By Eldeen Pozniak
As a safety consultant — whether we own a consulting business or are internal to an organization — we feel we are the “owners.” As an owner of either, we are seen as leaders. At times throughout my career, I have felt that I had to be consistently strong as a leader or my program or business may fail. And I would get scared and worried when I would get “safety consultant fatigue.” No matter how successful a consulting company may be, or a program can be, the owners and leaders are always susceptible to safety consultant fatigue.
I remember being a new safety person, as well as when I set out on my entrepreneurial journey, that I was invigorated and energized. A while ago I sat back, tired and wondered if I am just getting old. I know I am — getting old that is — but I realized I was going through another fatigue period. Have you ever experienced that? When you are just tired and not wanting to deal with another issue, or person? When you are content to just have things run at a steady pace, hoping that there is no bumps in the road?
I have run my company for almost 20 years and you cannot run a company that long without having the odd tired period.
I have found four no-compromise leadership strategies to get me through these acquired safety consultant fatigue times and I think they might make a difference when you are there too.
•It's OK: You are not invincible. You are not a super hero. You are an individual with the vision, desire, tenacity and just the right amount of craziness to chase your dream of having that successful program or of building your own company.
It's OK if you lose your momentum and drive every now and then. It's OK that the pressure of leadership occasionally surpasses your tolerance level. It's OK to step back for a bit to regain your perspective on where you are and where you're going. It's OK to take time to focus on yourself so you can better focus on your program or your company.
•Visions are always subject to change: I started Pozniak Safety Associates with a vision to be a contract based company with a remote workplace and found years later that I had a staff of wonderful people and an office — and with that came overhead and stress. And then add on some personal life situations and I felt my feet where in the mud. I have decided to restructure my company and my programs and add on another organization. That was a seriously tough decision for me, and I had let it linger for a bit too long, but I finally made the call. My primary passion was always for safety, teaching and speaking safety and leadership. What I needed was to make a tough decision, which I did. I was reinvigorated and my company was reinvigorated because its leader got unstuck. If you're not willing to change or modify your company's vision when necessary, expect a case of “founder's fatigue” that can and will spread throughout your entire company. Change is the constant, visions are not.
•Seize the moment: I seized the moment to break out of my safety consultant fatigue funk. I made that tough decision to implement change and move forward. I recognized that my funk had become the company's funk, and that it had gotten all over everyone. Had I not seized the moment and stepped into the daylight to see new opportunities, my extraordinary company would have degraded into the realm of the ordinary. This can happen in our organizations, in our programs, with our initiatives, and we have to be able to see an opportunity or a moment that can leap out at us and we can embrace it to make a change, to re-energize ourselves and therefore our program.
•Work with a mapmaker: It's hard to plot a destination if you can't see the map. I found a life and business coach that helped me find the best route to my destination. I also implemented a strategy that two of my respected peers talked to me about: having a personal board of directors (thanks Ken Newby and Trevor Johnson). I found that having someone outside of your company that you can talk through your ideas, challenges and objectives with — and who will hold you accountable for those things — is a necessity in personal life and in business today.
Find the right mentor, personal board of directors or coaching company to guide you and keep you reinvigorated. Do that and you'll have the best deterrent for safety consultant fatigue.
Hope you enjoyed the tired, but safe ramblings.
Eldeen Pozniak is a Canadian Registered Safety Professional, a Certified Health and Safety Consultant, a certified health and safety management system auditor, and a chartered member of the U.K.-based Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. She is a past president of the International Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organizations and the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering. She is also the president and owner of Diggins Safety Consulting, and the director of Pozniak Safety Associates. She can be reached through www.pozniaksafety.com.