Posts filed under ‘EHS Skills’
In a business, change presents an opportunity to eliminate environment, health and safety (EHS) risks, and learning how to initiate and drive necessary change is an important skill for EHS leaders to cultivate.
Here are a few observations on how to reduce EHS risks by taking advantage of change:
- Identify the relevant opportunities: One of the key challenges is to explain which opportunities merit your involvement and why. While this may seem obvious to you, it may not be to your leadership or to the project managers who are under pressure to deliver results on schedule, under budget. There are the big opportunities such as a facility move, consolidation, or expansion, and new or modified equipment. These offer excellent opportunities to implement fire protection systems, machine guarding, electrical safety devices and ergonomic principles. New or reformulated chemicals or materials and changes in chemical use offer a more subtle opportunity to reduce EHS risk by substitution, improved control and more efficient use. New product introduction can be an opportunity to address long-term, regulatory-driven challenges such the European Union Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive or the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) directive. New customers, contracts and suppliers may be game-changers where EHS requirements are concerned.
Business leaders need to understand the EHS risks and opportunities that come with these new relationships.
- Get a seat at the table during the initial planning phase: This requires networking upfront with key process leaders as well as infusing EHS into the policies and procedures of the engineering, manufacturing and procurement departments. It also means engaging in strategic planning and product development processes. These relationship-building investments will pay dividends in the long-term. I have experienced missed opportunities due to lack of upfront involvement, such as failing to conduct a Phase I ESA prior to leasing a manufacturing facility and not specifying fireproof ceiling materials when renovating a building. Typically, trade-offs in material and equipment selection and capital investments are much more palatable when considered as part of a change.
- Make the business case in broad, but tangible terms: When conducting the traditional return on investment analysis that we are all familiar with, consider the financial benefits of EHS- driven investments that improve quality, improve productivity (e.g., more efficient material flow, reduced labor, and shorter cycle time associated with ergonomic improvements), reduce insurance premiums and avoid the cost of regulatory compliance administrative tasks (e.g., regulatory reviews, operating permits, and compliance training). Lastly, customer and employee satisfaction and retention are highly persuasive aspects of making a business case, if you can do it in credible, concrete terms.
- Reinforce the value of your involvement by measuring and reporting results: This is often forgotten in the swirl of the work day and the pressure to move on to new challenges. Once the change has been made and you are operating at steady state, do the analysis and demonstrate that the change has delivered what was promised. It will make people more receptive to your input the next time a change is contemplated.
What advice do you have for ensuring EHS is included in the management of change process? What lessons and success stories can you share?
Stephen Evanoff is Vice President of Environment, Health and Safety for Danaher Corp., a Fortune 250 global science and technology company. To learn more about the habits of effective change agents, tune in for NAEM’s Emerging Leaders webinar on “Strategic Influencing: How to Drive and Manage Change” on Sept. 20.
There has been a lot of discussion recently around the differences between leadership and management. In fact, NAEM presented a great webinar in May about this very topic. While these discussions often provide good insight, too often they belittle the role of managers and stress leadership above other attributes.
To me, the difference between leadership and management is definitional rather than philosophical. Things are managed; people need to be led. However, in order to be effective one must have both leadership and management skills.
Effective leaders inspire others to elevate their game — but they also understand the technical issues, leverage their specialized knowledge and utilize data correctly. As the great Canadian physician Thomas McCrae once noted, “More is missed by not looking than by not knowing.”
Too often these days, executives seem to be in a rush to label themselves as “leaders” rather than “managers.” I believe we are currently seeing a rash of instances in which a lack of management skills has done in prominent leaders. A recent example of this can be seen in The Wall Street Journal’s coverage of JPMorgan’s recent multi-billion dollar investment loss debacle:
“On April 30, associates who were gathered in a conference room handed [JPMorgan Chairman and CEO Jamie] Dimon summaries and analyses of the losses. But there were no details about the trades themselves. “I want to see the positions!” he barked, throwing down the papers, according to attendees. “Now! I want to see everything!”
When Mr. Dimon saw the numbers, these people say, he couldn’t breathe.”
This was a leader who forgot to manage until it was too late — and it resulted in the loss of billions of dollars.
