General Tips

Time for Gratitude

thank you,ke a leboga,ke a leboha,ngiyabonga,ndo livhuwa,ro livhuwa,siyabonga,enkosi,dankie,ngiyathokoza,inkomu


As leaders and safety professionals we forget to show GRATITUDE. We are looking in the rearview mirror, focusing on what went wrong, why we missed our targets and, often, who to blame.

At the end of the year, it is time for us to be grateful for what we have and to count our blessings. Think about the number of activities and tasks that are being completed by all your people, without any incident or mishap. They run into the millions. Let me put this into perspective.

The vast majority of these activities are done out of habit (routine), without conscious thought. That is where your training and systems are paying off.

Consider a simple task, like driving a vehicle. I get into the seat (hopefully after walking around the vehicle and doing my pre-start check), fasten my seat belt, check the mirrors, start the engine, switch on the lights, engage the reverse gear, look left and right, release the handbrake, check the mirrors again, apply gas, steer the vehicle to the right and left and turn, apply the brakes and then take a breather — all this just to get out of my driveway at home!

To complete the task of getting to work safely, I will have to perform hundreds of activities such as this and more (using indicators, changing lanes, accelerating, braking, keeping an eye on the traffic, stopping, etc.). Each one of these I accomplish successfully, without incident and without conscious thought, but each one has the potential of leading to an occurrence which could result in damage, an injury, a fatality and, most definitely, lost time.

Now, multiply these hundreds of activities by the tenfold of tasks or jobs that each of your employees completes every day, by the number of employees, contractors and visitors on your site every day, and finally, by the number of working days this year, and you will have to add a large number of zeros to your figure of gratitude.

This also puts into perspective why ZERO HARM is such a tough goal to achieve.

Please count your blessings and let your people know how indebted you are to them for having done so well, as you cannot even express this ratio:

number of incidents and near hits
number of activities completed

Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Sorry, I’m busy

Often when I try to meet up with a client towards the end of the month, I get the “Sorry, I’m busy with the monthly report” excuse. I’m deliberately saying “excuse” because we make time for what is important to us. Let me explain further.

writing reports

The monthly report is an issue for most safety professionals / safety managers. At the end of the month, they have to report to the EXCO or board about the SHE issues and performance for that month. It is an activity they dislike intensely, and hence procrastinate over. The deadline hangs over their heads like a sword and it is a mad scramble to get all the information together and to then compile the report.

For many, the report is like a composition competition – choosing the right words and content so as to make a favorable impression on the bosses. The irony is that the report is a rear view mirror exercise and often not even read.

Here are some tips to make it easier:

  • Keep it simple and factual. Less is more in terms of words. Provide links the reader can click to get more detail (a standard practice).
  • Focus on actions completed and results produced.
  • Have a standard template or framework and fill in the information.
  • Delegate the responsibility for each section to one of your subordinates. This splits the burden. If you’re working online, it’s easy to share the document.
  • Set the deadline for information to be submitted to you to one week before you have to submit your report.
  • Make notes on the template throughout the month, whenever a noteworthy occurrence takes place.
  • Set aside a fixed time to compile the final report and stick to it. The more time you spend on writing the report, the more you will be inclined to “waffle”.

The report is a safety communication tool. It is not an end in itself. Treat it as such.

Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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To Meet or Not to Meet, That’s YOUR Question

grandfather clock by speaker, author, thought leader Jurgen Tietz

Following on from my previous communiques on meetings, MyTime and So Many Meetings, So Little Time, and because time is such an important aspect of our lives.

Time is the most precious resource we have.
We all have this finite resource of 24 hours,
so why waste it in unproductive meetings?

And so, “To meet, or not to meet?” – that’s the question you need to answer if you are the meeting owner. 

Have a look at the 5 worst reasons for a meeting and examine your meetings. Do they fall into the category of “worst meetings”? 

Impromptu meetings, especially when abusing your position, really reflect on your lack of planning and crisis management style. You know how disruptive it is when you are called to a “the boss wants to see you now” meeting.

If you have to involve a group of people, then meet on your feet rather than on your seat. Sitting down with cookies and tea invariably draws out the session, but you can only stand for so long. 

If you want to know how others value your meeting, then organise it for after hours and see how many people don’t pitch or make excuses and how quickly you complete the agenda. 

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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So many safety professionals complain about too many meetings and too much time spent in meetings.

In my latest group mail, I talk about this meeting paradox: We don’t have time to prepare for effective meetings, because we spend too much time in ineffective meetings. Here, I want to share a different perspective.

Before I was retrenched in 1998, I too had a severe case of “meetings overdose”. Now that I am self-employed, I have taken control of MyTime – the time which I spend in meetings. I realised that a large proportion of the meetings I was involved in were my own doing. Now, when I get a meeting request from a client, or, before I set up a meeting with someone, I ask myself a few critical questions:

  1. Will the meeting make or save me some money? What is the business potential?
  2. Do I have a clear purpose? Can this be achieved without a face-to-face meeting using some other medium (telecon, Skype, e-mail, etc)?
  3. Do I have to establish, refresh or reinforce a relationship or trust with the other party?
  4. Do I have to demonstrate or share some of my COOL TOOL™ or showcase what I can do?
  5. Who is going to pay for my time ‘out on the road’ and travel & accommodation expenses?

I have learnt to say NO to a meeting request/meeting setup thought if the answers to these questions do not give me a “YES, HAVE A MEETING” sign. I have also developed my 10 Questions to get the information I need from a potential client, without having to meet ubuso ngombuso, i.e. face-to-face.

I hear you say, “BUT in my situation …”

Think about your meetings as if you were running your own business and it will change your perspective. You will drop the meetings which do not further your business interests. You will learn to say NO to your involvement in meetings which do not meet the above criteria.When you own your own business, you quickly learn to become as tough as nails about wasting MyTime, or you go hungry. 

Next time, I will share the best and worst reasons for setting up meetings.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Safety Common Sense

One of the most ‘common’ problems in safety is ‘common’ sense. 

What is common sense?
In general, we mean by this ‘something everyone knows’ or ‘common’ knowledge. 

In my book, common sense is a lack of thinking of the consequences when taking action.

It is NOT that we don’t understand or know. It is merely that we don’t pay attention or think about what can or will happen as a result of our actions. We are not alert, function in auto pilot or are plain careless. After an incident, we will often say that we should have ‘seen this comng’. But we did NOT, because we didn’t pay attention and think about the consequences.

In our attempt to overcome this ‘lack’ of common sense, we often put ridiculous safety rules and precautions in place, just to be safe, thereby undermining people’s attitude towards not only safety, but rules in general. (In this regard, see also “Speed Limit Syndrome“.) Rather, we should encourage people to think on the job, which will enable common sense to prevail. 

Here, with the compliments of Richard Hawk, a safety expert in the USA, is a link to a video clip which illustrates the business of common sense.

BTW, Richard puts out a monthly newsletter, well worth reading, about how to add humour to make the safety messages stick. 

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Some Good Advice


I learnt a lesson early on in my career: to listen to advice.

As a young engineer, this was especially important. I might have had all the smart book knowledge, but I definitely lacked the experience which is acquired over years. I made it a habit to ask the foreman, artisan or operator how things worked in their area, what problems there were and, most important, what the solution should be.

I never regretted having made time to ask these people with years of experience

Although not directly applicable to safety, here is some smart advice from 22 executives, sharing the ‘best advice they ever got’. Go and check it out – you won’t be sorry. 

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Speed Limit Syndrome

Picture this.I enter the premises of a big company.
There are road works ahead – barricades, detour markers, a speed limit sign … the works.

Nothing wrong with that.
EXCEPT, the sign reads 20 kph.
Now this is where the problem lies.

I pull aside and observe what happens.

The road is straight and clear and one vehicle after the other drives past me at 40 and even 60 kph, totally ignoring the speed limit of 20.

Why, you may ask, did these drivers not adhere to the 20 kph speed limit?

Because it is human nature to ignore rules and regulations (in this case speed limits and other traffic signs) that are judged to be unreasonable.

This is what I call the Speed Limit Syndrome and it happens alot on public roads too, as we all know.

One of the worst practices on our roads is that signs are not being immediately removed when the road works or the need for the sign no longer exists! This encourages a culture of not taking traffic signs, or, for that matter, rules and regulations, seriously, because they are deemed to be unreasonable and/or obsolete.

I urge you to watch out for this trap in your own operations.

Make sure that your rules and regulations are necessary, realistic and truly serve the purpose of safeguarding people. When people ignore your rules and regulations, first ask if they are not being perceived as unreasonable and, if so, why.

The flip side of this coin is equally important. Once you are 100% sure that your rules and regulations are necessary and realistic, then you have to enforce them – ruthlessly. You have to discipline those who ignore and break the rules and regulations!

Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Do Just One Thing

I am a great believer in FOCUS by doing and FINISHING one thing at a time – see my current group mail series Do One (Safety) Thing This Month.

I have a habit of preparing important proposals and customizing my presentations at night. That is the best time for me to set aside a few hours, concentrate on the task at hand, and finish it. If I try to do these during the day, with all the interruptions, it takes me twice as long and the likelihood that I will make mistakes increases. 

If you are employed in a corporate setup, you can do it too – set aside time in your diary, ‘take the phone off the hook’, set your e-mail to offline and then focus on the important task you need to get done.

I have done it for years and it works. You just have to teach subordinates and colleagues, as well as your boss, to respect your Focus Time!

Let me know if you’d like my Habit Poster and be sure to read Tony Schwartz’ blog post The Magic of Doing One Thing At a Time for more on this technique.

Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Be the Master of Your Time

Being self-employed means I have to make sure everything gets done. However, that doesn’t mean I have to do everything myself. It is a poor investment in time if I do things which someone else can do for me – steals time from those things which only I can do. I have to focus on those things I do best and for which I have the skills and expertise that others do not.

Usually, this isn’t a big issue in a corporate set up, because there are many service and support functions. Nevertheless, we should all examine how and on what we spend our time.

So often we get to the end of the day, tired and exhausted, because we have been so busy ‘doing things’ – but what have we really accomplished? Often, it turns out we could have finished some of the important things if only we had not been caught up in all the ‘urgent’ things others could have done for us.

For example: Instead of me driving across town to collect or deliver an item, I make use of a courier company. Sure, on the face of it, it costs me more. However, the savings in time and effort alone are priceless.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Breakfast of Champions

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.

"Feedback is the breakfast of champions" - Jurgen Tietz

This holds true for me as well.

I always ask people for a testimonial, for three reasons:

Firstly, it gives me feedback about what worked well and what can I improve on. Instead of making an assumption, I ask and listen and then ACT on that feedback.

Secondly, I use the testimonials when making a proposal or selling my services to potential clients. Nothing speaks louder than the words of a satisfied customer.

Thirdly, it forces the client to reflect on the event and think about what to do to follow up and sustain the inspiration I have generated. This is like a post-mortem and ensures that they explore ways of getting more value for their investment (events don’t come cheap, both in time and money). Of course, this also gives me the opportunity to enrich our relationship and to HELP to cement the safety message even more.

Some of the testimonials are in writing, whilst others I record as a voice or video clip.


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