How can we deal with risk? How can we be prepared for them? These are some questions I asked Becky Paroz, coach, mentor, published writer, and accomplished presenter.
What you will learn in this episode:
- How to befriend risk
- How to be prepared for possible risks
- The positive side of risks
- How to use risk management for your business
About Becky Paroz:
With thirty years in construction, Becky Paroz has worked on some of the most demanding projects in Australia. Through childhood trauma, chronic disease, and the vast challenges of her career, Becky has never accepted anything less than surpassing her goals. She provides coaching and mentoring, and is a published author, as well as being an accomplished presenter. She is the winner of many awards, including one recently for International Women’s Day 2020.
Connect with Becky:
TP: Hi, welcome. Today, we are speaking about risk, and my guest is Becky Paroz. With 30 years in construction, Becky Paros has worked on some of the most demanding projects in Australia. Through childhood trauma, chronic disease and the challenges of her career, Becky has never accepted anything less than surpassing her goals. She provides coaching and mentoring and is a published author as well as being an accomplished presenter. Welcome Becky.
BP: Thank you for having me tonight.
TP: You started your career in the industry of engineering and construction. In this industry, there are mostly men working. How was it for you?
BP: It was very much male dominated. I started 30 years ago, which gives you an idea of my age. And yeah, it was very clearly told that this was not for women and that I didn't belong. And a lot of other associated groups with me being there. But I was studying engineering and I was fascinated by the concept of construction and how things were built. And it was kind of this whole different world to the one that we raised and where we just take buildings for granted, like they appear magically. And so I stuck by us. And yet here I am several, several, several years later, leading teams on five hundred million dollar projects and winning awards and doing a lot of mentoring for young women and business owners in that space to encourage them and support them to step up and take leadership and ownership of their careers.
TP: So you worked in the construction area and now you are a professional mentor and writer, can please share your journey, how you became a professional mentor?
BP: Well, I always, I kind of, it's one of those things that the blokes don't like to feel, you know, they're not good at communicating necessarily in ways that are educational and particularly in construction where it is very busy. It's very dangerous. You know, yelling is sort of a basic mode of getting things done. So as the industry grows and as the projects get bigger and the intensity grows, there's a need for someone to take some of the younger people onto the wing and kind of guide them and give them some basics, because albeit you do four years of study to become an engineer, you honestly do not learn what you need to know when you get out on the sites and see things actually happening. You understand how to learn and you understand why you do certain things for compliance or because of the standards you're building to, but there's a lot of knowledge you only get through being in the industry on the, on the ground, in the fields. And so I just kind of as the token chick, which is an easy word for female, I kind of got handed some graduates here, some young people. We don't really know what to do with them, but make it so that they're useful. And of course, the graduates weren't told that they were just kind of on his graduate program. And so I found that I was kind of given that role, whether I wanted it or not, frequently. In addition to that, I always thought of myself as math oriented, most engineers are, but I was also tasked with most of the writing and gain, not realizing that that comes down to a lot of the guys from my generation and earlier didn't finish their education. They went and worked on sites when they were 14 and 15, and they didn't necessarily learn how to read and write and all those things. And I had a university education so that I knew how to craft formal documents and things like that. So I often also found myself being the one to write the business plan or the monetary request or the extension of time. And all these documents that make up the project will project plans, procedures, how to. So when you get a bunch of young graduates who know how to do anything, the best way is to write down how to do things. And then they have something to refer to so they don't keep coming back and asking you because that gets pretty tedious after about the fifth time. Also kind of demonstrates they're not learning very well. So you give them appraisals. So as a result of sort of those two things combined, I enjoy that. Probably being in that mentor rush space very early in my career and kind of it just kept going because obviously once I've done it once for all, you've got to say, great, you can do that for us this time. So as I change jobs, the group's got bigger, the writing got bigger to the point where I'm capable of writing full compliance systems for safety and for environmental management and a quality management quality control. Until about 10 years ago, I got to write some information and add and talk about my leadership journey in some anthologies and that sort of process I was kind of exploring outside of my industry, realizing I didn't actually know a lot of females. And so I was kind of expanding my circle and doing all that sort of stuff. When you get sort of thirties tech stuff, if you laugh, you kind of go, "what's missing? Let's go grab some of that". So I was attending some female-centric conferences and it came to my attention that a lot of what I knew wasn't common knowledge. In some ways it was rather rudely thrust in my face and some otherwise it was kind of gently discussed. But at the end of the day, there were women who kind of want to talk about risk management or using a risk based approach. Just looked at me going, "What? What are you talking about?" And so I sort of found this gap, I guess, of business minded processes that could be really helpful to women if they only had access to them. And so that's where I've done a bit of writing. So I've done a, I've got an anthology of what's that and it's got a lot of that sort of leadership and self coaching and guidance because I was like,"Well, how did you do it?! So what if I put it in the book, more people can access it". And so the very first piece of creative writing outside of my industry I wrote was, in fact how to use risk management as an approach to your life. And what of the sort of the approach that's used within the construction industry. And I'm just kind of got the book. So now I do lots of running for magazines in that space, blogs, orchestrating all that sort of thing, in addition to all sort of the technical writing on.
