Human Performance Improvement Safety Moment: Mostly Proud, Kind of Annoyed.

Kids. Am I right? You’re pretty sure they are roundly ignoring everything you say until they have the opportunity to throw your words back at you. When they do you’re a little conflicted. “Great. They were listening to my sage advice… but do they have to be so condescending about it?” I thought I’d share a recent moment when this happened to me as it involved a Human Performance Improvement safety moment.

My adult-ish son and I had plans to go to my son-in-law’s family property to shoot skeet or clay pigeons. Now when I say “adult-ish” I mean he’s 22; old enough to vote, not old enough to rent a car, young enough to stay on my health insurance since he’s still in college. You get the picture. My son-in-law had just gotten a brand-new shotgun and was anxious to try it out. Since it had been years since we last shot skeet, we decided to clean and oil my old shotgun and join him for an afternoon of shooting. 

When we met him in the field I noticed that my 20-year-old shotgun was almost identical to his brand-new one. We both had a Remington 870; same barrel length and same wood grain color. I use my gun so infrequently it looks brand-new too. The only difference between the two was that I had a plug installed so mine could only hold three shells and my son-in-law’s could hold five. If you don’t know, federal law mandates that you can only have three shells in your gun when hunting migratory birds and the plug takes up the room of two shells to maintain this limit. Using a good Questioning Attitude, my son asked how we would know if we had a gun with five rounds or three rounds. The most efficient thing to do would be to remove the plug from my gun so we would need to reload less often. I guess I put the magazine cap back on too tight because we couldn’t get it off by hand and we didn’t have any tools in the field with us to remove the plug.

Since I couldn’t get the plug out of my gun I suggested that we limit ourselves to only putting three shells in either gun. I thought it was a pretty good solution. If we mutually agree to only load three shells, then we’ll always know how many rounds are in either gun. My son furrowed his brow at me, turned to his brother-in-law and asked, “Do you have the plug for your gun?”. He did. “Put the plug in your shotgun, too.” Anxious to start shooting I said, “Why? If we only put three in either gun, then we don’t need the plug.” Some of you are probably way ahead of me and know exactly how I just set myself up for condescension and smugly delivered scorn.

“Well, Dad, as I’ve heard repeatedly my entire life, if there is a way to engineer around a potential problem and remove the human factor, then you should do that. If we install the plug then we can remove the potential that one of us forgets and loads more than three shells. Now we have a physical barrier and I don’t have to trust that you loaded the gun correctly.” Pause for effect, “Don’t you do Human Performance stuff for a living? Pay attention; you might learn something.”

This was promptly followed by a little back and forth that ended with me threatening to tell his mom. So as the title says, I was mostly proud but kind of annoyed. I was proud that he had indeed listened all those times I was wearing him out with Human Performance. I was proud he looked at the situation and didn’t take a pretty good solution when a better one was available. I was a little annoyed for setting myself up for this and by his approach to coaching. I mean, he’s seen the Knowledge Vine COACH model… he should know how to coach better!