By John Worne

Sometimes it helps to talk frankly about the very worst that could happen.

Whether its IT disasters, climbing construction budgets or tricky HR problems, at times professionals can be fearful of things going wrong; and really fearful of taking the blame.

Sometimes as a Specialist-Generalist it helps to get people to talk about the very worst that could happen…

“We might blow millions here…” 

Which majar organisation hasn’t had some sort of failure with a major build or a big technology roll-out? The cost of standing still though is a slow demise or a fast extinction; if problems are explained up the line – with a sensible and proportate narrative – they can usually be lived with.

“We might get taken to court or a tribunal…” 

Difficult HR problems, pretty much by definition can’t be solved by HR; they invariably fall to line managers. It’s time, it’s hard and it feels very personal but tackling difficult people issues is the most important thing managers do.

Very few people feel fully prepared for them – but they need taking on. But the emotional costs invariably greatly outweigh any realistic financial downside; and getting this out and talked about is key.

Paradoxically, whether it’s big project problems or big people problems, if you take people to the ‘worst that could happen’ very often the fear and anxiety dissipates.

It’s not about dismissing fears, ignoring risks or guaranteeing there will be no consequences or bad outcomes. But giving a name to a fear – and it’s usually fear of blame, criticism or losing a job – crystallises and lessens what can become debilitating and disruptive personal, team – even whole organisation fears.

No one acts well from a place of fear; if it’s named it’s on the way to being tamed.

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