I presented my first webinar this week.
I talked about risk management for the Association for Experiential Education. I based my presentation on the online training that I developed last year (RM101), which is essentially my summary of a framework regularly presented by risk management industry GIANTS at the Wilderness Risk Management Conference. I have given a lot of thought to the way I describe this framework and how it can be applied to outdoor education programs, but I’m relatively new to the risk management community. Because this was my first webinar and some of the GIANTS were listening in, I was nervous.
Based on a few measures of success, I think my webinar went pretty well: participants engaged in polls, they asked thoughtful questions, and they stayed with me until the end.
I also felt appreciated and respected when several of the GIANTS went out of their way to give me feedback right after the webinar. The folks who reached out to me have clearly given very difficult feedback in situations with far more at stake than my webinar, such as talking with instructors who made mistakes that led to injuries or death.
I want to share my experience with you so you can learn what the communication from these feedback masters had in common:
In addition, they drew on their experience as risk management GIANTS to educate me about what I needed to learn rather than scolding me for not knowing better. The result is that I feel like my webinar was appreciated and I am being welcomed into the risk management community. I realize that I have a lot to learn about incident databases, industry standards, and the legal underpinnings of managing risk, but I also believe that I also have a lot to offer in terms of the way we talk and think about risks on field programs. I also know that the industry GIANTS have my back – and yours – because they are committed to creating a supportive risk management community that deeply values learning from mistakes
My only regret with the webinar? That didn’t ask the giants for feedback sooner.
When I started working for Colorado Outward Bound my biggest worry was that one of my students would get hurt on a backpacking trip. I lay awake at night imagining nightmare scenarios: rock fall, lightning, stream crossings, careless students, sprained ankles, broken femurs, helicopter evacuations. I worried constantly between the time I was hired and the day I arrived for training.
I felt like a little kid worrying about unseen monsters under my bed. I didn’t know what they looked like or when they would attack or what they would do, but I knew that dangerous, scary monsters were there – and they were coming to get my students in the Colorado wilderness.
Looking back, my fears were completely normal because I did not yet have a framework to define and manage risk. The monsters I imagined were big and scary and – worst of all – unknown.
Then I learned to identify specific hazards. Once I learned the hazards, I could assess the risks. Once I understood risks, my co-instructors and I could manage them. Risks that can be defined and managed are not nearly as scary as the imaginary monster risks under your bed.
It is worth developing risk management systems to improve your program and calm your mind – and this is an excellent time of year to do just that because risk management learning opportunities abound:
I can say from experience that risk management monsters are scariest when you ignore them during the day and worry about them at night. Shine some light on your monsters this month.
What are you afraid of? Share your risk management monsters in the comments below this post for a chance to win FREE enrollment in RM101* ($95 value).
* If you’re already enrolled in the course, think of what a great holiday gift it would be for your boss. I’ll draw the winner on Tuesday, November 29th- the day right before the world’s greatest risk management webinar trilogy.
RM101 (a.k.a. how to NOT kill your students in the field) just got better. We just started a new discussion group on Facebook to talk about risk management issues. Ask to join the closed group anytime - even if you aren't enrolled in RM101 yet.
Thank you to everyone who commented on the post about how you find meaningful work. It is a conversation that I hope to continue as the Educate Wild! community grows. Christopher was the winner of the random drawing* for one rare and collectable Educate Wild! Outdoor Educator’s Tiny Bag of Tricks. Send me an email with your mailing address and I will send you your prize.
That's all that I have for you this week. I hope you can take time with family, friends, and nature to heal from this jarring election season.
* If you are a super nerd like me, you can watch the full video on YouTube about how I used Microsoft Excel to generate random numbers and select the winner.
Guest blog for OutdoorEd.com - The Outdoor Professional's Resource.
Rick Curtis, the owner of OutdoorEd.com and Director of the Outdoor Action Program at Princeton University, recently asked me to write a blog post for his website. I hope you will enjoy reading about my reflections about planning to manage risk on a four-day Environmental Science of the San Juan River class that I taught this spring.
Note: This blog post also contains a discount coupon for RM101: Introduction to Risk Management a.k.a. How to NOT Kill Your Students in the Field
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