Become Comfortable with Uncertainty by Building a Team of Trusting People that can Mitigate Risk

Bruce Brownlee

Bruce Brownlee

Product Manager, Glimpse.SX Analytical Products

The proliferation of information technology and the unfiltered access to that technology has contributed to a confusing information environment full of misinformation and disinformation, which requires businesses to become comfortable with uncertainty.

A business can achieve comfort despite uncertainty through organizing their team around trusting people and a process of deliberate risk mitigation.

Who can you trust?

A trusting person requires little direct guidance, takes action to solve problems on

their own initiative, and takes personal responsibility for their work (the good and the

bad). Therefore, trust is the manifestation of four attributes: initiative, candid

communication, adaptiveness, and commitment. So how do we find these kinds of

people and build a team around them?

  • Recruit

Search for potential attributes not skills. Stop looking at pieces of paper that list

a person’s self-described skills. Establish an interview assessment that identifies

an individual’s potential qualities in the four trust attributes: initiative, candid

communication, adaptiveness, and commitment.

  • Select and Assess

Invite those individuals that demonstrate high potential across the four attributes

of trust to a selection and assessment process. Objectively evaluate the

individual’s initiative, candid communication, adaptiveness, and commitment

through practical exercises. Select only those individuals that display all four


  • Train

Now that you have the right person (i.e. a trusting person), train them in the skills

that your business requires. The challenging part of the training phase is

identifying the threshold of when to deselect an individual that has the attributes

of trust but cannot achieve the skills necessary to thrive in your business

environment. A critical skill for all your team members is the risk mitigation

process as this will empower every individual to take initiative and adapt despite

uncertain conditions.

  • Retain

Keep your trusting people around by investing in them. Offer these talented

individuals’ opportunities to enhance their performance, gain unique education,

and even give them the tools to succeed when they decide to leave your


How do you mitigate risk?

Risk is the probability that an obstacle or threat prevents a team from achieving their objectives. A business successfully mitigates risk by ensuring a positive risk threshold. A positive risk threshold is a positive difference between the benefit of achieving an objective and the cost of mitigating the obstacles and threats to that objective. This process of ensuring a positive risk threshold requires asking five questions:

(1) What do I want to achieve? [Objectives]

(2) What are the benefits of achieving these objectives? [Objective Benefit]

(3) What is preventing me from achieving those objectives? [Obstacles/Threats]

(4) How do I minimize the impact of obstacles and threats? [Mitigation Measures]

(5) How much time/capital do my mitigation measures require? [Mitigation Cost]

In an algorithm framework:

Mitigation Cost is the opportunity cost of an obstacle or threat to an objective.

Risk Threshold = (Objective x Benefit) – (Mitigation Measure x Time/Capital)

Risk Threshold = Objective Benefit – Mitigation Cost

“I will not go down under the ground”1

Human progress is the result of undertaking daring tasks despite the consequences of failure staring humanity coldly in the face. Threats and obstacles to the success of any business are persistent, ever changing, and impossible to eliminate with one hundred percent certainty. But any business venture not implemented or executed will fail with one hundred percent certainty. Doing nothing or adopting a “shelter in place” mentality is its own type of risk. Every business should accept the challenges of a world full of uncertainty and set the conditions for success by building a team of trusting people that can mitigate risk.

1 Lyrics from Bob Dylan “Let Me Die In My Footsteps”

About the Author

My professional goal is to improve the overall success rate of projects. Proactive Project Management (Pro-PM) results in successful projects by gaining stakeholder buy-in through strategic vision, effective communication, deliberate planning methodology, and building effective teams. With over 30 years of experience in the system integrations consulting industry, I have recovered failing projects for a multitude of clients ranging from manufacturing all the way to travel and hospitality. Currently, I work with Blackstone and Cullen (a local consultancy) that has a culture of “do it right, get it done.” My professional background includes working as a program manager for a big five consulting firm and as a major global system integrator.

Dan Divinski

Principal at Blackstone+Cullen
Read more from Dan Divinski


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