BIC - October 2012
By: Shawn M. Galloway
"I absolutely loved your talk, and by the way, I'm sorry I almost killed you this morning!" she chuckled as she shook my hand.
I consider myself to have a good sense of humor, not only looking for lessons in experiences, but humor as well. Humor was lost on me at that exact moment when meeting and recognizing the face of this young woman. I replied, "Oh. That was you." She returned with a smile, "It's a good thing you were paying attention." "I suppose it was, as it didn't appear you were," left my mouth unfiltered. Perhaps I could have been more polite. She did eventually apologize and I believe it was sincere. We had a brief conversation about the topic I spoke on and she was on her way.
Earlier that morning, an hour before my scheduled keynote presentation at a private event, I was eager for what I was about to accomplish. As I was running the presentation through my mind, deciding on my opening, I removed my laptop bag from the reverse-parked rental car. While walking to the front of the vehicle, parked in the middle of the open parking lot, call it intuition, divine intervention, behavioral-line of fire/eyes on path training, a gut instinct or luck, something told me to stop.
They say your life will flash before your eyes. It didn't, but a white Toyota 4-Runner did. Thankfully I stopped because I almost didn't see her and, as she later admitted, she didn't see me. She stated that she had pulled into the lane looking for a space. As it dead-ended she reversed quicker than she should have, and only after having fully passing me, saw me standing adjacent to her front right passenger tire. I saw her too, including the startled, "Where did you come from?!" look.
When an event such as this occurs, it is imperative lessons are captured that not only identify what led up to the event, but what kept it at an almost injury as well. Thankfully, I kept my eyes focused in the direction I was walking. Thankfully, I stopped and looked prior to entering into what most wouldn't consider being a high-speed traffic area. Thankfully, I trusted my gut-instinct that told me: wait a second.
Throughout the developed world, government regulations require leaders to create a safe working environment. This is not only what should legally occur before anything else in safety, it is also the right thing to do. To stop here is not only limited thinking in safety; it will become career-limiting as well. Yes, of course, provide a safe place to work; but if you do not strive to help employees make safe (risk-free or risk-reducing) decisions at work and away, shame on you.
Safety is more than what you create for someone; it is also what you do to shape their thought-processes. I believe helping shape a person's thinking is more effective than any safety program. I could have easily been struck by the nice lady driving the 4Runner. Had I been struck, there are no validated prediction models available that can tell me what severity I would have suffered. I easily would have never seen my wife and three daughters again. I wouldn't be sharing these thoughts with you now, but I am. I trusted my gut; I listened to the voice that influenced me to act.
We are always at risk. The difference lies with those that recognize this and remain aware. This is not innate, it is learned. As a leader, you are not just responsible for the work environment; you are responsible for helping employees learn proactively. Thankfully I, too, had a great leader. One who influenced me to keep myself safe when he wasn't there to intervene, and before a 4Runner passed before my eyes one summer morning in 2012.