Over the years, I have seen many EHS initiatives fail due to lack of leadership. But I’ve also seen just as many fail because they were poorly managed. While leadership and management are different skills, they are not mutually exclusive. Both must be present to be effective.
So the next time you see an article touting the importance of leadership over managerial skills, remember that the most effective executives and managers possess and use both. As the 1988 hit song by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock reminds us, “It takes two to make a thing go right/It takes two to make it outta sight.”
Kelvin Roth is President of the NAEM Board of Directors and the Director of Environment, Health & Safety for AMCOL International Corp.
We are told that our education, particularly our technical skills, will prepare us to succeed in a career in environment, health and safety (EHS) management. So back when I was working on my degree in Environmental Engineering, I was taught how to design, build and run projects. I developed technical skills as well as project management skills. And while these elements are certainly important to every EHS manager, one critical component tends to be left out of our schooling: the art of selling and marketing.
We know that EHS programs don’t succeed without senior management support. The consequences of not having this support — insufficient budgets, lack of assistance from other functional areas, conflicting priorities and unnecessary obstacles — can be devastating. But to gain this support, you must know how to sell your program.
I’m not talking about the ability to make cold calls or engage in business development activities, of course — I’m talking about selling a project, idea or program.
Marketing means engaging the company in a targeted fashion. What has sold your program or idea to senior management will often not be the same set of benefits that convince your facility managers or operators. Your strategy needs to address all impacted “customers.”
Because selling and marketing are such critical components, it is important that you take the time during your program design process to plan how you will sell and market it. Put together an internal marketing plan that addresses the implementation strategy and the tactics you will use to promote that strategy. A good marketing plan is like a game plan: It serves as a guide for the actions you need to take, but also provides some flexibility to shift tactics to address any issues that may arise.
Here are a few tips for selling and marketing your EHS program that you should consider when developing your internal marketing plan. (And don’t be afraid to borrow ideas from your marketing people!)
- Understand your company: You need to know your company’s goals and how it makes money. Simply knowing its EHS issues is insufficient; you need to understand your company’s position in the market.
- Lead with your strength: Define the biggest or broadest benefit of your program and lead with that. Keep the message simple and consistent.
- Develop the program “brand”: All successful programs have a common language, look and feel, regardless of where they are implemented in the company. Develop talking points that provide a quick and easy summary of the program to keep everyone focused on the key goals.
- Identify your best customers: If you can identify and engage those who will gain the most from the new program, they can help you sell it. Listen to the “voice of the customer” (or voice of the employee) and use their words to engage them and get them excited about the new program.
- Know your competition: There will be other programs that will compete for time and money. You need to have a plan to address these challenges and convince detractors that they can also gain from your program.
What other strategies have you used to effectively introduce new EHS programs in your company?
Kelvin Roth is President of the NAEM Board of Directors and the Director of Environment, Health & Safety for AMCOL International Corp.
At a February meeting of my company’s environment, health and safety (EHS) leaders, a guest speaker reminded the group how important relationships are in effective EHS management. The following day, I picked up the Feb. 20, 2012, issue of Time magazine that featured a cover article on the science of animal friendships.
I’m certainly not suggesting that animal friendships can teach us how to develop effective workplace EHS relationships, but these two incidents did remind me how the relationships we build as EHS managers directly impact the organization’s EHS culture. Here are a few of my observations on relationship-building principles that have worked to strengthen EHS culture in organizations:
- Emphasizing the team over the individual: This applies to EHS programs, projects involving cross-functional teams, safety committees, awards, and just about everything else within an EHS context except, perhaps,filling out regulatory agency required reports. The fact is that the EHS function can accomplish almost nothing on its own. Without interdepartmental relationships founded on trust, the EHS role can be lonely and frustrating.
- Acting as an enabler: Before approaching a person or team of people with an EHS issue, answer the questions: “What’s in it for each of them? And how can I help?” This exercise will start you down the path toward a consensus-based solution and help you develop an enabler’s mindset.
