The coronavirus is sweeping across the world. We have risks everywhere: to travel, to the economy, to our work, and in our communities. What can we do? We need to think about the risks we can and cannot manage.
About 25 years ago, I traveled to a workshop not knowing I was sick. (My children had given me that cold.) I managed to spread that bad cold to everyone at the workshop. That was just a bad cold. Everyone recovered eventually, although the local pharmacy had a little boom in cold remedies.
Now, we need to manage the risks to ourselves and others. Some ways to manage these risks:
- Wash your hands with soap and water. (I really wish more airports had hot water in the sinks. Oh well.)
- Assess your personal risks. Are you in a high-risk cohort? (Older, underlying conditions.)
- Assess how you risk other people. (Maybe you choose not to travel if you feel sick, regardless of what your sickness is. You cough into your elbow. You sneeze into tissues and then wash your hands with soap and water. You don’t shake hands.)
Notice I did not say to panic-buy toilet paper or the alcohol wipes or liquid. So far, everything I’ve read and heard says that washing our hands with soap is more effective than alcohol. And, yes, we can’t always depend on clean surfaces, so alcohol and the wipes are pretty reasonable solutions.
Here’s the real problem: We’re all going to be exposed to this virus, sooner or later. The containment our governments want is about managing the risks to our health care systems.
How can we manage our risks?
As humans, we often don’t see risks until they hit us between the eyes with a two-by-four:
- Most of our organizations don’t have resilient and adaptable working environments. (I wrote a post on my other blog about Team Resilience.)
- We don’t notice when we cause risks. I especially might not notice when I cause risks to other people.
- We are not that good at assessing risk. We tend to think of low-probability risks as higher than they are.
So, what can we do to manage our risks in this time of great uncertainty? I like these questions:
- What’s the worst thing that can happen (for me and others)?
- Can I make this problem worse (and then do the opposite things)?
- How many options can I create to examine more possibilities?
I don’t know when this outbreak will end. We will have plenty of opportunities to examine our risks and choose how to manage them.
I suggest you stay calm and assess your options. Maybe even every day.
There are plenty of risks we can’t manage. I can’t make other people wash their hands with soap. (I can’t make them wash their hands at all!) I can’t make other people assess the risks they might pose to others.
I can only do what works for me. I try to assess when I cause risks to other people. And, I continue to assess my options. (I wish I could tell you I remain calm. No, I yell at the television every night when I watch the news. Oh well.)
That is the question this week: Which risks can you manage?
- Who or What Deserves Your Respect?
- Where Are You in Your Changes?