Recently I ran my Risk Leadership training for a client and I had a room of participants that arrived with an extremely poor perception of risk. My role was to convince them of the value of risk and to have them leave the room with definitive actions agreed as to how they will derive that value.

The atmosphere in the room was extreme distrust. They were certain I was going to waste their time. After all, as they soon told me, they manage risk every day. That is their job. Why the extra processes and paperwork? This is a very familiar starting point for me and one that lead me many years ago to find a way to change perspectives and to inspire action.

Last week I wrote that you must first become a persuasive adviser before you can become a trusted one. Sometimes, as in the situation I found myself in last week, you need to build trust extremely quickly. Otherwise you are not even heard.

The path I chose is the one I always choose. I stood in their shoes and talked about their world. I demonstrated knowledge of their role, their expertise and the challenges they face day-to-day. I also sought confirmation of the problems I suspected they had with the risk framework.

Above all, I showed them empathy. Bit by bit the room thawed.

Were you successful the last time you had to thaw a room?

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