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Weave resilience into your work, bestselling author tells safety pros during Opening Session


Orlando, FL — Marcus Buckingham has learned plenty about resilience while studying more than 26,000 people in 25 countries. And among thousands of workers, he found answers in a single concept.

“Every single one of you has a rich tapestry in your job,” the global researcher and New York Times’ bestselling author told thousands of safety professionals Oct. 11 during the Opening Session of the 2021 NSC Safety Congress & Expo at the Orange County Convention Center. “Lots of different activities, moments, situations, concepts.

“Many things in your job are gray threads, brown threads, black threads, white threads. But some of the activities in your job are red threads – activities that you lean into. When you’re doing it, you feel like you’re at your very best.”

Those specific threads that make up the multicolored tapestry, Buckingham said, are what increases your resilience.

“The most resilient people don’t have to have an entirely red quilt,” he said. “They just need 20% of the fabric of their work to be red threads. If you want to build resilience, think about [the] activities in your job every day. Which are the red threads? Can you weave them into every day? If you do that, you’re more resilient in your work.”

For individual safety pros, Buckingham stressed the importance of compartmentalizing issues in life and gaining resilience from the good things to help deal with the bad.

“It’s somehow seeing your life as a series of swim lanes,” he said. “Something may be going wrong in Lanes 3 and 4, but what can you do in Lanes 10, 11 and 12 to keep moving and keep progressing?”

For safety leaders, Buckingham said resilience can be enhanced in workers by conducting 15-minute one-on-one check-in meetings each week via text or email, in-person or virtually.

“You’re asking people two questions: What are your priorities? How can I help you?” he said. “The best team leaders realize change is happening so frequently. A check-in is leading.”

Senior safety leaders can help workers grow resilience by transforming anxiety during times of change – during the COVID-19 pandemic, for example – into confidence. “The way to do that is vividly helping me see what around the corner is not going to change,” Buckingham said, adding that this can be done through powerful stories that provide examples.

National Safety Council President and CEO Lorraine M. Martin greeted the attendees who were on hand and those watching virtually with a warm welcome to the nonprofit organizations’ first in-person national event since 2019 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is truly wonderful to be together again,” Martin said. “We have come together at a crucial moment. Safety has really never been more top of mind, and the past 18 months have had a profound effect on us and everyone. Through it all, safety professionals have stepped up to serve others.”

Martin also announced the recipient of the NSC Flame of Life Award, which was presented virtually to Kent McElhattan for his lifetime contributions to the safety industry.

Along with his time at Industrial Scientific Corp. and Discovery Robotics, McElhattan and his family have made investments via the McElhattan Foundation in support of safety advancements being achieved through technology. The foundation most recently partnered with NSC to launch the Work to Zero initiative.

The award has been presented only four times in the council’s 107-year history.

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