John Royer, Corporate Safety Director
Relying on Skills – Requires Practice
We all possess skills for various things, and we developed those skills by performing them on a routine basis, in other words, we practice them all the time, or do we? We rely on the skills that we have in order to perform our tasks safely and efficiently. But how often do we recognize that our skills are not as keen as they used to be? It’s an interesting question to ponder.
Think of it this way. Actors need to rehearse their lines before filming the scene, athletes’ need to practice the plays before playing the game, and yes, even workers in common type careers need to practice their skills before performing on the job. Have you thought about the skills that you use every day? Are you practicing them before you put them to use in your task? Have you ever noticed when you are seeing or learning something for the first time that you go at it more cautiously? What would happen if you just rushed the process and didn’t take the time to look at why the task would need to be done a certain way? What could the end result be? Without practice and looking at the task in a cautious manner and understanding what could actually happen, things can frequently go wrong.
Those of you that know me, know how much I love to golf. Golf is played by many different skill level athletes and I am certainly no exception. You will never see me on the big stage, but that doesn’t mean that I do not continually try to improve my game. The golf swing is an art form, or skill. If I tried to think of each little thing that I have to do in the order that I have to do it each time I swing the club, my golf swing would be a disaster. How a golfer avoids this, is by practice. The swing must rely on muscle memory so that everything happens when it is supposed to happen, and the club strikes the ball in the center of the club face and the golfer finishes the swing while facing their intended target. Simply put, this means the golfer must plan, practice, and end the swing correctly, each and every swing. It takes muscle memory to do this, and muscle memory is only achieved by practicing. Every time before I play, I practice on the range or putting green. I do this to help my body retain the muscle memory needed to have the same swing each time. Just like the actor wants to make sure that they say the line correctly and give an award-winning performance, or the players on a team rehearse the play to know how to execute it properly.
So my question to you is, how are you practicing your skills that you use daily? How would you handle a situation where you are confronted by someone who is challenging you? It happens almost every day and yet most of us are not well-practiced on our skills for dealing with this. This can lead to the situation becoming much worse. No matter what your skill level is on things or no matter how well you may think you know how to do something, you should keep in mind that your skills get weaker the less you practice them. Taking your skills for granted will allow for complacent behavior to take root.
When it comes to safety and working safely with others, there must be a set of skills that you apply in order to have the desired outcome. If you see somebody taking a risk that could injure them or you, how do you confront them? My suggestion would be to follow these steps in order:
1. Remain Calm – Do not let emotion or the heat of the moment take control.
2. Find out WHY? – Ask “darn good” questions about what you see taking place. This means that all the questions you ask should be asked in a manner where the person can never answer with a yes or no response.
3. Display Empathy – There is always a reason the behavior exists, but what you don’t know is the other person’s state of mind. Maybe they are distracted because of something else on their mind. Explain to the person you are concerned about them.
Following these simple steps can lead to a positive outcome and most likely put a quick resolve to the situation at hand. Handling conversations like this is most definitely a skill and in order for you use this skill efficiently, you must practice it regularly. In normal conversations when you try to find things out you ask questions for the purpose of gaining information about whatever it is that you are interested in, right? Treat this type of conversation the in the same manner. If you want to gain information about what you see taking place, then you need to act as if the conversation is normal in its tone and nature. Setting your emotions to the side, keeps the tone of the conversation civil. Asking “darn good” questions means that are asking for information to explain what you see happening. And displaying empathy at all times shows the other person that you are genuinely concerned about them and what is taking place. In closing, if you take the time to practice your communication skills regularly, you will no doubt gain more information about why something is taking place. This will allow you to provide a solution that is better equipped to reverse the negative action and at the same time, show the other party how much you care!