High Flight Requires Risk

img_0077The passing of two of the great aviation masters in the last few weeks started me thinking about what forges great people like them.  The Aerospace Icons I am discussing here are Bob Hoover and John Glenn.  Both made incredible contributions to not just aviation but also our American way of life.  Mr. Hoover was a highly accomplished aviator, WW II fighter pilot, jet age test pilot, air show celebrity and Gentleman’s Gentleman.  He is known universally in aviation circles as the best “Stick and Rudder Pilot” ever… period.  Mr. Glenn was also an accomplished WW II pilot, test pilot, astronaut (twice!), successful U.S. Senator and honored leader.  He was the first American to orbit the earth which was incredibly important to our country in 1962.  The Russians had beat us into space and his mission was the first of many American sucesses in that arena, leading to our county’s reputation for being the global leader in technology.  He was the last surviving member of the Mercury 7 group of astronauts, America’s first astronauts.

“Both of these men showed Americans who we were and what our country would be.”

Dramatic experiences, natural talent and commitment to excellence forged these great men.  The experience was that of managing real risks.  Bob Hoover learned to fly so gracefully because”yanking and banking” made him air sick as a student, from his many experiences with field assembled aircraft during the war and experimental aircraft testing after.  He was the master at “dead stick” landings and dealing with emergencies.  Bob taught thousands of aviators how to be safe by demonstrating his unmatched capacity to “Fly the Feathered Edge“.   John Glenn was an engineer that was also a great pilot.  His fusion of engineering knowledge and piloting skills were displayed best during his successful handling of the thruster malfunction which occurred during his earth orbiting mission (Mercury Program, Friendship 7 mission).  Both of these men showed Americans who we were and what our country would be.

It has been said that there will never be aviators like these two men again.  Their skills were forged with exposure to higher levels of risk than can be found in the world of today.  Certainly war had a great impact on them, but I am not focusing on that as a go-forward consideration (I’m an optimist!).  Modern aircraft have much of the risk designed out thanks to men (and later women) like these that helped identify the weaknesses and effective solutions.  The regulatory environment is much more advanced and, frankly restrictive, to allow the types of flying that these men were formed by.  Our expectations as a society have changed to the point that it is now demanded that equipment and pilots are 100% fail-safe.  Of course the engineering has yet to meet this demand but it is closer than ever before.

The extreme experiences these aviators had are just not to be found anymore.  While in general this is a good thing, it also has a down-side.  Pilots are less equipped today to handle in-flight emergencies than in the past due to a phenomena known as Automation Over Reliance.  Over Reliance can create a deterioration of pilot flight skill proficiency.  “Use it or loose it”, essentially.  The aerospace community has begun to focus closely on this phenomena after events such as the crash of Asiana Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport in mid 2013.  A European led project team named Man4Gen has recently released findings on it’s investigation of the primary issues with humans interacting with highly automated flight management systems that focuses on the concepts of Sensemaking and Situational Awareness.   I have been following the area of research and will be commenting further on it in another post.  This concept can be more broadly applied beyond aerospace as we move into the future of automation across all aspects of modern life.  In taking risk to unprecedentedly low levels with complex technology, are we creating other risks?

“We in HSE often pursue the perfect reduction of risk but, with no risk comes no reward.”

So what is the point of this post?  Several concepts are in my thoughts.  First, these men were one-of-a-kind examples of risk managers at the extreme and their methods can work for all of us.  Second, risk is not always bad, if managed properly, it teaches those involved how to be better in a wider range of situations.  We in HSE often pursue the perfect reduction of risk but, with no risk comes no reward.  In his remarkable treatise of the history and virtues of risk management, researcher Peter L. Bernstien observes that by utilizing a rational process of risk taking, innovators have provided the vital ingredient that has propelled science and enterprise into the world of speed, power, instant communication and sophisticated finance that marks the 21st century.  Lastly, and the impetus for this post, these were great men, who did incredibly important things for our country, and I want to celebrate their lives here.  They, and their kind, will be missed.

 “High Flight conveys beautifully the wonder and elation of being up there.”

