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All About You: Creativity can improve any situation

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

Although the winter holidays are upon us, Halloween is my favorite holiday. If you’ve been to one of my fun-filled talks or seminars, you’ll understand why.

One Halloween, I put a bowl of candy on top of a table that I was hiding under. The bowl had a hole in it and I manipulated a ghoulish rubber hand sticking up through the hole. When trick-or-treaters came up on my porch and reached into the bowl, with delight, I playfully moved the ghoul’s hand, and in a monsterlike voice cried out, “Take just one!” What fun.

Every year I do something like that. But not this year. Instead, I put a table on the sidewalk in front of my house and covered it with several packaged candies. I kept my distance and waved to the trick-or-treaters as they went by. It wasn’t fun.

However, my next-door neighbor put on his candy table a rubber spider attached to a long fishing line that he jerked when his “victims” went to pick up candy. Great scares ensued! Why didn’t I think of that? It’s because I fell into the trap of thinking there isn’t much I can do about my present negative situation. I didn’t use my imagination at all.

Researching the topic of creative Halloween events, I was amazed at how many innovative ideas people came up with. Closer to home, my niece, who is a teacher, teamed up with several parents to create an outdoor Halloween fair. The kids walked along a path and visited several booths. Each booth had a theme, many with activities such as drawing a scary face and dancing to “Monster Mash.” Learning about this helped reinforce a life lesson that I’ve learned but didn’t apply on Halloween, which is: By using your wit, humor and imagination, you can improve every situation.

Safety meetings are an excellent example. Since my first days in the safety and health field, safety meetings have been considered boring but necessary. They were something forced on companies when OSHA began in the 1970s. At first, I felt that way too. When conducting a safety meeting, I would drone on about requirements and proclaim “do this” and “don’t do that” edicts. I usually wanted the meetings to get over as quickly as possible and was thrilled when they were canceled. But I still had to give them – just like we have to do some things we don’t like because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then – I can’t remember when or why – I decided to approach safety meetings as a fun challenge. There was no getting out of conducting them (at one point, I hosted two or more safety meetings a day while working for a construction company). Because of this new perspective, I began enjoying the process. In fact, I couldn’t wait for my next safety meeting, especially after I had come up with a surprising, innovative way to present the topic.

You can do the same with anything in your life that isn’t going as planned, such as dealing with pandemic-related restrictions. One action that has helped me immensely, which I’d like to pass along, is to find out what other people are doing or have done to overcome a situation that’s restricting you.

I wish I would have done this for my speaking and writing business in March. By now, I would’ve been full-throttled into a virtual reality offering of webinars, podcasts and Zoom meetings (I’m almost there). This tactic works for professional and personal issues such as loss of employment, change in responsibilities, depression, physical illness, financial loss, etc. I’m not saying you have to ask for help, although that may be an option you should pursue. But just by finding out what other people have done in your situation will give you helpful insight (e.g., a colleague recently gave me some awesome Zoom advice).

Good example: Had I talked to my neighbor about what he was doing for trick-or-treaters, I guarantee I would have had a least one scary, tethered creepy crawler on my candy table!

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps safety professionals become better leaders through his keynotes, workshops, articles and books so they can create vibrant safety cultures. His popular “Mindfully Safe” keynote teaches employees how to focus better and improve their situational awareness, a key skill to preventing incidents. To contact Richard, visit makesafetyfun.com.

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