Leadership and Communication Skills for the EHS Professional: Would You Rather Be a Buffalo or a Goose?

By Fulwiler, Richard D. | Occupational Hazards, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Leadership and Communication Skills for the EHS Professional: Would You Rather Be a Buffalo or a Goose?


Fulwiler, Richard D., Occupational Hazards


Most EHS professionals are not trained in the so-called "soft skills" such as basic leadership, written and oral communication and listening. I can vouch for that. I accumulated three science-oriented degrees (B.S., M.S. and Sc.D.) and was well prepared in the technical aspects of occupational health and safety, but terribly wanting in the soft skills or "sales skills" I needed to leverage my technical expertise. I was well-positioned to work and communicate with my EHS peers, but not well-equipped to work effectively with my customers, such as labor reps, workers, plant managers and general management.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

This article is intended to discuss the nontechnical skills so essential in optimizing our effectiveness. Our technical skills give us the right to succeed, but it is our personal leadership and communication skills that provide the way we succeed.

BUFFALO, GEESE AND LEADERSHIP

The dictionary defines leadership as "taking others to places they would not normally go." I prefer to define leadership on a more personal basis: the taking of ourselves to places we would not normally go. Leadership does not need to mean being the boss. Leadership also can mean how well we leverage our functional responsibility as an EHS professional. For example, you may be the industrial hygienist or the safety engineer on a task force building a new plant. You are not the project leader, but you are clearly the leader in terms of your functional responsibility. No one else is as well-prepared to offer input on industrial hygiene and safety as you.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

That brings us to the buffalo and the goose. Buffalo travel in herds and there is one leader. What happens when the lead buffalo is eliminated? The herd is in disarray and falls easy prey to its assailants, as you may remember from the movie "Dances With Wolves." However, geese travel in formation and rotate the leadership. That is the point; we all are leaders of our functional responsibility and therefore, need skills not typically developed by our formal training. Incidentally, what would be another term for the formation geese fly in? How about "t-e-a-m?" Geese flying in formation are 71 percent more efficient than when flying solo. No different than us HSE professionals. We need the skills to be solid team players. This article will focus on listening skills and effective business communications--both critical for personal leadership and teamwork.

LISTENING

Listening often is described as the most important sales communication skill. It makes sense: How else would we know what the customer needs, wants and desires if we didn't listen to the customer? You say you are not in sales. Wrong. We all are in sales. As HSE professionals, we are selling injury and illness prevention and environmental quality to our customers.

Given the importance of listening, think about how much formal training you've had in listening: 2 weeks, 1 week, 1 day or maybe none for many of us. Yet listening is critical to our ability to influence change. Next, we must realize that listening is not a passive activity. Listening is actually a dialogue, not a monologue where the speaker speaks and the listener merely listens.

Listening requires the use of our eyes, mouth, brain, body and, oh yes, our ears. We need our eyes so we can see the expression and body language, our mouth to acknowledge and clarify, our brain to assimilate the message, our body to indicate we are open and understanding, and our ears to hear the words and how they are spoken. This simple model should be most helpful in growing our listening skills.

Words, Dance, Music: This simple model in Figure 1 demonstrates the active nature of listening and the importance of non-verbal listening. The table shows the approximate contribution each component of this model provides to effective listening. Words account for a mere one-third, the tone or inflection of the words (i.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Leadership and Communication Skills for the EHS Professional: Would You Rather Be a Buffalo or a Goose?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.