The sonnet below is well known to aviators and astronauts.  It simultaneously captures the joy of flight and the emotions of fellow aviators when a pilot makes his or her “final flight” into the Heavens.  As an aviator I can tell you that it conveys beautifully the wonder and elation of being up there, in sole command of your own craft.  High Flight was composed by an American aviator in World War II after he had just completed a high altitude flight over England in a Spitfire being tested for high altitude performance.  He took the plane to 33,000 feet, possibly his first time that high.  He had gone where few had ever been before him.  The sonnet is the expression of the joy he felt during this thrilling endeavor.  The author lost his life a few weeks later in a mid-air collision during a routine flight, an abrupt reminder of the risks…

I too love this verse and am sending these great men off with it.

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air… .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr

This is the old late night TV station sign-off many Baby-Boomer’s and Gen Xer’s grew up with.  I didn’t fully comprehend it’s meaning then.  I do now…


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EHS Skills 101: The Science of Employee Involvement-Why Does it Work?

shutterstock_400486630It has become a basic tenet of Safety Professionals that employee involvement is critical to program success.  The safety visionary Frank Bird was a very early proponent of employee involvement as a key to ownership of the safety process.  He discusses this very well in his classic book: Practical Loss Control Leadership.  I was recently putting a presentation together to speak at a national conference on the related topic of people focused safety and was doing background research.   My research led me to an excellent paper titled: The IKEA Effect: When Labor Leads to Love, by Michael Norton, Daniel Mochon and Dan Ariely.  The authors published their paper in 2011 and it received a fair amount of public attention.  NPR later featured it on an episode of their show titled Hidden Brain with Shankar Vedantam: Why You Love That IKEA Table, Even If It’s Crooked.  The research described in the paper sheds important light on why getting employees involved in the safety programs works to maximize safety results and how to effectively accomplish that involvement.  I made a mental note to blog about my findings here on LeadingEHS.com.  Today is the day!

“Labor alone can be sufficient to induce greater liking for the item on which the labor was applied”

I hope you take the time to read the paper.  For now I’ll get us started with this summary.  The authors of the IKEA Effect paper had developed a theory that labor alone can be sufficient to induce greater liking for the item on which the labor was applied.  They focused their research on IKEA’s buyer-assembled furniture as a receptacle for the subject’s labor.  Their theory is built on a large collection of research on the topic of “Effort Justification”, which emanates out of Leon Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance theory outlined in his 1957 book: A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance.  Effort Justification is the process by which people tend to attribute a greater value (greater than the objective value) to an outcome they had to put effort into acquiring or achieving.  Norton, et al. used the name IKEA Effect for the influencing of value from invested labor.  They experimented to prove this theory by having test subjects put together various items (such as IKEA furniture) and then queried them to see what monetary value they placed on the objects they assembled versus those assembled by others, including professionals.  The outcome was that the subjects valued items they had invested effort into between 2 and 5 times more.  The authors also conducted experiments to determine what role successful completion of the tasks had in determining the subjects valuation of these items.  The outcome of this phase of the experiment was that uncompleted items did not receive the IKEA Effect valuations from their builders.  The values were equal to unassembled items.

“Employee involvement is a powerful lever we can use to induce employees to feel ownership and commitment to an EHS program element”

What are the implications of these findings for EHS Professionals?  First, employee involvement is a powerful lever we can use to induce employees to feel ownership and commitment to an EHS program element they have invested effort in.  This drives up significantly the chances of those employees consistently executing the requirements of the element and of promoting it to others.  Second, it is important to secure quick wins in the project they are participating in.  The research above strongly supports the fact that a successful outcome of the employees efforts activates them to place considerably higher value on the element.  The IKEA Effect authors themselves go on to suggest that this research is likely applicable to employees perceptions of job satisfaction as well.

There is a vast number of potential areas and tasks that employees can participate in regarding the EHS process for a facility.  You are limited only by your team’s own imagination and the work site culture!  Some examples of meaningful employee involvement are:

  • Participating on EHS committees
  • Recommending safety and health policy
  • Conducting inspections and audits
  • Creating employee awareness
  • Coordinating safety training
  • Acting as an information resource
  • Forming sub-committees for special projects (such as machine guarding, ergonomics, incentive programs, etc.)
  • Conducting target inspections to verify safety systems
  • Correcting hazards
  • Developing safety and health programs
  • Participating in continuous improvement initiatives such as Kaizens

