Mansdorf Offers 15 Tips to Establish Leadership in EHS

At the EHS Today Web Expo and Conference 2010, held April 28, keynote speaker Zack Mansdorf, Ph.D., CIH, CSP, QEP, offered 15 tips to help EHS professionals establish a leadership program in EHS. Mansdorf, a consultant in sustainability and EHS, is a former senior vice president, L'Oreal, and a past president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

Mansdorf, a frequent contributor to EHS Today, said his recommendations are based on his experience in many different industry sectors and roles. Mansdorf noted, “Organizational culture plays a major role and can be difficult to change.”

While not all of his 15 “quick tips” will apply to every situation or person, he added, “Establishing your leadership role is the single most important aspect to EHS success.”

Mansdorf’s 15 tips are:

1. Have a vision and stick to it – Mansdorf asked attendees about their vision for the next 5 years. He wanted to know what they wanted or expect to accomplish. For example, did they want to have the best EHS performance in their sector? Once the overall vision is established, stick with it, Mansdorf advised, adding, “Do not allow day to day events to take you off the path to success.”

2. Establish firm rules – What are the company rules in EHS, asked Mansdorf. Does everyone, even management, understand the rules and can the rules be enforced? Guidelines are helpful, he noted, but are not as effective as absolute rules. “If the rule(s) is not effective or is not applied, get rid of the rule. Never negotiate or grant exemptions,” said Mansdorf.

3. Establish annual goals – What are the EHS goals for the company? Mansdorf advised establishing five to 10 annual goals with your leadership, and making them “stretch goals but not impractical goals.” EHS professionals can establish longer-term goals (5-10 years out), but should have annual increments so progress can be monitored.

4. Report on progress or the lack of progress (quarterly for a start) – EHS professionals should report on EHS progress with key metrics monthly (YTD and percentage change for the month, YTD against last year, YTD against the goals, etc), and assure the reporting is widely communicated throughout the management structure. Mansdorf suggested involving the executive committee, if possible.

5. Involve all employees – Make sure you involve all employees in your goals (actively or passively), said Mansdorf, and assure employees know how they are performing against other locations in the key EHS metrics. Encourage all employees to be active in your EHS program, and “Give ‘sermons’ as often as possible to employees directly and indirectly affected,” suggested Mansdorf.

6. Establish competition and reward success

7. Benchmark, benchmark, benchmark – If possible, establish professional relationships (though organizations, etc.) with your competition and benchmark on EHS issues and programs. Mansdorf also suggested benchmarking against EHS leaders and benchmarking with your peers and adopting the program that can work for your organization. Share your findings with leadership, he suggested.

8. Be honest in all dealings – “Always be honest even if it is bad news,” said Mansdorf. “Never ‘spin’ the truth,” with employees or management. He suggested sharing failures, just as successes are shared, because to do so “is critical to establish credibility and professionalism.” He also suggested giving credit to others for successes when it is due.

9. Find a mentor – Find someone in the company who believes in your vision and consult that person often for advice. Do not use your mentor as a foil against your leadership and do not go over your boss’ head to leadership, said Mansdorf.

10. Establish relationships – Establish good working relationships, but keep boundaries in mind and do not allow friendship to cloud your professional decisions.

11. Hire good staff and trust them – Technical competence and good judgment should be a key criteria for new staff, said Mansdorf, and trust your staff unless proven otherwise. Allow staff some decision-making authority and mentor them. “The better they are viewed, the better you are viewed,” said Mansdorf.

12. Encourage/mentor direct and indirect reports – Be a mentor to your direct and indirect reports and encourage their professional and company growth. “In most cases,” said Mansdorf, “they will largely be responsible for your success or failure.”

13. Don’t negotiate – If you have rules, don’t negotiate on them once established. “If you negotiate on the rules, they are not rules,” said Mansdorf. “Be reasonable and flexible, but not on your principles.”

14. Look for outside advice – You cannot know everything, so look for good advice from expert consultants, peers, business managers and others, said Mansdorf. You can decide if the advice will work for your situation.

15. Be active in professional organizations – “Networking is always positive for your career,” said Mansdorf.

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