Learning From Risk

//Learning From Risk

Learning From Risk

As a leader we’re constantly taking risks. Or should be.  The question is are we mitigating, minimising or trying to eliminate and which is the best for the situation to encourage growth.

I was running a group leadership programme the other week and they were sharing their wins in applying the material.  I also got them to share their learnings.  This is often where the ‘learn from making a mistake’ shows up.  And it did for one participant.  A significant learning too.  And I could see that they were beating themselves up about it.

The thing is it was a valuable learning for others too, one that meant they didn’t need to personally make the same mistake in order to learn from it.

One of the things that’s important to me as the leader of the course is being able to reframe things for participants.

And so, I said to her that as a leader if you get to the end of the year and you haven’t made any mistakes, you haven’t been leading.

It was like watching the night sky light up.  Her entire physiology changed.  Her response, along the lines of “I’d never thought of it like that before, thank you”.

I went from having someone in their head, beating themselves up and feeling ashamed, to someone raring to learn the next chunk and with the confidence to go back and apply it.

I also had a few more of the participants willing to step further outside their comfort zone and take a risk.

Now of course when we take risks we can also take measures to mitigate or minimize the impact if something does go wrong.

Talking and sharing with others in the field really helps you with this, especially if the field is relatively new for you.


Allow me to share a story that illustrates this.

I moved to the coast a few years ago and the other year we got a small boat and tender.  We also got life jackets and never go out without them on.  They’re the self-inflating version so should you hit the water unconscious they’ll still go off and keep your head above water.  Now I really hope that unconscious bit never happens, but just in case the risk of drowning because you can’t pull the inflate cord is mitigated.

The other week we decided to take the tender round to what I call the 3rd beach.  The main beach is always accessible, the 2nd beach via steps or when the tide is out.  The 3rd by boat and at high tide is completely covered.

So dry bag filled with coffee and cake and a small towel, off we went.

Coming into the beach I’m giving clear instructions to avoid the rocks.

We have a lovely time on the beach and then notice the waves have changed slightly and think, it’s time to head back.

So there I am getting in to the tender and just as I’m 1 leg in the boat and the other mid air, the 7th wave hits the bow and I’m now leaving the boat, stylishly backwards and land in the water.  Wet and surprised I gasp for air as a wave breaks over my head.  Poof, poof, poof the life vest inflates. My husband is seeing the funny side of all of this as he helps me up.  And he later informed me that apparently my stylishly backwards wasn’t so stylish. 😊

Anyway take 2 and I’m onboard.  Wet and with a fully inflated life vest and off we go back to the 1st beach.

It’s a village and the next day one of the old fisherman asked how our trip went.  He also had a knowing smile on his face.

We told him, and it brightened his day.  Over the next 3 or 4 days people asked me how I was, yes word had got around.

What accompanied the good natured teasing was also a story of I’ve done a similar thing and here are some other things to look out for.



It turns out that most accidents with boats happen when you’re getting in to and out of them.  Apparently, most people only think to wear their life vest when they’re out at sea.

We both knew how lucky I was as there are rocks around that area.  I was flung from the boat in enough water to cushion the fall and we weren’t near the rocks.  I did think, oh next time I’ll get on board and then put my life vest on.  And after hearing other’s stories, I’ve revised my opinion.

Then the other week one of the fishermen moored his boat in the harbour as usual, except it broke free in the night with the weather.  Fortunately, someone else’s boat saved it from being smashed against the harbour wall.  The fisherman was beating himself up.  And again there was the good natured teasing and I heard someone remind him that his error was either a lesson everyone could learn from or a good reminder for everyone.


Eliminate, Mitigate, Minimise

A couple of the villagers have since asked me if my little adventure has put me off, the answer is no.

What it has reminded me is that you can mitigate risks, and it’s also in the sharing of your mistakes that you learn more, so you minimise the chance of the risk happening too.

Yes, there is an important distinction between elimination, mitigating and minimising.  I could eliminate the risk of falling from a boat completely by never going out again.  It’s a choice eliminate, minimise, mitigate.  When you think about your business/ team/ leadership are you looking to eliminate, minimise or mitigate the risks?

Sharing and talking about your mistakes does make you feel vulnerable and yet if you’re surrounded by the right people, amongst that good natured teasing, there will be empathy and perhaps someone will feel comfortable enough to share their learnings and wisdom too.

And you’ll all grow together, in more ways than one.

2022-08-24T14:09:49+00:00By |Podcast|
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