I spent three fascinating days this week as a guest in a workshop on a subject with which I had no familiarity, delivered by a presenter with whom I have great familiarity.
The topic was on developing Competency Maps and I came away convinced that I would be remiss in my duties by not introducing the power of this method to all of my corporate clients.
The presenter was my wife Gimalle, and despite the 21st anniversary of our first date rapidly approaching, this was the first time I had ever observed her delivering a full program.
I have long believed her to be a gifted and articulate speaker and both her obvious comfort with the topic and her skill in conveying the message confirmed that presenting in front of groups is her gift, what she was born to do.
The central theme of this model was safety in the transportation industry and as I listened to the discussions around the table I was reminded of a conversation from many years ago with a traffic police officer.
This man had attended hundreds of traffic accidents many of which resulted in serious injuries and fatalities.
He explained to me that the common theme behind virtually everyone of these tragic incidents was the role played by that easily controllable component, human error.
He pointed out that each of us who drive a vehicle, and have done so for an extended period without incident, have sheer luck to thank for the fact that we have all our body parts functioning and intact.
He stated an undeniable truth that everyone of us has, at some time, while operating a vehicle, done something that under a slightly different circumstance could have produced a horrifying, life-altering result.
We have all driven too fast, followed too close, taken our eyes off the road, sped up to avoid having to wait at a red light, crossed the centreline into the adjacent lane, sent a quick text and done a host of other driver-careless things.
He said that nothing other than good luck has prevented us from becoming a statistic thereby being the cause of him having to begin another investigation.
The word he used to describe our behaviour is complacency and it is a word I have given much thought to over the years.
Dictionary.com defines complacency as a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.
To me, complacency is a false sense of comfort, the taking for granted of a future result based principally on our own experience of performing these same functions many times in the past without any form of ill consequence.
There is a new condo building being developed right across from where we live and Gimalle and I have watched as workers go about their duties inches from unsecured ledges, many floors up from the ground, without taking the time to put on the required fall-protection equipment that would save their lives in the event of a fall.
We have complained to both the site management and the governmental authority responsible for overseeing workplace and yet we have seen no change in the conduct of these workers.
I stopped to chat with a few of the workers as I walked by their site during their lunch break a few weeks ago. I mentioned I had seen them working and asked why so few of them used the required safety equipment.
Their replies fit right in with the above definition of complacency. Ranging from: “I’ve done this a million times before,” to “It is such a pain and waste of time to hook up to all this equipment.” Their replies were no different from ours when asked why we didn’t wear a seatbelt to drive to the store and we respond by saying, “It’s only four blocks away.”
Had someone three years ago forecast that the province of Alberta would have an NDP government, that person would surely have been locked away in an asylum.
Today that government reigns and it is my belief they do so simply because the previous government – with more than 40 years in power – had become so complacent in their actions, and too comfortable in their belief victory would always be theirs.
History is filled with stories of powerful regimes crumbling principally because the leadership convinced themselves that the past will equal the future and power would be theirs forever.
The past does not equal the future and believing it does is lulling ourselves into a false sense of security that can produce deadly results.
I believe the opposite of being complacent is to be vigilant, to take nothing for granted, and to put as much energy, effort and focus as we did the very first time, into everything we do, even when doing it for the millionth time.
Till we read again.