I woke up the other day and reached for my phone to do the morning news/social media checks, and up
popped a Facebook memory of my felling a tree from 10 years earlier. For the most part, everything
went well. The tree went where it was supposed to, and I’m here today to talk about it. There were a
few procedural issues I shook my head at – issues that I either hadn’t yet learned about, or I ignored the
relevance of the issue at the time. This time capsule was a perfect measuring stick for how my work
procedures have changed. It also struck me how minor details in the short-term can become a major
transformation in the long-term. Those minor details can work for you, or against you. Your enthusiasm
or reluctance to improve is the determining factor.
My interest in continuous skills improvement came as a former athlete. I’ve been fortunate to have a
fair bit of exposure to other competitive athletes that are drawn into tree work, and I’ve found the
athlete mindset to be a consistent driver of positive change in the workplace. Change such as
elongating tree worker careers, effective injury management and rehabilitation, higher productivity,
increased happiness on the job, and most importantly on effective risk management. How we
incorporate athletic-style coaching tools onto our playing field is not difficult. One coaching tool that
could be introduced today is reviewing video of your work procedures with the help of a mentor. Video
is a great resource for identifying difficulties, deficiencies or inefficiencies that you might not have
noticed while it was happening, or you might have forgotten what happened as work carried on. Once
the difficulty is revealed, strategies to overcome the difficulty are a lot easier to produce. If, for
example, you found yourself in a tricky spot while work positioning for saw handling that ended up using
up a lot of time and resulted in a poor falling notch: Why not ask how the task could go smoother next
After the video review, you can take your primary difficulties, deficiencies, or inefficiencies, and create
quantitative measurements to use as a training tool. These measurements need to be defined carefully
for consistent quality results and as such will become key performance indicators (KPIs), which are a
fundamental to the high-performance athletics coaching world. KPIs are easily applied to individuals
and teams in tree work (see the screen capture above for a basic KPI example chart on tree felling), and
they take very little time to track. KPIs are ideally percentages (from scores or ratios) because they can be charted from a spreadsheet, allowing you to visualize changes in your procedural performance as you
add more data (repetitions). Once you’ve defined your qualitative measurements and performed an
initial benchmark (demonstrated to the best of your ability), it’s time to practice, review, add more data
for a clearer picture of your average performance, and repeat.
The first step towards an athletic approach to professional development is recognizing that there is a
need and want for improvement. Video review, KPIs, benchmarking, and target-setting can and will take
your individual or team performance to the next level.
All content created by Ryan Senechal unless otherwise noted - You can contact Ryan through twitter or instagram.