- Validating the other person’s perspective: When business leaders and core business process owners feel that the EHS people are cognizant of the demands of their jobs, understand the pressures they face and are aligned with the overall goals of the enterprise, they will be more receptive to EHS initiated projects, and more likely to include the EHS function in decision-making.
- Standing for what’s right: EHS managers who consistently act in the best, long-term interest of the organization (rather than doing what’s expedient, politically advantageous, or in the near-term interest of the EHS function) will, over time, build credibility and respect. These are characteristics of healthy EHS working relationships.
I am sure there are other important principles to relationship-building. What other principles or relationship-building experiences have had a significant impact on EHS culture in your organization?
Over the years, I have seen many lists of attributes of a good manager. I’ve read business articles with lists of the top 10-25 traits of a good manager and books that spend hundreds of pages describing qualities that a manager should have to be successful. While there is plenty of good information in all those sources, I believe we only need to look to successful sports managers to distill all those words into the four key qualities. The qualities that define a championship coach are the same attributes that can help EHS and business managers succeed. They are:
1. Recruiting: All successful managers choose good employees. They select employees that bring skills to advance the team. They not only hire good people, but they hire the right good people. Good managers learn the strengths and weaknesses of their teams, understand what is missing to achieve the organization’s goals, and bring in the right people.
2. Prioritizing: A good manager can see the “end zone” and prioritize the necessary steps to reach that goal. This means sorting through the busy work and identifying the key activities/programs that will lead to long-term success. Letting go of activities that may seem good but don’t advance the organization can be difficult. There will be things that won’t get done, and that’s okay because they weren’t the important ones. Think of this as your game plan.
3. Delegating: You can’t just hand out assignments and expect your organization to grow. Delegation is a plan agreed on by two parties that establishes expectations, activities, and timelines. It ensures that the strengths of the individual are used fully within the team, and allows all members to contribute to the success of the team. Employees need a sense of the importance of what they’re working on – its importance to the company, its importance to customers – and need to know their role in accomplishing the goal. Employees who understand these items are more easily empowered to succeed. This is your play book.
4. Coaching: You must develop your people to do their jobs better than you can. Inspire them to be the best and transfer your knowledge and skills to them. This is the only way that you will be able to take on new challenges yourself. Think about how many championship coaches have had assistants that have gone on to be champions. A good coach or manager is not afraid of his team succeeding. Trust me: There is an infinite amount of work to be done and good managers will always be in demand.
What do you think about this list? Do any of these traits resonate with your experience? What advice do you have for those who are trying to develop these attributes?
It turns out that how you present a number is often as important as what that number actually is. Executives and investors tend to focus on numbers because they are quantitative, readily-comparable and solid. Or are they?
A given piece of information, such as the amount of energy a new light bulb uses, can be presented in a variety of ways. For example, it can be stated as watts-per-bulb, dollars-per-year, kilowatts-hours saved compared to the old bulb, net present value, or lifetime costs, to name a few. Each measurement brings to mind different considerations and highlights different comparisons. This can sway the reaction of the audience.
Rick Larrick, a professor of management at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, studies how a single piece of information can garner multiple responses, depending on how it is presented. After attending one of his lectures, I read a paper he wrote with Jack Soll. They found that people respond differently to MPG and GPM (gallons per hundred miles), even though the two ratios nominally convey the same information.
People tend to favor switching from a 30-mpg car to a 40-mpg car over switching from an 8-mpg car to a 10-mpg car. The first option seems to be a better deal. However, assuming the distance you travel remains constant, you actually save more gas (and therefore more money) with the second option.
In GPM terms, the first option involves going from 3.3-gpm to 2.5-gpm, while the second option involves going from 12.5-gpm to 10-gpm. Obviously, saving 2.5 gallons per hundred miles is better than saving less than one gallon.
This is why the new labels for cars require GPM as well as MPG. By presenting the information this way, people are encouraged to minimize their need for fuel. The facts don’t change, but policy and policy goals affect how the facts are presented, which demonstrably impacts how people react to the information. Here’s a quick example, expressed in numbers:
30 mpg > 40 mpg
(3.3 gpm > 2.5 gpm)
8 mpg > 10 mpg
(12.5 gpm > 10 gpm)
Though it may seem that choosing to present facts in a certain way, such as GPM instead of MPG, is a form of manipulation, consider the fact that each choice is a manipulation. Every time you present a number, you are making decisions: which units to use, what to compare it to, what scale to use — and, of course, what to measure in the first place.
