Risk e-Views Vol 27 February 2013 – Risk Leadership: The Need to Listen

A great TED video, which is about trying a different approach (listening) to aid small rural and 3rd world communities, inspired this month’s musings.

The first half is entertaining storytelling leading up to some interesting points about the need to listen if you wish to solve problems. I am sure you have experienced many of these scenarios in your risk advising career, however, we can all do with a reminder from time to time.

Why didn’t they tell us? Because we didn’t ask. Risk Managers can fall into the same trap as Ernesto did with his aid work in Africa. We sometimes assume too much or get too absorbed with other issues to ask the right questions.

They really don’t get it, do they? Sometimes as risk professionals we are flummoxed as to why “they don’t get it”. Some of the most common reasons include:

    • They really don’t want to know about what you have to offer because you have not created any sense of need – whether carrot or stick.


    • The environment you are in when you are engaging them. A café/mess hall/restaurant (neutral ground) is better than your office.


  • You picked the wrong target – you needed to choose those with the need, help them shine and then move on to the harder targets.

Why didn’t anyone speak up? A quote from Ernesto: “Entrepreneurs don’t come to public meetings”. Put another way, if you want to get an honest opinion on your risk framework or your risk training or other aspects of your endeavours, the most insightful comments won’t necessarily come from a group forum.

The last inspiration from Ernesto was “two heads are better than one”. Yes we have all heard it, however, his story about Richard Branson’s autobiography was a terrific reinforcement of the main selling point about the role of risk professionals: to provide the second head. In an exercise Ernesto asks his students to count how many times Branson refers to “I” vs “we” in the first few pages of his autobiography. The answer is 32 times for “we” and not once for “I”.