Radical Mindset Shifts - Good for Running, Good for Food Safety Culture

grit mindset Jul 19, 2021

Congrats to me.  Yep.  To me!

Anyone who knows me personally will understand why I am congratulating myself.  You see, I was that driver who proudly displayed the “0.0” sticker in their back car window, and NOW, I’ve just completed a half marathon.  

Here’s why I’m congratulating myself.  In about 20 years, there’s been only a handful of times I haven’t been to the gym multiple times during the week to do some type of strength and/or conditioning program.  In the past 12 years I’ve almost exclusively done weightlifting with a little bit of conditioning thrown in to make my trainer happy.  In fact, I can count the number of times I’ve run on one hand.   Anyone who knows me knows I don’t run.   And that is the story I’ve told myself for about 20 years.

Then COVID hit.  Things got a little wonky, and I became the gym teacher, lunch lady, and math tutor overnight.  Needless to say, those extra duties zapped my time and energy, and gyms were closed. 

After a month of the gym teacher scheduling body weight workouts with my kids, I needed more.  It was crisis time because I was going stir crazy and potato chips filled a void it shouldn’t fill.   As luck would have it, several years before a friend convinced me to consider a 5K run with them so I had downloaded a half marathon running program on my phone.   After seeing the program wanted me to run several times a week, I didn’t use the program, and I didn’t do the 5K.

Twelve weeks ago, that download was just what I needed in my moment of crisis.  Covid.  No gym.  Kids at home.  Me working from home.  I decided it was time to run.  There was none of the complaining, dreading, swearing or other immature things that I normally would do when faced with running.  Instead, I simply told myself I was meant to expand and grow, so I was doing it.  I radically changed my mindset on what I thought I could or couldn’t do.  Now 12 weeks later, I have run 13.1 miles.      

Why am I telling you this story?

I see this same story of what we can or can’t do when it comes to taking care of people in food safety and quality.  Often the FSQ people in our plants or FSQ people directly supporting plants are stressed, overworked, and viewed as the police of the organization.    There’s an expectation that these critical food safety and quality professionals function at high levels, be pleasant, and have all the answers immediately while they are also working 12-hour days, extended hours, weekends, and on-call 24/7/365.  It has been this way for years.  That’s just how it is. 

On top of that, each year there are more risks identified with ingredients, packaging, products, and processing.  There are more government regulations and recalls.  There are more requirements from customers and certification bodies.   For the most part, FSQ teams are expected to handle these additional circumstances and continue to do all their “normal” work. 

Let’s pause for a moment because I do want to recognize the progress made as companies declare food safety as one of their company values, begin discussing food safety culture, and re-iterate people are their greatest assets.     Yet overall companies are still treating people in our most critical food safety roles the same as years ago even though the risks, requirements, regulations, and accountability have radically shifted.     Now throw in COVID. 

Many say this approach to roles in food safety and quality is FINE. It’s what we know.  It’s what’s always been done.  But not me.  I don’t think the way we take care of our FSQ people is FINE and it certainly isn’t FANTASTIC. 

What will it take for us to change the story of how we support our FSQ teams?   When will we decide they are too valuable to leave to chance hoping they simply survive?

It comes down to mindset.  We need to radically change our beliefs and attitudes to fit the changing landscape of the FSQ world.   When we speak about Food Safety Culture being the future path for measuring a company’s food safety risk, I’d challenge us to consider how companies treat their FSQ Teams is a direct reflection of their actual food safety culture.   

Here’s what I know.  We are better together.  And we can make positive change together.  When you dream big about how you and your FSQ teams work and live, what  radical mindset are you setting in action? 

Thanks for the read!

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