In business, numbers are presented all the time. The health of a company is often represented by a single number, as is the measure of sustainability. The context in which you place a number can emphasize certain things and downplay others – in fact, it always does, whether we intend it to or not.
Are your numbers saying what you want them to? What tactics do you use to convey important numbers?
Kimberly Wallis is a graduate student in environmental management at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, where she focuses on energy issues and effective communication. She is particularly interested in how individuals and organizations change.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the NAEM Forum in Tucson, Ariz. My primary motivation for going was to learn about trends in corporate sustainability and start feeling out the job market. As a member of NAEM’s new Emerging Leaders program and a masters student at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, the Forum was a great way to learn about what sustainability professionals do, and to network with some folks. I heard a lot of bright, innovative people speak throughout the event, and each session was nothing short of inspiring.
With the increased interest in sustainability, companies are faced with tough decisions about how to be competitive. Many companies are improving operational efficiency. Other companies are taking innovation to the next level by making significant and sometimes controversial changes to their operations. Why risk, for example, telling consumers to use less of your product to reduce the lifecycle carbon footprint of the product? One speaker summed it up like this: “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” If there are unaddressed inefficiencies in the way a company operates, they are essentially creating opportunities for other firms to win out.
As a future EHS and sustainability professional, I believe my generation has a lot to offer in the way of innovation and creativity. We are young, enthusiastic and have a fresh perspective — a combination of traits that can help us see a business differently. But even experienced professionals sometimes have difficulty convincing upper-level management to try something new. So what can newcomers do to get taken seriously without stepping on toes?
I asked this very question during one of the keynote sessions at the Forum. The three-member panel had a lot to say on this topic. After listening to them discuss solutions to my dilemma, I came away with several great ideas that all Emerging Leaders should know:
- Don’t be afraid to step on toes. Just because you don’t have as much experience as your supervisor doesn’t mean that he or she will be offended if you bring new ideas to the table. And if someone does get miffed that the new kid is trying to make a meaningful contribution, don’t let it get to you. Firms these days need new ideas to stay competitive. Don’t shy away from your desire to be heard.
- Do your homework. Have an idea? Get out there and find out as much about it as you can. Are other companies doing it? Will it help your firm gain competitive advantage? What do experts have to say about the issue? Whether it is a simple efficiency improvement, a new product, or a drastic change to the business model, you should have as many details about it as you can. If you can get in front of upper-level management to pitch the idea, they are going to have a lot of questions, and you need to be prepared.
- If at first you don’t succeed: try, try again. You may have heard this a lot growing up, and it is no less applicable now. When you’re new to an organization it might take time for those around you to realize the value of a fresh pair of eyes. Don’t let one (or two or three) “no’s” get you down. If your idea is sound and makes good business sense, you can make it happen. Try finding someone else in the organization that has been there for a few years. Ask them about how different managers like to get information, what questions they might ask, and what their primary concerns are. A more seasoned professional can guide you to the right person and help you collect the information they will want.
With these tactics, any young professional can pioneer a new process or project. I continue to be amazed by some of the initiatives being announced by NAEM member companies, all due to creative problem-solving on the part of their internal environmental leaders. The private sector has the opportunity to make serious changes in the way that they operate with no losses in the quality of their products and services. All it takes is the courage to be unconventional. What other advice might you have for Emerging Leaders?
Kealy Devoy is a second-year at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment pursuing a Master of Environmental Management in the Energy and Environment concentration. She is originally from St. Louis, Missouri and received a B.A. in Environmental Studies at the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies at Davidson College. After earning her degree, she worked as the first Sustainability Coordinator at Davidson. Most recently, Kealy was a Climate Corps Public Sector Fellow with the Environmental Defense Fund, where she helped the Town of Cary, NC identify energy efficiency upgrades in fire stations, water and wastewater treatment facilities, and municipal buildings. At the Nicholas School, she is an Energy Improvement Management Intern with the Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative.