Mentorship Part 2: Listen

Have you read the book “If You Give a Cat a Cupcake”? I have one similar for you. “If You Give a Safety Person an Audience.” It goes like this.

If you give a safety person an audience, they will want a stage. Once they have a stage, they will ask for a microphone. With a microphone in hand, they will ask for a computer and projector. The safety presentation will be in full swing, and then four hours will pass. Once the four hours have passed, the audience will be tired. The tired audience will start to sneak out of the building. As they sneak away, the room will become empty. Once the room is empty, the safety person will ask for a new audience.

Ever seen this happen?

We safety people love to talk, this blogger included. Given the chance, I will just keep on talking until I completely lose interest in even what I was trying to say :-). I even once had another safety person coach me by saying “if anyone in leadership gives you a chance to speak, take it. Never just let it pass by.” I have found, though, there are times to talk and times to say that you have nothing to add to the conversation.

I was once sitting in a meeting room where we were discussing fumigation and extermination protocols during a shutdown. The room was buzzing with concerns and excitement. The team was questioning the company that was contracted to do the work. Questions were being hurled about and the contract firm did a good job explaining the process in addition to the lengthy protocols and process manual they had provided. Finally, someone in leadership looked at me and said “are you not worried about this at all?”

All eyes were on me at this point as I had been completely silent

Me, “Not really.”

Leadership, “What!?! Why no?!?”

Me turning to the contractor, “Is this the first time you have ever done this”

Contractor, “No. We have done this for many companies for many years across the nation?”

Me, “Ever had an instance of human, property, or environmental damage as long as your protocols are followed?”

Contractor, “No. As long as the written protocols are followed.”

Me, “I’m good”

I had very little to say and that was okay. The project was still a success. 

We must learn and practice the art of listening. As safety mentors, our team is going to have lots of questions, concerns, and thoughts. We must not only hear, but we must understand what is being said and what may not be said in those conversations. When we are mentoring or helping guide a new safety leader, there are many topics that we will have to explain. We must, though, give them the knowledge they seek and not extraneous information or even miss their point altogether. The point of mentoring is to meet the needs of the organization and of the person. This can only be accomplished through good listening. Too many times, I am focusing on how I can fix the problem rather than really listening to the person. As leaders, we must keep our minds and ears on the person then engage solutions as a team.

Published by Dr. Mark A. French

Husband, Father, Safety Professional, I/O Psychologist, Golfer, and Geek. BS from Murray State University (Chemistry and Occupational Safety). MBA from Bethel University. PhD in I/O Psychology from Capella University.

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