As I connected my laptop to the projector for the workshop, the chair of the TEXO Safety Committee asked if he could present an award prior to my presentation.
“You’ll like this,” he said. “It’s our monthly Hispanic Safety Superstar Award.”
The award was given to Raymond Torres Meza of Capform, a concrete contractor. The Safety Committee Chair read a prepared description from those who knew him well at Capform. It detailed Raymond’s personal life, his family, and his outstanding work over the previous year at a terminal expansion at Dallas International Airport.
The Safety Committee chair, who also works on the terminal expansion, gave a candid, off-the-cuff account of what great work Raymond does, day in and day out. Raymond Torres Meza accepted the award, had his photo taken and received a standing ovation from the 75+ in attendance.
Interested to learn more, I asked a Safety Committee member, “Why do you do this?”
“Well, we give out lots of awards throughout the year and they pretty much all go to English-speakers,” she said. “We wanted a way to recognize the great work the Hispanic craft workers do. It’s important to catch people doing something right instead of only yelling at them when they do things incorrectly.”
Brilliant. . . in an understated, why-doesn’t-everyone-do-this? sort of way.
TEXO’s Hispanic Safety Superstar Award stands in stark contrast to the most consistent leadership failure I witness around the country: the lack of positive reinforcement from English-speaking managers towards Hispanic workers.
Even if the motivation is pure enlightened self-interest (I don’t care about those workers at all, but I want them to keep doing what they are doing), some encouragement is better than none.
Frank Blake, the outgoing CEO at Home Depot was thrust into the top job after the much-heralded Bob Nardelli alienated Home Depot partners, employees, customers and presumably, Homer, the big-nosed, poor-sighted Home Depot mascot.
A lawyer by trade, Blake learned to be unlawyerly.
“The only way people know what you want,” Blake said in a recent Fortune magazine article, “is that you celebrate when they get it right. I am a lawyer. Lawyers don’t celebrate shit.”
(Blake also tweets pictures of his top associates on his personal account.)
TEXO’s Hispanic Safety Superstar Award is all about celebrating when workers get it right. Guys like Raymond Torres Meza have been getting it right for a long time. So celebrate it.
Let them know that is exactly what you want more of.
Appreciation, recognition and thanks – these things transcend race, culture and language.
You’ve got plenty of Hispanic superstars on your job right now.
Catch them doing something right.
And then act like a Home Depot CEO and start celebrating shit.
Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a training, consulting and eLearning firm bridging the English-Spanish language gap in the construction industry.
Categories: Jobsite Leadership