Leadership, Health And Safety


After repeatedly sitting through six months of safety stand down meetings with constructions crews, listening to all the failures, and avoidance of catastrophe, and listening to an incident involving a boom truck incorrect using the outriggers and performing a lift of a load, that led the to the destruction of personal property along the tracks right of way. These failures were similar to the infractions, discussed and thought about during my experience as a military officer, because of my unique experience, and my unique interest in the psychology of influence I felt I had a solution. I wrote a document and turned it in anonymously to the safety team, the project manger, and the deputy project manager as a suggestion.  After summiting the document I had reservations, in the hopes that the document I wrote would be received by a death ear, I felt I had over stepped.

Fortunately some one was listening, the next safety stand down meeting Balfour Beatty top leadership were in attendance and led the meeting showing their support, and acknowledgement of all the safe work that has been performed.



Health and Safety Suggestion Document 1

I was a naval engineering division officer and a engineering safety officer, as a civilian I was a production supervisor over 23 technicians, and this message is to come up with a mindset to reduce the safety incidents that plague this project.  I’ve attended the all hands safety meeting and listen to the many safety events and they have a familiar ring to them, similar to the safety incidents I have observed during my experience as a military officer.

Similar to the military we stressed safety at the junior level but often I’ve observed at a junior level the procedures developed are often forgotten and replaced with the mind set of “Get er Done” the fastest, easiest way possible, if allowed this mind set will always overcome.  My experience is that safety always has to be the first and last thing discussed in every work plan.

Unlike the military, the observed end results are evaluated and even though the task procedure was not followed the results were good, and the once junior level personnel become more senior with this mind set and this thought process perpetuate itself till “Get er Done“ inundates the corporate culture.  Then technology, paper work, and other ingenious ways are used to place a band aid over the gaping laceration that usually bleed out money to our partners.

The fastest way to change corporate culture is through leadership at EVERY LEVEL, to have the mind set of “safety first”.  To ask the questions of existing leader, not “How long did it take you to complete this task”?  But “What Procedure did you use to complete this task”? And “What were your safety concerns”?  And Similar to the military train, train, train, and when you think you have the procedure in your bones train some more.

At the corporate level, there are concern with safety, but there is a problem that arises, in the translation of “safety first” from the office to the field, once that is no longer a problem we will begin to see the corporate culture change, and the reduction of flow of money to our partners.

The military encourages the idea of leadership at every level, this idea is key to change the corporate culture, to encourage people to focus on the idea that will bring success to the division.  To build their seniority encouraging and focusing the idea that will bring the success you seek.

Many styles of leadership propagate out of military doctrine and thought process.  I recently talked to a newly commissioned officer, he used a servant leadership style and he encourage friendship between him and his subordinates, I also used an servant leadership style, but I set up a more rigid hierarchy of position. Neither styles is more correct, the key to a successful  unit, is for every one to know what is expected of them, to operate in a clean and safe environment and to maintain this environment by adhering to the procedure.

In my various military leadership training I experienced a hyper level of critiquing, so harsh that you never become complacent your are always thinking of the next step so you don’t do anything wrong. This level of correction is not necessary, but I feel that some heighten level is.  I remembering listening to a safety leader recalling safety infractions throughout the right away, and the recollection sounded like chaos to me.  There are set rules for operating in the right of way, and I feel that a heighten level of enforcement at every level, translate to “Safety always” culture.

The ideas of safety may be complex and one panacea or cure all to solve the problem is not the solution, but several things need to go wrong for a catastrophic event to happen.  If we can stop the one thing that leads to a cascade of other wrong events and learn from our mistakes.  Maintain good habits  and a heighten attention to safety, and we may able to prevent or mitigate the next catastrophe.

Health, and Safety Suggestion Document 2

CONSTRUCTION IS HARD!  Safe construction is harder. I feel that strong leadership is the solution to many problems, something Balfour Beatty dose not have a lack of.  Safety is a constant uphill fight, and the solutions to safety are often difficult and multi-faceted no one solution can be considered a cure all.  After attending the monthly stand down safety meeting, I was inspired by the response of upper management and Bradford Beatty construction personnel,  the safety culture seemed to be a principal focus, there seamed to be a shift within the ranks.  To maintain this strong safety culture human nature must be considered.  Human nature is sometime hard to decipher, and at times hard to predict, but there is one common theme that dives our decision, the theme is that people are inherently selfish. This document is to provide a suggestion to help maintain a  strong safety culture within the ranks of Balfour Beatty personnel, and hopefully the company will be able to grow and  become more influential within the construction industry.

In psychology there is an idea of internal motivation, and external motivation, internal motivation is a more powerful influential tool than external motivation.    When a safety infraction takes place the response is heavy with external motivation, this is influential because of the “pain” associated with the action, it is after the fact, and temporary, the use of internal motivation can be vastly be more powerful as an influential tool.

The military uses both internal and external motivation, they are used very frequently the use of external motivations is well known with veterans, and service members alike.  What may not be as apparent is there use of internal motivation, its use is subtler similar to whisper as opposed to a scream.  The way the military use internal motivation is that more training opportunities, and opportunities for promotions are given the members that exhibit character traits the military seek.  The mind set that if you always follow procedures and standards you will have opportunity to grow and become more influential within the ranks, this idea can be very powerful to help build a sustainable safety culture.

