Robservation #1- Filler Words

This is the first of a new ongoing series called “Robservations.” These are intended to inform and start a dialog among professionals in the safety, quality, HOP and leadership fields. They are each based on things I have seen and experienced in my last 25 years of consulting in over 25 countries. I hope you will add to the conversation, and most importantly take some of the learnings to make your organizations and lives better.

This Robservation came out of personal frustration with the use of ‘filler words’ in life in general, but more specifically how I see them impacting our areas of expertise. I am looking forward to some of the future episodes.

Please join us on this journey – Rob Fisher, President and Director of Operations, Fisher Improvement Technologies

Robservation #1 – Filler Words

Hi, I’m Rob Fisher. Welcome to my first Robservation. These snippets are intended to give you my perspective on what I’m seeing out there in safety and quality as I travel around the world working with leaders. Today’s Robservation is focused on filler or crutch words and how they may potentially impact safety. You know, we’ve heard a lot about “safety differently” as the big picture of how leaders and organizations should see and think about safety, and that’s great – but sometimes “safety differently” may be just about changing or doing something a little differently that will impact this task at this time. Sometimes “safety differently” may just mean changing what you do in a situation with the intent that will improve the probability of a better outcome. Take the example of a crew that I saw performing a pre-task brief not long ago. It was a pre-task brief for tailboard outside, and the leader of the pre-task brief was an experienced and seasoned supervisor. But he used some words and phrases that the famous US Judge Judy calls “filler words.” (Judge Judy: “I don’t want to hear a ‘like’ what happened or a ’basically’ what happened; those are filler words.”) These filler words seem to impact the effectiveness of the briefing. The briefing went something like this: “Ok, so basically today we’re here to talk about our High Risk Task-of-the-Day…and, like, even though it’s high risk, uh, basically we need to cover all of the, uh, you know, physical risks that literally impact us and like the, uh, other risks…like, performance risk…and, and, and literally, we need to talk about these – obviously, we know what the physical risks are…”. Even though I left out some of the real hazards they discussed, I thought I was just bothered by these “millennial” words – “like”, and “so” and “so” and “like” and “basically”- and I heard them from my granddaughter and parroted them back and watched her roll her eyes; but however this was a seasoned supervisor with an experienced crew, and I realized this isn’t a millennial thing at all. As I watched this crew, I realized that they missed some of the key points of risk that the supervisor was trying to convey. It was only after a discussion that it was revealed that the risks they missed were actually buried in the filler words. How could this impact safety at your workplace? What about other important or critical outcomes? Are you aware of when you use filler words, and are you willing to intentionally influence the impact that they have on the understanding of your audience? Please share your experiences in the comments, and let’s start a dialogue. Thank you for contributing to this episode of Robservations and see you next time. Remember: intentional leadership starts with you.

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