Risk Management: Pinatas, Playgrounds, and People

Perhaps it's fair to say that most mid-level leaders did not receive significant risk management training prior to accepting their respective positions, myself included.  Check that...my initial training in risk management involved hosting the "break the pinata" portion of my children's early birthday parties.  The ability to safely line up six-, seven- or eight-year-olds while the batter excitedly whacked away at a candy-stuffed pinata is an impressive skill-set in and of itself....  

It's likewise fair to say that my ISANNELEADS colleagues and I have experienced one or more instances when proactive and/or reactive risk management has come into play within our respective roles.  I know that's true for me.  Currently as a Lower School Director of 110 three- through nine-year-olds at Berwick Academy, I make a living by, among other tasks, managing risk.  Today, we discussed the black and white (more concrete?) aspects of this essential managerial/leadership endeavor.  While intrigued by essential checklists and systems, I am equally interested in the gray areas of risk management--when something that was once acceptable somehow progressively slips into something unacceptable.  A shiny piece of playground equipment that slowly deteriorates; a once innocent student-to-student exchange that evolves into bullying; a compassionate faculty-student interaction that eventually crosses the line....  Proactive managerial systems can support the awareness of and reaction to these downward spirals, but an active, hands-on, trust-your-gut leadership approach ultimately must support the oversight, the prevention, and the reaction that is necessary when the unacceptable arises in unexpected ways.

-Joel