The Need To Continue Learning – Plains Perspective

Date PublishedMay 29, 2014
CompanyPlains Fabrication
Article AuthorTom McCaffery
Article TypeMay – June 2014 Issue
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HUB SEARCHPlainsFabrication
PULSE Interactive

The Need To Continue Learning – Plains Perspective

We continue to insulate our companies in order to protect our companies. All we are truly doing is fooling ourselves into a false sense of security.

Recently, I have been busy with both work and school. I decided a few months ago to take some courses at the University of Calgary. I was unhappy with the way things were going in my career, because I felt I wasn’t being effective as a leader. I had the same initial reaction most would: I was blaming those around me for what was going wrong. I have been a successful manager for almost 20 years, so I couldn’t possibly be the problem. I think I spent about a week with this thought in my head, and I was even getting to the point of thinking through some personnel changes I thought were required.

I finally sat down and started thinking about the possible root causes of these issues. I added myself to the list. It was a little startling that some problem performers all had one common denominator, and that was yours truly. At this point, I have to be honest again, I didn’t put a lot of stock into me being the problem. As I combed through the facts, I came to the following issues I brought to the table.

PRO: 20 years of success
CON: All in a different industry
PRO: Good communication skills
CON: All with a different set of trades
PRO: Strong leadership skills
CON: All learned on the job

There was more, but it seemed to me every one of my strengths had a possible weakness behind it.

It was in that moment, I thought it still couldn’t possibly be me (I say that more than somewhat facetiously). It was also in that moment, I realized until I could rule myself out of the equation I wasn’t ready to make small or sweeping changes to the people around me.

Outsourcing SafetyWith this article already being full of painful admissions, I will say after being out of school for just over 20 years, it took more than a little while to shake the cobwebs out of my foggy grey hair-covered head. To admit even more painful workings of my inner mind, I didn’t actually think I was going to learn nearly as much as I have. I thought I would get a small percent of ROI to a rather substantial investment. Boy, was I wrong! I am happy to report in many cases I have realized certain things I naturally do well, have a theory or can be found inside an actual textbook.

Outsourcing Safety

Going forward, we are light years ahead of the other countries not capable of handling internal issues with the same level of strength, determination, and openness as us.

Along with some things I reconfirmed I was good at I was also able to expand my knowledge in those areas. I learned many new concepts and can honestly say my initial want for a simple certificate has turned into a path which will eventually net me some letters behind my name, such as PMP, MBA, or CMC (assuming I can pass the exams and course work). More importantly, I am more effective, because I am using the textbooks to train my managers by directing people towards the training I feel they need, because I have been through it and can recognize the value.

I am also making more confident decisions, and I am realizing because we did not have a performance management system, I wasn’t being fully engaged with my managers. Judging them was unfair without a platform for regular communication. I have begun to learn of the power of coaching after I learned I was the “King of Close Ended Questions”. I gained huge insights into my people by learning about Emotional Intelligence, and I even learned I had a pretty high degree of EQ (in my own opinion, of course).

I have to commend the U of C for having some great teachers who bring some potentially boring subjects to life. I can say the overall experience has made me a better manager. As with all training, you only get out of it what you put into it. I was there to learn eagerly, and I have brought back many new ideas. I have delved into things I already knew, but I wanted it. I do see the people who are really only there for the “piece of paper”, and I think it is a sad reason to attend a class. I have also met some great adult students who attend classes with open minds and the desire to learn.

I guess my main message is if you are not getting the results you want from your employees, I recommend you start looking at your own faults first. You will only succeed by understanding your own strengths and weaknesses and trying to improve. Actually, you just have to want to improve. You can micromanage and try to solve your organizations problems one procedure at a time, or you can focus on the people and figure out how to utilize them to their full capabilities. The knowledge is there. There are companies that use it, and there are companies that can’t shake off the cobwebs.

Here’s hoping you are not too old of a dog to learn some new tricks. Self-evaluation is not an easy thing to do, butgo online and look at the theory surrounding “feedback loops”. Have a look at emotional intelligence, performance management, coaching, and organizational communication theory. I could go on and on. You come to realize sitting around having your hundredth conversation about “accountability” could be solved by seeking the knowledge you need to let “accountability” have a platform your employees can understand.

A Call to Arms… A Vision for a Stronger Canadian Manufacturing Industry

Tom McCaffery
General Manager






Originally published in the

May – June 2014 Issue of Oilfield PULSE