Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Worker Safety Leads Company To Riches

In 1987, the biggest aluminium manufacturer of America was on its last legs. With its last gasp, the board hired a promising CEO to save the company from ruin. 

The hire was a success. By the year 2000, the organisation’s income was quintupled.

The winning strategy?


This is the story of Paul O’Neil who saved Alcoa from bankruptcy.

When Paul was made head of Alcoa, the investors called a meeting. Everyone wanted to hear the savior’s grand plan.

On the day of the speech, shareholders expected to hear talk about profit margins, revenue projections, and inventories.

Instead, Paul spoke about worker safety.

The crowd was stunned.

As soon as Paul left the stage, a handful of financiers flew out their seats and toward the nearest payphone. 

Once they reached Wall Street, the investors dumped their shares.

And made the biggest mistake of their careers.

Although it seemed that way, Paul wasn’t crazy. 

In the months leading up to his tenure, Paul studied the struggling steel company and listed all its issues. Enough to fill a Moleskin.

Next, he identified the most vital point of all. And vowed to fix it.

Only one year after Paul’s speech, the company profits reached a record high. 


To keep workers safe from 2,000 degree metal and robotic arms that snap bones like twigs, all departments had to work together.

Incidents have to be logged, passed on, and fixed.

Put simply, word from the factory floor has to reach the office execs in an instant. 

In Alcoa’s case, a small gap between managers and workers promoted equality, empowerment and innovation.

So improving worker safety didn’t only lead to fewer accidents, it led to company-wide excellence. 

Prioritisation doesn’t only help billion dollar organisations to quintuple their profits, prioritisation can move you up the corporate ladder.

For instance, how do you know what to do without a priority list?

Should you call a meeting to synchronize your team or spend 30 minutes on the phone with sales leads?

Is it better to put more hours in your craft or read articles to up your knowledge?

Do you create more value by promoting yourself on a podcast, or by improving the quality of your work?

Without prioritisation, you can’t make a smart decision.

And you don’t want to spend your days feeling like you didn’t accomplish anything important.

Or thinking that you can’t ever finish your ever-growing pile of assignments.

So where do you start?

  • Keep track of the big picture. The 21st century is an amusement park for people with poor concentration. We can fill any free minute with 5 minutes of Candy Crush. And we can set up meetings with one mass email instead of 10 phone calls. The internet and your smartphone can save you hours a day. What do you want to do with that earned free time? You can learn a new language, spend time with your friends and family, or watch cat videos. Only when you know what’s important to you, can you make sure your daily tasks contribute to your life.
  • The 4-hour time savers are gone. Even the best modern productivity hack can’t beat the time won by the fax machine. And that’s almost 30 years old. So faster is not the point. And unless you’re standing behind an assembly line, neither is volume. Almost all white collar jobs reward quality over quantity. So find out which of your projects has the biggest impact and do that. If you’re a freelancer, that could be the gig which gives you the most recognition. Whereas an entrepreneur may get the most value by dropping bad clients.
  • Cut up your goals. Whether it’s landing your dream job, starting a million dollar company, or becoming the partner of your firm, life-changing goals are huge. And may seem insurmountable. But actually, the path to your destination is simply long. To avoid disappointment, break up your goal into smaller ones. Rather than shooting for a million dollar business, how about you begin with a lemonade stand? After all, the same principles apply. If you can’t even get one happy customer, your business won’t ever earn you one million dollars.
By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach