From a distance, the rock face appeared to be a sheer cliff. Up close, even the sun couldn’t displace the shadows hiding its rough and uneven features. I would learn later that the US Military used this climbing ‘wall’ for training. A Wall? This was a mountain in the heart of the Colorado Rockies and I was going to climb it –blindfolded. The guide on belay surpassed me in both rock climbing experience and body weight, so it couldn’t be that bad, right?
Ever had one of those days, when you look around and wonder what happened to your comfort zone? Maybe you’ve rifled through desk drawers or looked under a stack of papers and still couldn’t find it… A comfort zone is a “set of conditions with which we feel secure or free of risk.” As we challenge ourselves with new goals, we force ourselves to take new risks. And Kathy Stinson from M3 Insurance recommends we ‘manage our risk, before it manages us’.
From a business perspective, properly managing risk requires the risk first be quantified. Risk is a factor of ‘probability of the risk occurring’ with the ‘consequence of the risk occurring’ (Risk = Probability x Impact). This is subjective and aids in the comparison of potential responses to a threat. For example, a risk with an extremely large consequence might not be worth taking even if the probability of occurrence is low. Once the risk is evaluated, the appropriate response(s) must be selected.
Risk management includes the following responses:
- Avoidance: eliminating the risk by controlling circumstances.
- Mitigation: reducing the probability and/or consequences of the risk to an acceptable level.
- Transference: shifting the consequence of a risk to another owner or third-party.
- Acceptance: tolerating the risk with existing plan (or inability to identify an alternate response).
Business is risky. To be successful in our professional lives, we take calculated risks. The more risk we take, the more we stand to gain or lose. But, sometimes it is very uncomfortable. To be obedient in our spiritual lives, we also take risks. That, too, can be uncomfortable. Do you ever wonder if the ‘good work’ God began in your life is just too big, too hard, or too risky? Paul and Timothy wrote in their letter to the Philippians: “be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) Probability of occurrence? 100%… Impact? You decide! What risks are you supposed to accept? What risks should you avoid, mitigate or transfer?
That day on that steep rock face, I chose to mitigate (safety equipment) and transfer some of the risk. Because I was blindfolded the guide on belay talked me through difficult maneuvers. Ultimately, he was responsible for my safety. At one point, I locked my hand behind an outcropping and pulled away from the mountain in order to reach a higher grip with my other hand. At other times, my face was so close to the wall, I could feel my breath off the cool rock. One thing I know for sure, I did not find my comfort zone 60 feet off the ground!
When I returned to the ground, the face of my guide was so pale, I asked him if he was alright. He said he had never seen anyone climb straight up like that before. He said the ledges I found with my steel-toed hiking boots were only ¼” wide. Without the blindfold, I would not have trusted those thin ledges. Though managing risk is critical to being a good steward with our resources and responsibilities, it is not always possible to completely eliminate risk or linger in our comfort zones. The difference between fear and excitement is the expected outcome.
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. – Isaiah 42:6
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She founded Synergy Groups, virtual masterminds connecting Christians in leadership around the globe for the purpose of Community, Accountability, and Transformation. She also partners with high-performers and heirs-apparent especially in the STEM industries. Michelle’s formal background in technology, franchise, and project management gives her an edge on implementing best practices and scaling towards sustainable success. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 22 years.