Right about now you might be thinking: “But how do I get my employees to participate in these activities?”  That is the right question to ask!  The answer is Leadership.  Now you must lead them to come together as a passionate, committed and action oriented team.  Fellow Safety Practitioner Eddie Greer has a succinct starter discussion of how to be a leader in this months Professional Safety (Dec 2016, p. 31).  For those without a subscription, a version of it is also available here.  As Eddie says, “step up and be a leader” to ensure success in your employee involvement processes.  For a more in-depth view of leadership development see my page on this blog: Leadership Development

The IKEA Effect is good news indeed for EHS Professionals.  We now have further scientific evidence regarding the value of our employee involvement concepts, which helps us demonstrate the value to our organizations decision makers.  The research also gives us a precise formula to assemble and conduct employee involvement activities that lead to the most significant employee ownership effect possible.


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CSR at a Darwinian Moment: What is the Path to Sustainability?

During my tenure as CEO of BP I was an early proponent of CSR, but I think that the idea CSRof connecting with society in this way is now dead.”  That quote stopped me in my tracks as I perused my copy of Chief Executive magazine (Browne, Nuttal & Stadlen, 2016, p. 47).  As an EHS Professional I have been watching the Sustainability movement come of age and wondering how it will take root in the increase-shareholder-wealth-at-all-costs management world we still operate in.  CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibility, is the answer the business world came up with to meet the challenges of 21st Century Society’s requirement that businesses ensure prosperity for future generations.  Honestly, as I learned about how CSR works in most established organizations, I viewed it as a bit of a smoke screen to allow the organization continue on with business as usual behind the scenes while using the CSR team to superficially engage the external communities and stakeholders.  More of a brand image management tool than a strategic component, it did not seem to impact the central mission of many organizations I familiar with.  That mission did not change to meaningfully incorporate these outside interests.

So John Browne’s statement above strikes me as an accurate assessment of the future of CSR.  What surprised me is that he is making it.  You probably recall that Mr. Browne is the former CEO of British Petroleum during the drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  But, who better to truly understand the full picture than him.  He has seen all sides of industrial operations in the modern era, including environmental damage caused by his company on a scale not previously encountered.  I think his view on CSR is correct, it has been seen-through as a superficial activity that won’t yield the kind of change  regulators, NGO’s, activists and other communities are looking for.

Ceres Strat

Ceres integrated approach to sustainability. Source: Ceres.

But what are those changes?   The desire for sustainable business and living practices is far from dead.   The non-profit sustainability leadership group Ceres has put together a thoughtful and realistic strategic roadmap for sustainability that lays out not only what the expectations are but also the critical areas of action to get there.  The major areas of focus are not new.  They are: Governance, Stakeholder Engagement, Disclosure and Performance. The roadmap gives 20 key expectations in these areas and identifies actions that will meet them.  The original roadmap was published in 2010 and an update recently released in 2016 (2018 note: later reports are now out ).  I don’t have the space here to cover the 20 actions.  Follow the links to see the specifics of the roadmap.  The organization is also holding the business community accountable to progress with a biannual progress report.

So, we see that organizations like Ceres are alerting the business community of the risks of failing to change and offering clear advice on how to meet the challenge of shifting an organization from reliance on consumptive practices to the sustainable model.  The question is:  Will the business community, particularly global corporations, sincerely lean into this effort?  It’s clear that global society is not fooled by half-hearted attempts to talk the talk but not walk it.



Browne, J., Nuttal, R., & Stadlen, T.  (2016).  Radical Engagement: The Shifting Role of the CEO. Chief Executive, Number 283, July/August.

Moffat, A.  (2010).  The 21st Century Corporation: The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability.  Ceres.  Boston, MA.

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Safety 2016 – Speakers, Students, and Vendors Create a Vibrant Atmosphere

Safety 2016 Day 2

Incoming ASSE President Tom Cecich (right) takes the reigns at Safety 2016.

I was asked to contribute daily as a guest blogger by ASSE for Safety 2016.  This post was my last but due to some IT glitches it was not posted to the ASSE website.  I think the learnings from the expo were meaningful though, so I am posting it here.  See my other posts from Safety 2016: House of Delegates Meeting (Sunday),  Conference Opening Day

Day 2 of Safety 2016 started off with an exciting opening session.  We witnessed the change of the President, recognized the regions for their work in the Safety Matters Campaign, and watched the awarding of student scholarships.  Seeing the students come on stage and receive the scholarship money is certainly a feel good moment for all of us.  They represent the future of our profession and the ASSE Foundation is our commitment to a bright future.  See my post on Engaging the Next Generation of OSH Leaders on LinkedIn for more of my perspective on this topic.

