Keanu Reeves in Action

What Would Keanu Do? How EHS Leaders Can Channel Iconic Reeves Characters

August 26th, 2019

The internet is in love with Keanu Reeves.

It only makes sense. The guy is an icon, having starred in a number of legendary films, and he’s also recognized as a genuine and down-to-earth person away from the camera. A recent piece in the New Yorker described him as “too good for this world.”

Thirty-five years into his Hollywood career, Reeves is still as relevant as ever. His latest viral moment came at the latest E3 Conference, where he came on stage to reveal his starring role in an upcoming video game called Cyberpunk 2077, much to the delight of an unsuspecting (and “breathtaking”) crowd.

In nearly every role, Keanu exudes the kind of cool and calm befitting an EHS leader. Like many of his characters, EHS leaders’ responsibilities span a wide spectrum, requiring them to balance expertise in everything from compliance regulations across multiple regions, to monitoring and analyzing EHS data, to stakeholder engagement. As such, there is an opportunity for EHS managers to accept the challenge and prove their versatility and skill no matter what gets thrown at them, just like Keanu does.

So let’s jump into our phone booth time machine and take a tour of some of Keanu’s most famous roles over the years, in search of takeaways we can apply when it comes to creatively fostering safety and compliance in the workplace.  

5 Keanu Reeves Characters Who Offer Valuable EHS Lessons

In his movies, Reeves has found his way into many hazardous and troublesome situations, but he always seems to wriggle his way out.

1. Take Care of Business Like John Wick

The latest meme-worthy action hero portrayed by Reeves is a retired assassin who is pulled back into the game when ruthless mobsters emerge from the shadows to steal his car and (GASP) kill his sweet little puppy, given to him by his late wife. This puts titular protagonist John Wick on a vindictive tirade, in which he draws from his considerable experience to exact revenge on those who wronged him.

Much like Wick’s foes, workplace safety hazards, compliance gaps, and environmental risks must be eliminated to ensure a happy ending. You too can show single-minded commitment to your craft and ensure you are prepared for anything by staying sharp—whether that means attending industry conferences, exploring webinars, or keeping up on the latest EHS&S industry news.  

And while John Wick learned to rely on his hard-earned skills to handle every situation, even he leans on occasional help from Marcus and his friends at The Continental Hotel. At Antea Group, we’ve seen it all and have the tools to help you in your time of need, ensuring long-term EHS excellence across your operations.

2. Make it Work like Jack Traven

In Speed, when a maniacal terrorist equips a city bus with a bomb set to trigger if the vehicle’s speed drops below 50 MPH, LAPD officer Jack Traven springs into action. When Traven boards the bus — by leaping from a speeding car on a busy highway, of course — he encounters an understandably panicked group of passengers and proceeds to assuage their fears through his savvy and composure.

Traven works with others on the bus to navigate toward a positive outcome. When the bus driver becomes incapacitated, a woman named Annie (played by Sandra Bullock) steps up to take the wheel. Traven empowers her to take control but provides crucial guidance, directing her away from obstructions and helping her stay calm. This exemplifies the adaptiveness and quick-thinking that’s essential to EHS leadership.

An EHS leader can channel this same fortitude by expertly conducting risk assessments. You (hopefully) won’t need to diffuse any bombs, but any number of hidden dangers can lurk for a business, and it takes a seasoned professional like Traven (and you) to confidently identify and mitigate both EHS and business risks.

3. Inspire Your Team like Connor O’Neill

In a departure from his usual billing as an action star, Reeves took a step back in Hardball to take on Connor O’Neill, a down-on-his-luck gambler who takes a gig coaching Little League baseball to pay off his debts. Disinterested at first, he soon connects with his group of hardened young kids, who struggle with life in a particularly rough pocket of urban Chicago.

Despite facing an initial divide, O’Neill bonds with his players by finding ways to connect with them where they are, whether by learning their favorite rap song or taking them to their first major league baseball game. In the world of EHS, engagement with stakeholders is essential. You can’t do it alone, so you need to motivate and rally all parties involved, from executives to front-line employees, in pursuit of a shared goal.

The best way to accomplish this is through effort and empathy. Just as Coach O’Neill gained favor with his players by working to understand their world and proving his staying power, you can gain buy-in when you see things through the eyes of other stakeholders and tailor your communications accordingly. By conducting a materiality assessment, you can dig deep and come to recognize what’s important to various parties from their own points of view.

4. Embrace the Future like Ted “Theodore” Logan

No one can see the future—unless they have a time machine, like the goofy high school buddies in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Reeves plays Ted Logan, who is on the verge of flunking history class before encountering a traveler from the future. With the help of their newly acquired time machine, Bill and Ted journey to various points throughout history for some hands-on research.

As an EHS leader, your duty is to look ahead while others are focused on the present. Proactive risk management requires you to harness a keen awareness of potential issues and concerns, taking steps in the present to prevent them. Just because something is running smoothly at the moment doesn’t mean this will always be the case. There’s no such thing as no-risk, so even the power of magical foresight won’t eliminate all possibilities of a mishap. However, proactivity can help minimize any concerns of a bogus outcome.

Leveraging your deep knowledge via due diligence and careful assessments, you can root out potential problem areas without the luxury of literally seeing ahead.

5. See the Truth like Neo

Of all the Keanu Reeves characters, none are more famous than Thomas Anderson, aka Neo, of The Matrix. This thrilling sci-fi trilogy envisions a world where machines have taken over, harvesting human beings while plugging them into a surreal virtual environment (the Matrix) to simulate reality. Neo is the equivalent of a cheat code, capable of bending the rules and shaping the Matrix to his will. He can fly, he can dodge bullets, and he can change the course of fate (as determined by the algorithmic overlords).

From cultural nuances to region-specific requirements, navigating the EHS compliance matrix is perhaps the biggest struggle for EHS leaders. However, your best move is to take the red pill and face the truth, in all its complexity. And if you need backup, Antea Group is here to help you see beyond what is evident to the naked eye. Only with a robust depth of experience can an organization develop this type of analytical perception, spotting potential glitches or viruses. We can also help you streamline EHS data and knowledge management so your important information doesn’t get lost in the Matrix.

The Wide World of EHS Compliance: Whoa.

EHS management is a big, complicated, important frontier. Those leading the charge must wear many different hats and fill a variety of roles, and the amazing (and varied) roles of Keanu Reeves can serve as excellent prototypes.

You don’t have to face this challenge alone. Ted had Bill. Neo had Morpheus. Jack Traven had Annie. At Antea Group, we are eagerly ready to step up as a supporting actor in your EHS journey.

Contact us today, and let’s embark on an excellent adventure together.

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