In the National Football League (NFL), there’s a term bantered about by owners, management, coaches, and scouts - it’s “the nerd factor.” In the NFL, it’s a positive term because it often translates into success. Athletes who have “it” are dependable, smart, and strong. I won’t mention names, but some of the best players in the league are labeled as nerds.
In safety, we need to tap into workers who are both followers and leaders. Many can help us take safety performance to a new level. And many of these workers have the nerd factor and simply need a little support, like everyone else - but they also have a distinct edge.
Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with my share of great employees who embraced safety and their role. A number of them had the nerd factor and were a joy to work with, especially when it came to safety. These particular workers were insightful and bright. They had a passion for safety and needed little support once their roles were defined. Many were mentally strong and did not cave to negative peer pressure, especially when they dug into their work and got traction. And most importantly, each of them was dependable. They showed up, got the work done, they’d grind it out, and many kept you informed of barriers, progress, and the path forward.
The term nerd should not have negative connotations when it comes to safety or improving organizational performance. The term should largely be positive.
All things being equal, I'll look for the nerd factor. Some of your best performers have “it” so tap into it and use it. Nerds make our safety world better!