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IAEI Magazine | Author: Steve Foran
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Steve Foran

Steve Foran is an electrical engineer with an MBA that has been transformed into a Gratitude Engineer. Steve specializes in helping organizations overcome the attitudes of entitlement and complacency that somehow seem to creep into workplaces. Through his research, speaking, writing and consulting he helps organizations build healthier workplace cultures. You can find out more about Steve and his work at


Exceptions into Excellence

You must have very clear rules that apply to procedures related to safety. For example, at our electric utility there was a policy governing when customers requested power turned on (which we did at the meter) that they must be home at the time power is connected. No exceptions. The spirit behind this policy was to prevent an accident such as a fire caused by a box left on an electric stovetop that had an element turned "on” and inadvertently left "on” when the premises were without power.

The Missing Link to Excellent Service

Over the last few weeks I have been on the receiving end of unprecedented levels of customer service — at both extremes of the spectrum. The four quick incidents that follow all happened during a weekend away with some old friends.

The Wrong Way to be Right

Last summer my wife and I moved into a neighborhood close to where we both grew up. The deck railing on our new home was too low and took away from the appearance of the house. We decided to replace it with an updated railing system. We were looking for something a little different but not too extravagant, and within our budget. We found a creative young woodworker who specializes in unique projects.

How close would you stand to a jet engine?

In the early 90s, utilities were in the midst of massive change as downsizing, right-sizing—or whatever you called it — swept the continent. Driven by technology, fewer people were needed to get the same work done and from this emerged an industry called Process Re-engineering.

The Calling of an Inspector

The first time I came eye to eye with a 600-volt system was during the commissioning of a new amusement park. To me, the utility engineer, it was a low voltage system but not so to the customer and indeed 600 volts is a high voltage.

Gratitude — The Path to Excellence

After one of my gratitude workshops, a business owner remarked, "If I let my staff know that I am grateful for their performance when they fall short of a goal, I am basically giving them permission to underperform. And I just cannot allow that because we will never grow or achieve our stretch goals.” I did not offer up a good response and his comments sent me searching for a better answer. Here goes…

Appreciating Hazardous Areas

It was the turn of the century and after thirteen years working on the utility side of the transformer I took on the role of managing a Hazardous Area Electrical Training Center. Ironically, at the time I was completely unaware of hazardous areas. Hey, everyone has to learn about something for the first time.

Selective Coordination as a Source of Pride

Can you think of an accomplishment that is a source of great pride? My foray into selective coordination served as my introduction to the electric utility industry. A coordination study was my very first job as an engineer. Quite honestly, when I started, I had no idea of what I was being asked to do.

The Grateful Leader

Here is a simple idea to enhance your capacity for leadership using gratitude. Gratitude is often misinterpreted as a sign of weakness — especially in business. For instance, the majority of my clients at some point tell me that they are nervous about hiring me because they were not sure how their people would respond to the idea of gratitude, but it does not take long for them to realize that gratitude can seriously improve their ability to lead others and to achieve results.

Jumping to Conclusions

Can you think of a time when you thought you were being taken advantage of… and later realized that you were wrong? A friend related a recent experience to me. He described a confrontation with a middle-aged man who scours the streets in his neighbourhood looking through garbage for beverage containers that he returns for cash.

Develop Greater Collaboration

Collaboration separates excellence from mediocrity. Whether it is two people in adjacent offices or an entire city electrical inspection department, if the people involved are unwilling to collaborate, they will produce mediocre results.

Grounded in Gratitude

Yesterday I got a call from a friend who thought he had an electrical problem at his home. He said, "I was digging in the flower bed out back and hit a heavy gauge green wire with a steel rod attached to it.”

Appreciating the Electrical Pioneers

About ten years ago I had an appointment with a potential major client in the Houston area. I picked up a rental car at the airport and as I was driving to their office, I decided to catch up on my voicemail. Not being familiar with where their office was located and having driven in Houston only a couple of times previously, I realized that I probably should not be using a cellular phone and driving at the same time. So, after about 20 minutes, I turned the phone off and concentrated on the drive.

Gratitude – the Common Denominator between Giving and Safety

Recently I found myself attempting to explain to a close friend and business associate why I left my job to start a new line of work. At some point in our conversation I said, "I have a need to give and I believe that everyone has this need to give, to serve, to help others.” I explained to him that it was born out of gratitude for everything that I had received in my life … a life that, I am sure like your life, has its share of hardships.

The Tragedy of Complacency — Improving Safety with Gratitude

Complacency causes accidents. Although many other factors come into play in the prevention of accidents, few are simpler to overcome than the state of being complacent.