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Let’s Be Frank: In Memory of Tyler Alvarado

By Inspector Frank. December 29, 2020
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Editor’s Note:

Writing under the pseudonym Inspector Frank, the author of this column offers a first-hand, candid view of what he has witnessed throughout his career. His purpose in sharing these experiences and opinions is to encourage readers to think deeper about what they do, why they do it, and the possible impact of their decisions.

Inspectioneering is committed to protecting the anonymity of pseudonymous authors. We do, however, hold these contributors to the same editorial standards as those writing under their own name. In this, we know the author’s identity and maintain communications regarding the author’s published works. If you have any questions, feedback, or concerns stemming from this article, please send an email to befrank@inspectioneering.com and we will forward your correspondence to the appropriate party.

“A competent leader can get efficient service from poor troops, while on the contrary an incapable leader can demoralize the best of troops.”

- General John J. Pershing

“What do you think of this...” or “Have you ever heard about…” was often said during the numerous conversations I had with Tyler on a variety of topics. Some were not exactly fit to print. Although, there was one topic we always came back to because we shared a passion about it, and that was engaging people, specifically inspectors, in their work.

I would get texts from Tyler, asking me if I had time for a call. I found this was usually driven by one of two things; he had just had a discussion with someone who inspired him, or he was driving and had an idea that he wanted to bounce around and I was a convenient target. Or maybe he was just bored and knew I would answer…

These calls could go on for hours and the topics ranged from politics to history to failure analysis.

One concept he became very interested in discussing was how to turn a junior inspector into a Subject Matter Expert (SME). This quickly turned into an ongoing discussion on “how do you engage someone” and get them passionate about what they do. I argued that, in order to become a true SME, you had to have some passion for what you did. You had to accept that you don’t know everything and then engage in trying to learn about it all.

One day he called me up and it was clear that he was excited. He wanted to tell me about an analogy he had just dreamt up:

“I own a car, right?” Obviously. “So, my wife drives the car but doesn’t care to check if it needs oil, or if an oil change is due, or if it needs new tires or any of that.” Okay, I guess. “She’s like an operator or a user and doesn’t care beyond using the car to get from point A to point B.” Well, she probably doesn’t want to wreck the car...

“But I worry about those things and make sure all the maintenance gets done and pay attention to what’s needed. So, I’m like a technician, I find out what needs to be done and get it done.” Okay, where are you going with this?

“So, my friend is a big car nerd, he knows how they work, what can go wrong, how to do preventative maintenance, and he worries. He also worries about resale value and the future. Therefore, he is like an owner-user!” Sure, what are you getting at Tyler?

“Then how do we take my wife or I and make us into owner-users? How do we get more passionate about our vehicles? Inspectors are like this, some just do the job and don’t really care, some do the digging and use the programs to make sure they are doing what needs to be done and others really get engaged.”

I told him that what we had to do was try to get the same level of excitement going in others that we got when we talked. This led to a discussion on how we could engage people and make them want to be better, to do more. We discussed this for what amounted to months of phone conversations. It’s an interesting topic to go down the rabbit hole on. What engages people? Why do some people at certain times become engaged? How does leadership fit into the question? And speaking of leadership, this would include leadership from mentors and teachers.

In terms of becoming passionate, Tyler was egging me on and I like to think I was having the same effect on him. This passion came from a synergy – that is, two minds coming together on an idea and feeding off of each other.

We never came to a total final answer, but we did brainstorm a lot, and this is some of what was dreamt up:

  1. Passion is contagious. If you are passionate about something, you can engage others using that energy. This can turn into leadership – not meaning you are necessarily the group or section’s leader all of the time; but at this very moment, with this very idea, you are engaging in the best of leadership styles, that is getting people to buy into a common vision.
  2. Education is critical. I specifically mean education that is delivered by people who are passionate about the topics. I am sure you have all had teachers that you remember fondly and, likewise, those you still have a hatred for in the back of your mind. Why do we still hold some teachers in high regard? Personally, it is because they made the subjects come to life for me. For education to really serve us all well, the students must see the benefit of the topics and the impact it could have to become truly engaged. An enthusiastic and interesting teacher never hurts either.
  3. Hoarding knowledge. I still run into people who seem to believe their job security is dependent on them being the “keeper of the truth.” I have been disappointed over my life by many people in managerial roles who don’t want to share what they know or their experience. This unwillingness to share information and knowledge has the opposite effect of creating engagement. I took a course once on leading people from different generations, one of the things I found interesting was when it came to a discussion on baby boomers. Because the boomers entered the job force en masse, they had a genuine fear of keeping their jobs. This led to an unwillingness to share their experience and knowledge which we see the effect from to this day.
  4. Being seen. People become more passionate when they feel their ideas are heard and acted upon. I am sure you can all think of a time when a project was underway and the people you are working with/for saying things like “that’s a great idea, run with it” or “we took your data analysis and passed it on to corporate and the head of equipment integrity wants a meeting with you on coming up with a way to roll this out across all sites.” Never heard anything like that? I bet you were not that engaged in that project or job then. If you feel your ideas aren’t given value then you will likely stop sharing them, and that is the opposite of engagement.
  5. Anger can drive passion. I have personally found that some of the things that made me the angriest also inspired me to become passionate about them, driving me to a solution. If there are multiple people on your team being made angry by how something works (or fails to work) then it can be easy to get them passionately engaged in changing things.
  6. There are some people you will never engage. Unfortunately, due to combinations of past experiences, cultural predispositions, and education/work experience, some people will be very difficult, if not impossible, to engage or to make passionate. That’s okay. They can still be useful members of the team. But also, don’t quit trying to engage them and bring that passion out.

I can’t speak for all of Tyler’s friends and acquaintances, but I can say that, from what I saw of his interactions with the greater world, he inspired lots of people to try and be more engaged in their work and in their lives. To be passionate. He was the main reason this series of articles exist, because he inspired and challenged me to write them.

So, I know he inspired Frank to be better, and more engaged, and passionate about the work of integrity and I have the feeling I am not the only one he had this effect on.

And I know Frank will miss the phone calls. Fair winds and soft landings, Tyler.


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