Managing Risk Through Purposeful Communications

Published March 12, 2020

We recently published a blog on what organizations can do to mitigate travel related risks. As more and more events are being cancelled, we offer these words to help support sport leaders in making informed and science-based decisions that align with your mission and values.

The definition of risk that we use for sport leaders is "the effect of uncertainty on the achievement of your desired outcome". Notice that it is the 'effect' of whatever we hold as uncertainty that is keeping us up at night. As we all look to practice more mindful hygienic practices to reduce the spread of COVID-19, I invite people to consider a few key risk management principles to support your decision making in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

For athletes and coaches, especially, staying focused on what you can and can't control is key in reducing any anxiety (natural consequence) related to this dynamic and unpredictable situation. Making decisions from a heightened state of anxiety is a recipe for regret. To support you, we offer these 3 steps that you can take immediately:

1. Is the risk within your control? If the answer is no, then consider the effect it is having on you and your closest people. Consider how you might shift your current approach to align with your values and ethos. I received a note from Starbucks recently that communicated a short message to me about the measures they are taking to reduce the spread of the virus while ensuring the health and well-being of their customers, employees and communities. Their precautionary steps inspired me to consider what that might look like for sport leaders.

  • Assign someone in your office to be the Chief Risk Manager (CRM) for this risk. They are the ones that are tasked with being responsible for the flow of information, the procurement of best available data, and the one that coordinates mitigation practices.
  • Turn to trusted sources. For the sport community, connecting with your peers to learn from each other is key. Creating a hub where updated information can be shared for the benefit of all is central in reducing the anxiety caused by the unknown. Consider how your sport system partners (Sport Canada, CCES, COC, CPC, OTP) can work in alignment to reduce the panic that sets in when inaccurate or misleading information is shared.
  • Assess your environment. What are the necessary and added precautions you want to take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at your office? Things like increased cleaning and sanitizing, working from home, and restricting or limiting non-essential business travel and postponing large meetings until more is known.

2. Assess the risk of doing something, and the risk of not doing. You need to consider both. Most of us only consider the risk of doing something and that illuminates many good practices. The other side of the question is also critically important. What are the risks related to cancelling Paralympic and Olympic qualifiers? How will this effect our plan leading up to the Games? What are the risks related to us changing our game plan and the risks related to us not adapting? After pausing to assess these questions, most clients feel … better. In part because they have taken a moment to name what is concerning them and feel better about documenting it alongside other people that have contributed to the process.

3. Make a commitment to communicate effectively. Part of what we are noticing is the over-communications that can often contribute to our generalized anxiety about the situation. So always consider who (audience), needs to know what (key messages), by when (timeline), how (medium), and why. Ensure that your key messaging is reflecting not only the science and facts but also reflects the care and commitment that your company stands for. We like to invite our clients to always ‘begin with the end in mind.’ For Starbucks, their end state was for their employees to look back and say “I can’t believe I work for a company that cared so much for me, my family and my community.”

When making key decisions during these challenging times we encourage you to ask, “What is our why?”. Let that guide your choices today. #SLSG #Sportopia

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