August 2014

As chief elected officer of the Society, ASSE's president promotes the advancement of the Society and the safety profession, and represents ASSE before members, other relevant professional societies and various governmental agencies. Professional Safety shares his latest thoughts on the Society, the profession and its practice.

Read past messages in the President's Message Archive.

President's Message - May 2008

A new leadership opportunity is emerging to set global direction and advance the SH&E profession. Collectively we have a responsibility to be advocates for ourselves, our profession and each other.

2007-2008 ASSE President Michael W. Thompson, CSP

Advocacy Adds Value

Albert Einstein said, "Thinking is hard work, that's why so few of us do it." Much like thinking, advocacy is hard work-it requires active verbal support followed by genuine action- and too few of us seem to want to invest time in it.

Think about the course of your career and life. If you're like me, you have advocated various ideas and positions. And, like me, you've probably expected these positions to be readily accepted by others only to find that they have little traction among decision makers. When this happens, we wonder why so few are listening. But the real issue is that we too often frame our work services and product in technical jargon when we really should be speaking the language of our customers. We must change our thought processes and expectations in order to frame what we want to accomplish in terms that speak to the needs of those we seek to influence.

Consider the story of the frog born at the bottom of a well. He thought life couldn't get any better until he looked up one day and saw daylight. Climbing up to investigate, he was amazed to find a much larger pond than the one in which he lived. Going a bit further, he discovered a lake that was bigger still. He eventually came upon the ocean-all he could see as he looked around was water. The frog suddenly realized just how limited his thinking had been. He thought everything he needed was down in the well-until he discovered the wider world.

Over the past 5 years, ASSE has taken a similar journey. We have changed the Society's purpose, vision and mission statements and corresponding strategic goals to respond to the evolving global responsibilities of our membership. We have broadened our outlook and see wide-open opportunities to be a global champion of the SH&E professional and a global leader of the profession.

ASSE has invested many resources in advocacy work in order to be viewed as a valuable, contributing partner. Our two primary goals for intersociety and government relations are to promote the role of the SH&E professional and to increase the visibility of the SH&E professional. To achieve these goals on a global scale, we must capitalize on the opportunities presented by events such as the biannual U.S./European Union (EU) safety and health meeting. Hosted by OSHA and the EU Safety and Health Agency, these meetings focus on broad SH&E issues. But the real value of attending is the chance to participate in the offline discussions and networking-to simply be there and be perceived as a global partner. When these international stakeholders meet next in the U.S. in 2009, ASSE's voice must be among those at the table.

Earlier this year, I visited Washington, DC, to meet with government decision makers. It was clear that ASSE is welcome and viewed as a viable constituency in service to their needs. The next step we must take in sustaining our relationship with these decision makers is to help them see how they might assist us in achieving our purpose, vision and mission. Imagine the possibilities when we clearly promote our profession and membership, understand their needs, speak with clarity and through advocacy create a forward agenda each can support.

Advocacy requires the collective leadership of key stakeholders. ASSE members should be among those leaders. SH&E professionals must work with their customers and other stakeholders on risk assessment and risk-based priority approaches that will add value to legal compliance and industry consensus standards in our increasingly global and competitive economy. Such approaches will help our customers achieve safety excellence-and they will help us better promote the advancement of the SH&E profession, and foster the development and professional well-being of our members.

A new leadership opportunity is emerging to set global direction and advance the SH&E profession. As part of its commitment to members, ASSE has built bridges and reached out to many important stakeholders. Through these efforts, we are working to be the catalyst that will initiate an expanded global dialogue. Advocacy is a growth process and it isn't easy. We must work hard each day to find the right words to craft messages in ways that advance the SH&E profession and promote our members. Collectively we have a responsibility to be advocates for ourselves, our profession and each other. Consider the possibilities for real growth and leadership through advocacy.

Michael W. Thompson, CSP