Also, one must consider a paramount conflicting issue to safety, this is complacency. The repetitive nature of a job is good for some industries, such as manufacturing, but not construction. In manufacturing the environment, conditions of the process and many of the variables of the product can be controlled.  In construction the vicissitude of the conditions is always changing, and may be over looked, and lead to unfortunate out comes and catastrophic engineering failure.   This must not be the case, the situation must be evaluated as if this a new task that is always changing and every condition that changed from the previous day needs to be discussed, and a mitigation response to the changing conditions evaluated. Here at Balfour Beatty we have a strong safety team with strong leaders, that guard against complacency, but an idea that could be considered, to combat complacency is to develop a discussion of safety issues before the action takes place, and to always seek method of maintaining the established safety culture, to always push forward, and never slide backward.

Finally, the upper management response during the safety stand down meeting was inspiring, because it felt as if the things the construction team  dose , and the decisions the team makes  are important, at the highest level of the organization.  It is very important to receive praise, concern, of any kind of message from the corporate leaders.  It makes the statement to ever member at that meeting the feeling as though, what you do is important and can be felt by every member within the organization.

In the Military it was driven into me as part of my training, that where ever I go to always try to make things better, with this mind set I hope safety program becomes stronger, becoming part of everything we do, always push forward until we achieve the ultimate goal of ZERO HARM.


Health and Safety Suggestion Document 3

Congratulations with the diligence and hard of the safety team, I feel that a strong “safety culture” foot hold has been established.  My largest fear is that compliancy will set in and the foot hold may be lost.  Needless to say, we must always stay diligent.

The fact that one of the strongest forces in human nature is the drive to preserve the integrity of our characters identity.  When talking about influencing others to exhibit traits to our benefit, this can be a very powerful phycology tool.  A key principle to utilizing this tool, begins millions of years ago with the development of our egos for survival.  This continued to present day where survival is not the primary goal, but the ego still is a strong influential tool in decision making.  To apply this knowledge to our benefit, to increase safety awareness in junior members is to establish a character or identity that shows trait that will maintain the idea that they “always work safe”. The purpose of this short message is to provide some insight on something that was already implemented by the safety team, and to acknowledge the massive contribution the safety team makes to this project daily.

The safety team has been working for a stronger “safety culture” since the beginning of this project, and I feel that it would be a good assumption that it has not been easy.  Thank you for always staying committed, especially when times are hard.

The great idea that was incorporate is focused on new construction induction training schedule, this schedule incorporates class work and field work.  This will massive help this project to work toward “zero harm”.  This makes a statement to junior members when they first step onto the construction site, “we do safe work here”.

Thank you again, always push to be better than the day before. Or in the Japanese culture there is an idea of “Kaizen” which is the concept of continuously improvement in all areas. With this concept driving the safety team, great things may be on the horizon.

Leadership Suggestion Document 1

As we race towards more and more competitive markets in any industry, both quantitative and qualitive data shows that strong leadership, which consist of  strong integrity, and strong capabilities, will bring an organization, division, or team unparallel success. Mountains can be move with the help of strong Leadership.  This document is inspire to provide more insight into this nebulous, ambiguous, subject of leadership and uncover the harm of micro-managing and operating in low trust environments.  This method of managing a team will reduce the optimization of the organization, obstruct the process of developing subordinates in areas to work as a synergistic team to find amazing solutions to industry problems.

The development of leadership, begins millions of years ago with the development of our egos for survival.  This continued to present day where survival is not the primary goal, but the ego still is a strong influential tool in decision making.   An archaic leadership model originates from the myopic  mind set of the strongest, fastest will be the best leader.  As the leader this sole decision making was very basic it is lacking in creative, dynamic problem solving that is necessary to be viable in today’s  complex and ever changing marketplace.   It seams as though for an organizations survival in the new global economy the model of a leader must change with times, and having a vision for the cooperation and interdependence within the group, and encourage creative solutions.   The style of leadership in a highly technical arenas  can model the archaic leadership style, but its not sustainable, the leader will be faced with diminishing return, the solutions will maintain functionality, but it will be lacking in the creative optimal solutions that come from group focus on a single goal,  also this leadership style leads to low trust environment causing  friction, as we maneuver to the proper solution.  The leadership style that is described above requires a high percentage of trust, this trust begins with the leaders ability to trust their subordinates integrity and ability.  This implies that the leader has an obligation to develop the subordinates to a level that they have trust in integrity, and their ability to get the results you desire.

Extending trust can bring great dividends, but it also creates the possibility of significant risk.  So how do you extend smart trust, so you do not get taken advantage of.   In the paragraph above presents an almost a utopian model of a team that works well, subordinated that can be developed, this model may be lacking in reality.  In the book “The speed of Trust” Stephen M.R. Covey describes The “Smart Trust” Matrix this is matrix was developed to be an analysis tool to promote opportunity, increase credibility, and reduce risk as you develop an optimal team. The “Trust” matrix is broken into four quadrants:

  1. Quadrant 1: Gullibility- High Propensity to trust: Low analysis

  2. Quadrant 2: Judgment- High Propensity to trust: High analysis

  3. Quadrant 3: Indecision- Low Propensity to trust: Low analysis (Low Trust Environment-High Risk)

  4. Quadrant 4: Suspicion-Low Propensity to trust: High analysis

Trust, is a is a powerful subject not often considered when it comes to leadership decisions, but it can but it is very influential in the operation of organization. It Superbly achieves the goal of providing a guide line to peak performance, both for individuals and organization.  But the true  genius of increasing trust is its universal relevance, as it combines a highly effective common sense with guidance to enhance organizational relationships.