When You Are the Expert, Speak Up!

In the small farm community where I grew up, it was said that grizzled old farmers could predict the weather better than any professional forecast could. And as a family, we have all, (to smaller or larger extent) been boating enthusiasts, spending countless hours on the water in vessels of all sizes.

Those life experiences have left us all with a fairly good “weather eye”. Not as good as those grizzled farmers perhaps, but a quick view of sky and cloud formations can tell members of our family if nasty weather is on the horizon.

In one sense, the following story has some humour, however it also has risk and can illustrate the point I state in the title. (and I can think of at least a couple of situations where I should have followed that advice myself)

A family member was in a small boat on bigger water (meaning a relatively large body of water) with five others who were not familiar with being on ‘water’ or familiar with boating. After a leisurely few hours travel, they had travelled about 20¬†kilometres¬†(about 12 miles) and docked at a waterside town for sight seeing and lunch.

This family member then noticed that the horizon was beginning to darken. He started to suggest that they start to head back towards home. The rest of the people were enjoying shopping and sight seeing and put off the recommendation.

A few minutes later he noticed the darkening cloud had become a cumulo nimbus wall of cloud that appeared to be soaring several thousand feet up. You can imagine him saying: “Umm folks, we should get moving….” Again the response: “just a minute, this shop looks nice…”

Minutes later that wall of cloud had soared higher – he estimates 18 thousand feet or higher. I can imagine his voice getting a little more strident in warning: “umm people, there will be a storm!!!”

Finally he does get the five into the boat and heads full throttle back that 20 Km towards home. He estimates that they were about three quarters of the way back, when the first drops of rain overtook them. Then the rain turned into a deluge that was dropping stinging marble sized drops of water. Passengers huddled under the bow trying to avoid the stinging, pelting streams of water.Then the wind hit, instantly driving spray and green water over the bulwarks, leaving the bilge bump to fight the load and soaking everything. And finally – as home was in site and trying to get into the slip – the lightning hit.

If you are familiar with the water, then you can imagine the challenge of docking a boat when there is only one person that can handle the boat or a line, when high winds, deluging rain and flashes of lightning rent the sky.

Our lesson?

In our business we can talk about inclusion, we can talk about building consensus. But sometimes, when you are the expert, and risk shows its ugly head – you need to yell your expertise to the sky. Yell it passionately!

As a note, my family member in retrospect thought that when he realized the risk was getting larger, he probably should have argued that they just stay in that waterside town until the storm blew over.

Either option would have worked, in hind-sight.


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