The Expo was full of energy!  The vendors bring an air of excitement and discovery.  As you walk the many isles of the Expo, you can’t help but feel that new answers and solutions are literally right around the corner.  For the first time last year, and again this year, I was also an exhibitor.  My ATI Worksite Solutions colleague Julie Nelson and I had a lot of fun talking with Expo goers.  I really enjoy just striking up a conversation with my fellow OSH Professionals as they stroll by and share experiences and ideas.  We, like most other vendors, are there because we truly believe we have exciting and innovative solutions for OSH issues .  This year we had a vendor new to the OSH industry beside us. He is fine a young man who believes in his product and is working hard to be successful.   It was fascinating to watch him take in all that OSH is.  He commented on how collaborative and friendly we are as a profession and how interesting our work is.  It gave me pause yesterday after the expo closed, we completed our work of taking down our booths and were enjoying a quiet moment after the storm of exhibiting, when he said to me: “I really like this industry and I think I might want to become a Safety Professional”.  That, my fellow OSH Professionals, is the golden moment when you realize what an impact our way of doing things has on the world around us.  Thank you for showing him who we are.

Last area I want to comment on is the educational sessions.  That’s the other reason why we attend!  I caught some great ones.  It’s very important that you give your honest feedback on each session.  This is done through the Safety 2016 app or in the link in the email you should receive each night.   That information is used by the ASSE Conference committee to determine trends of interest, vet speaker applications for the next year, and by the speakers to improve their presentation skills.  Your feedback is critical to the quality of the conference.

I enjoyed the last day of conference also, participating in it as an OSH Professional simply there to learn.  Like the young vendor I mentioned above, I continue to be in awe of our OSH world.  I remember being a student attending these events and looking at the seasoned pros, pining for they day I could include myself in their ranks.  I never want to lose that sense of appreciation for the job we do and the results it brings to our lives and those for whom we labor to protect.

As OSH Professionals actively practicing in the field, it’s hard to get away from our daily work but, time must be taken to learn to be even better at what we do!  I hope to see you at Safety 2017 in Denver.

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The Ace of Aces

I enjoy rEddie-Rickenbacker-Enduring-Courageeading about people who have accomplished remarkable things.  The biographies of their lives are very interesting to me.  What were their childhoods like?  How did the events come together that led to their success.  What struggles did they overcome and how.  The answers to these questions typically reveal interesting features of their character, strategies and good fortune

I just finished reading about the life and experiences of Eddie Rickenbacker, the WWI fighter pilot nicknamed The Ace of Aces.  It’s a great read, especially if you are into aviation or stories of American heros.  Eddie was from Ohio, raced in the very first Indianapolis 500, commanded 94th Squadron and later owned the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Eddie operated his own car company.  He did not fight in WWII but was quite active in the administration of the air war in both theaters.  Obviously his experiences included many of the topics that I find engaging.  The Book was: Eddie Rickenbacker,  An American Hero in the Twentieth Century, by W. David Lewis.

It is Eddie’s leadership experiences and methods that I want to comment on in this post.  He took over leadership of the 94th “Hat-in-Ring” squadron.  When Eddie assumed command of the squadron it was performing poorly.  It was recognized by some U.S. Army Air Corps Leaders that Rickenbacker had the right mixture of leadership and technical qualities to change the squadron’s performance.  They were right.  Under his leadership the unit racked up an impressive record in the war and he became the ace of aces with 26 victories.  That record stood until WWII.  Rickenbacker was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1930 for scoring 7 victories in one day in 1918.

But what were these characteristics of Eddie’s  that allowed such success?  I have briefly summarized my view of them below.  I could have written a post on each of them but in an effort to keep this short, I’ll leave it at a summary sentence.  Read the book if you want more!

The Eddie’s leadership characteristics were:

  • Technical Competence – He was a skilled pilot and mechanic forged by self education and years of work in the field.
  • Maturity – Patience to plan activities and carefully assess risk.
  • Team Building – The ability to not only engage the pilots but also bring the ground crews into the team.
  • Hands on Leadership – He shared the work of his team and demonstrated the ability to accomplish the mission.
  • Tremendous Work Ethic – He was known for doing whatever it took to get the job done.

