True Leaders Don’t Want “Yes” Men, By Olawale Ogunyebi
…Develop a reputation for treating every major HSEQ decision like a business decision
Introducing “HSEQ Career Column” with Olawale Ogunyebi.
The HSEQ Career Column is a weekly article series written by Olawale Ogunyebi, a DuPont Master Coach, Besafe Super Trainer and a former Africa Regional Safety Operations Manager (Unilever). He is presently the Managing Partner at MTC ENT. Dev. Limited. The purpose of this series is to mentor entry-level and struggling HSEQ professionals, narrating and drawing out lessons from the writer’s real-life experiences in the safety industry. Catch up with the posts you’ve missed HERE.
I was preparing to close for the day when my Manager sent for me. On entering the room, I noticed other managers.
It was obvious they have all been waiting for me. “Wale, I understand some of the products have been placed under Quality hold in preparation for sorting?”
“Yes sir”, I said scanning my boss’s face for clues. Then in his most deliberate and authoritative tone, he said. “I am the … Director and I want you to release those products for sale immediately”.
Then he added, “I know the risk and I am ready to accept full responsibility.” I broke out in cold sweat.
The annual appraisal was just about the corner and here I am between the devil and the deep sea. “Sir, from our experience, the defect is always about 1-2%, and …’’.
He interrupted me and roared “exactly Wale. This is the reason why I am ready to take the risk. 1% of 100 tons is insignificant. My friend, I don’t have much time, go and release the product right now to the trade”.
“Ok sir”, I replied. I was deep in thought and confused at the same time. Looking at his face, I knew he was dead serious but…is this the best decision? I thought.
Sales have been good on this particular product but we’ve also had quality issues in recent past.
I was not too sure my boss was fully aware of the implication of his decision.
I made it as if I was going out of his office, then turned back and said, “Boss, 1% defect of this product is equivalent to 1000 consumer units, meaning 1000 consumers”.
I waited for his reaction. He raised his head and looked at me. It was his turn to look dazed.
Then he said “Really? I never viewed it from that perspective. 1000 consumer units? That is much. Go and do your sorting before releasing the product. But I need it done faster”
“Yes sir’’ I shouted. It was a great relief for me.
True leaders don’t want “yes” men. If you see your boss steering for rocks, as a professional, please raise your hand and say something. You are also on the ship. Here are a few tips to help you:
1. Think like a business leader. Develop a reputation for treating every major HSEQ decision like a business decision, not just an HSEQ decision.
2. Remember you are the expert. Work like a credible consultant. Know the standards and applicable legislations and think of how you can add value to the business.
3. Be open and honest. Where possible always support your position with data. It was Edwards Deming that said, “In God we trust, all others must bring data.”
4. It is ok to voice a dissenting opinion but be respectful and make sure you have an alternative.