Out of the Box-Skills for Developing Your Own Career Path

By Mark D. Hansen, P.E., CPE, CSP

I found Mark Hansen's book to be a very useful and practical collection of ideas for personal effectiveness and although this book is focused on safety professionals, the wisdom it contains can be applied to any career. What was refreshing to me in reading the book was its practical nature and repeated use of examples and real life experiences. This gives the material a high degree of credibility and gives the reader a quick understanding of how to apply what is covered. There are too many business and personal development books written today that deal strictly at the abstract level and fail to bring the concepts down to where the rubber meets the road. This book is very usable, very immediately, and thus is aptly titled, "Out of the Box".

As a former industrial plant manager I found Mr. Hansen's chapter entitled "Safety as a Business Function" to be particularly satisfying to read. I have been approached more times than I can count by safety and environmental professionals with programs, processes and projects that are incompletely justified. Many times the homework is just not done in terms of getting a proper financial analysis completed and in terms of succinctly summarizing the regulatory references that justify what is proposed. Many safety professionals would do well to study this chapter, prepare their sales pitches with a business approach in mind, and thus shorten the time that their idea gets approved and over the long term improve their batting average. The plant manager is only trying to fulfill their responsibility to higher authority to assure that limited financial resources are invested wisely and properly. I was once told that CEO's only understand three things: money, how to make money and how not to lose money. That's the common denominator in the business world we live in. Mr. Hansen does an excellent job keying in on the need for sound business thinking.

Another aspect of Mr. Hansen's book that is worth noting is the extensive material he presents regarding how to manage one's career. All too often professional people get so much absorbed in the tasks at hand and neglect spending time thinking about long range issues that impact their career. In our fast-paced world it is very easy to get myopic. The recurring theme throughout the book is that you can control your results. He speaks of having a five-year plan that details a vision and a strategy for getting to a desirable end result. He gives useful ideas, which he has validated through his own successful career, that when applied can avoid pitfalls and accelerate that move to the corner office. They all make sense and are nicely organized in categories that link together and are easy to follow. There is an excellent checklist on pages 33 to 36 that anyone can use for self-evaluation and reflection. It focuses on key skills needed to advance to executive levels in the organizational structure.

The chapter on leadership is very well done. Mr. Hansen illustrates very clearly the difference between a manager and a leader and emphasizes several important personal virtues that are critical for effective leadership. The principles of faithfulness and good followership as a precursor to leadership roles are powerful concepts that all leaders should read and reflect upon.

All in all, I found Out of the Box to be a great book that I believe should be in every safety professional's reference library.

Bill Bispeck
Executive Coach
Success Advisory Group LLC


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