I could do no wrong…that is until I stumbled upon the opportunity to be humbled…permanently.
Hungry for success and ready to prove myself, I was constructing some metrics reports one day. They included charts of incidents, near misses, and incompliances reported in audits After compiling the charts I came to the stark realization that one manager far-and-away was having the most issues and was the biggest offender in the bunch…my dad, who also worked for the company. Yikes…
So I went to speak with my dad about it and tell him that I was going to have to put these metrics out there for everyone to see, and that he may be get in trouble. But those were the rules. I had to make people comply with the safety guidelines. I had to blow the whistle and make an example when things weren’t right. I had to prove that I belonged at the top and could report the tough facts.
After showing my dad the metrics and neglecting to ask his take on it, he just grinned and said, “Do what you have to do son.”
When it came time for dad to “pay the piper” for letting his team have so many non-compliances, we happened to be in the same room with his boss and multiple managers…and I had to report the metrics. Talk about uncomfortable! But I had to make sure people were following the rules so it was the right thing to do!
After I reported the metrics to all the managers in the room and basically threw my dad under the bus, he responded, “I’m glad you pointed that out Scott.” The knot in my chest immediately tightened and my pupils grew to the size of coconuts…this can’t be good! He continued, “I didn’t realize my folks were doing so well. They always are adamant about reporting when things don’t go right, but seeing how well they are reporting is great!”
He had just turned the entire interpretation of the metrics around, rightfully – I just hadn’t seen it that way when I put the metrics together. His boss gave him a pat on the back and he became the hero of the meeting; the hero that I had just thrown under the bus. I proceeded to insert my size 13 dress shoe into my mouth and hopped out of that meeting with my tail between my legs, defeated.
However, in this defeat and throughout my career, I have learned some very valuable lessons that I will carry for the rest of my life:
- You weren’t hired to be liked – but wow does it make a difference when you are! Being likable AND knowledgeable has been the bread and butter for my success. Don’t be a Compliance Cop, be human!
- The reason for telling someone “No” is never, “Because that’s the rules.” I cannot even count how many times I said that in my early career and was shown just how wrong I was.
- Don’t be too quick to judge, because a shoe is a lot harder to pull out of your mouth than it is to put it in.
- ASK QUESTIONS!!!!! Do not just assume you know what’s going on.
- The rules are guidelines with multiple interpretations. Don’t assume your interpretation is the only good one.
- Listen twice as much as you speak and take EVERY opportunity to learn and help people. You will be rewarded handsomely in your career.
- Old dogs have plenty of tricks, stay on your toes or you will learn them quickly.
About Scott Unruh
I am a professional intrigued by advances in technology and the dynamic changes that occur in the economy and the world. Currently pursuing my MBA, I aspire to be a leader in my career and in life. I am fueled by interacting with people and influence those around me. You can reach me at: www.linkedin.com/pub/scott-unruh/38/4a
Guest Bloggers on LeadingEHS.com
From time to time I find other professionals whom I believe have something important to say. I like to offer them a forum to make their point and hopefully spark some healthy debate. It also offers my readers some variety of style and opinion. I don’t have any formal criteria for selecting Guest Bloggers. The selection is usually made during a scintillating conversation between me and another person that leads me to think: that would be a great blog post!