These leadership traits also helped him to become the highly successful Chief Executive Officer of Eastern Airlines during the formative years of the commercial aviation industry in the United States.  He took the airline from an unstable start up to the most dominant and profitable operation in the industry for many years.  In the process he led the advance of the industry into the international service and jet eras.

Rickenbacker was not perfect.  He had a temper, was outspoken to a fault and became egotistical later in life.  But the mixture of these traits created a one of a kind American hero.  The man left a mark that is still visible today in politics and aviation.

The author ends his book with one of my favorite quotes from another great leader I admire: T.R. Roosevelt.  The quote sums up the life and accomplishments of Eddie Rickenbacker.  The quote is:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”


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1000 Tweets Later…

Chets TwitterThis blog post will generate my 1001st tweet.  It seems to me that 1000 tweets is a milestone.  I’ll celebrate it here.  I estimate that each tweet averages about 45 seconds to write.  When you do the math, it turns out that I have spent about half of day (12 hours) of my life generating these short messages.  So the obvious question: to what end?

I have made many new acquaintances, learned a myriad of new things and immersed myself in the current ways of modern culture from these concise quips.  Learning to convey complex thoughts in 140 characters or less has taught me the skill of brevity.  The iOS version of the Twitter App includes a pretty handy analytics feature that shows you what subjects your followers find most interesting. Honestly though, I mostly tweet what I find interesting.

One of the people I have met on Twitter is Pamela Walaski.  She is an EHS Consultant and active member of the ASSE.  She has been active on Twitter since 2008.  I enjoy reading her Tweets.  Pam has done some formal work on studying the value of social media in general, and Twitter in particular, during crisis situations.  The work culminated in the publication of a comprehensive article in the  journal Professional Safety titled:  Social Media: Powerful Tools for SH&E Professionals.  It’s a great article that it well worth your time to read.

What I love most is the river of ideas that flows each hour through the medium.  I focus on EHS, Leadership, Aviation and Industrial topics.  Those I follow post frequently on these subjects.  Literally every day I see something that deepens my understanding of these topics.  I have also noticed that news breaks first on Twitter.  Many times it is a tweet from the scene of the news written in real time.

Finally, as I approach the Back Nine of my career, I recognize the need to stay current with the new ideas and methods.  This is especially true in the area of Technology.  Twitter is a good tool for spotting emerging trends as well.  It also allows me to identify emerging issues that my existing knowledge base can be applied to.

I’ll sum up by saying that I see value in the effort that went into my thousand tweets.  I have enjoyed the conversations it has generated with people from literally all over the world.  I am well informed on the current happenings in the topics of interest to me.  My involvement in the medium enhances my feeling of involvement in the communities I am interested in.

This tweet starts my journey to the next thousand.


Additional resource:  25 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Twitter

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The Beauty of the New Year

Fresh Start (2)The sun rises on a new year.  I can see fifty years old from here…  I have learned many things in my life, some from the career within it.  Time stands still for no one. Meaningful to me here is General George S. Patton’s belief that you are either taking ground or losing it.

Reinvention is a skill I learned early thanks to the ever changing landscape of American Industry.  It is New Years Day that gives us all the chance to invent a new story for ourselves.  The day symbolizes a fresh start with unlimited potential.  I find this time of year to be very important in maintaining my confidence and drive to keep moving onward and upward.  As I sit here today (New Years Day), I am thinking of what I want to be next.

2014 was a year of massive change for my family and I.  There were some pretty dark nights but we made it work out well in the end.  As I reflect on the past 12 months, it does not escape me that I am at the halfway point of my career.  I am proud of what I have done, but I know I have more to do.  I need this time of year to identify what new horizons I will set out for, putting tangible form to the possibilities before me.

I look forward to 2015 as a clean sheet of paper on which I can write one of the greatest periods in my life.  My years of martial arts study have taught me the value of balance. Success is defined by more that monetary rewards.  I was recently reminded of the importance of family, true friends and coworkers.  As I contemplate the “grand plan” for 2015, it will surely include the people that matter to me.

I am not going to bore you with my list of goals.  These are mine to know and achieve.  I wrote this today to remind us both that fresh starts are to be cherished while we still have them.  Let’s both you and I  commit to making the most of this one.

Welcome to 2015.  What story will you invent for yourself this year?



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