Simple Tactic To Prevent Danger of Distracted Workers

A distracted worker is a dangerous worker, especially when workers work in dangerous environments. Simple cue words and mantra such as “harm prevention requires attention” can make a difference ONLY IF leaders overcome the monstrous level of resistance that crush efforts to improve performance.

Simple Tactic To Prevent Danger of Distracted Workers

By: Chad Pearson

A distracted worker is a dangerous worker, especially when workers work in dangerous environments. Simple cue words and mantra such as “harm prevention requires attention” can make a difference ONLY IF leaders overcome the monstrous level of resistance that crush efforts to improve performance.

The monstrous level of resistance to performance initiatives is now amplified with covid constraints. Construction sites are chaotic environments managed by workers who are enduring their own level of daily stressors and distraction. Adding covid constraints to job sites and personal lives exacerbates the impact of daily stressors and decreases attention which invites disaster.

There is a strong solution to this at the end of this article but first, I need your attention so I can explain 3 challenges that need to be understood in order to execute the solution successfully.

Stay with me here… 

  1. Challenge of attention: The evidence that we live in the “Age of Distraction” is insurmountable. If you doubt that statement, simply search the term and you’ll be overwhelmed with reputable studies.  

At Plexxis Software, we teach a 20-session course on high performance and overcoming distraction. Cue words and mantra is 1 of the 20 classes…The irony here is that we would love to share all 20 parts, but current attention spans would prevent learning. In fact, despite performance and safety being critical to 100% of contractors, 38% of readers have already stopped reading and only 50% will read up to 50% of this article. 

Even worse, only 4% – 6% of readers will likely execute this tactic, despite the fact it is simple and effective. Lack of attention is a core problem creating risk and preventing performance.

 A solution: Mandate tactics that improve attention. Cue words and mantra is one of those tactics as it helps trigger attention to specific behaviors and actions that help the mission.

 “Speaking of attention, congratulations to those who are still reading. You’re already in the top 60% of those maintaining attention. Let’s see who makes it to the top 4%”.

  1. Challenge of VUCA: VUCA is a military acronym for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. It characterizes difficult environments that often have risk of bodily harm, death and critical cognitive stress.

 The VUCA nature of construction makes it more difficult for people to learn and execute new skills compared to safer, more straightforward environments. 

 A Solution:   Cue words and mantra help simplify behaviors and actions to a level that makes it easier for people to make good decisions and take the right action, at the right time in scenarios they were trained in. Mandating the daily practice of the tactics below will help successful execution. 

  1. Challenge of the human brain: During chaos and critical stress, the brain is often controlled by the limbic system, the emotional part of the brain responsible for freeze, flight or fight responses. The limbic system reduces performance so much that skills learned in basic training and certification courses can end up being as effective as an umbrella in a hurricane.

 A solution: Cue words and mantra can help people suffering the impact of critical stress on the brain, trigger the proper response needed in scenarios they were trained for.

“Congratulations again…you’re now in the top 50% of those maintaining attention. Can you make it to the top 4% who execute?”.

Let’s dive into the solution…

Top performing professional fighters, military and police are required to make decisions faster than most humans can consider options in VUCA scenarios.  Cue words and mantra condense complex concepts and solutions for specific scenarios into a descriptive and memorable communication that triggers good decisions and actions. 

 Examples of cue word mantra in professional MMA…

When a fighter is in combat and their coach sees an immediate opportunity that might only be available for a moment, the coach will communicate the ‘learned’ cue word so the fighter can execute proper technique fast enough to win the moment.

 Examples of cue word mantra in Police work…

When an arrest escalates into a violent confrontation, well trained officers use the mantra ‘secure and scan’ to remind them to look around for other assailants when they have moments of control in the confrontation. 

Another mantra well trained officers use is ‘change your mag when you can, not when you have too’. This helps ensure officers do timely reloads of their firearm during gunfights to maintain tactical advantage.

Example of cue word mantra for safety in construction…

A good mantra for safety on the job site is ‘walk & scan’. The intention of ‘walk and scan’ is to have all workers scanning for safety hazards each time they are walking on the job site.

 All too often, workers ‘zone out’ or use their phones as they walk on or off the site, get materials or go to the washroom. This lack of attention to safety can be catastrophic in VUCA environments. Walk and scan mantra is a simple tactic with the massive potential of turning every worker into a safety officer.   

 Let’s get real…

Cue words and mantra is only one of many performance tactics, but it is the simplest and it saves lives. We challenge all contractors to have the leadership and attention to execute to perfection.

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