TP: It's really fascinating thing what you've done and being an engineer, I'm totally a fan of all the project management planning and writing applications. So it's sort of like a nice mixture between this being organized and having this creative urge to put everything on paper. So, yeah, and I find it really useful.
BP: I just did a talk recently on using project management to actually publish and develop a book because it's like you said, it's a great framework. It's not strict and rigid, but it kind of gives you boundaries and compartmentalizing portions so that you have this way of organizing but without being overwhelmed. So, yeah, it is it's a really useful skill. So I'm hoping that some of my words and some of my writing will actually start to translate that into more useful ways for women to use it. In a broader sense. You know, I often talk when I do mentor my young ladies, talk about you project managing your life the same as you use those project management skills in your job. Actually, you use that approach to life and sort of risking and making sure you've got the right people around you, which is a component, and procuring what you need, which is not just skills, but motivation and people and knowledge and all that sort of thing. And, yeah, it's a really useful way of getting them to understand that they have power and autonomy over their own lives instead of just being subject to the whims of what life throws at them.
TP: And we came here to talk about risk, how can we see a risk as a part of a business as such?
BP: So I think risk management is a really useful skill for particularly for women who get in that overwhelmed space. Risk is a way of breaking down things into smaller components so that there's not this massive stack of things. In one of my writings to sort of talk about when I saw a woman do this, she spilled coffee on a shirt and sort of escalated from this coffee spill, which admittedly is unpleasant, but not necessarily world ending. But in her mind, that sort of escalated through very quickly her not getting to work on time, getting sacked, fired from her job to her kids being on the streets and not being able to to get them to feel the education and going to jail and drug addicts. And, you know, she sort of escalated through this whole life cycle of things that was going to happen. She didn't have kids, by the way, which sort of made it a bit more extreme in my eyes to kind of be having that process when she didn't even have kids, all because of coffee spilled. And that was where I kind of went "You could really use some risk management" because risk breaks down the initial problem, which is a coffee stain, and then kind of looks at that really practically. And kind of the consequences of that are nothing in the realm of where she went. So sort of interrupting that overwhelming escalating of emotion, passion. So draw back and go, OK, for the first the first thing I sort of asked her I was going through this process with her was, "Have you ever seen a man sacked for coffee stained shirt?"" No." "Well, then why do you think it would apply to you?" And yes, we all know these different standards, but at the end of the day, there are rules and regulations about how you can be removed from a job and a coffee stain is not necessarily one of them. And I have never seen a man kind of escalate his emotions to that extent because he's dropped coffee on himself. Well, no. So why are you putting all this burden on yourself and your future children? Because of this coffee stain like, yes, this woman with actual needs, you know, it's uncomfortable and unpleasant for a while and it looks a bit messy. But at the end of the day, if you're doing your job and achieving what you need, that's not something that's going to cause your life to instantly collapse the way she kind of envisioned. So it was it was one of those moments of how, we as women tend to put so much pressure on ourselves from one event, and so the idea of risk is taking that one event and looking at it from a from a different perspective is how likely is this scenario playing out to occur? It's not very likely. Obvious consequences, real? Not really. So the whole and the equations and charts you can do with risk to kind of meet that likelihood and consequence on an axis. And what that means is that's a very low outcome for that risk. So it's not something that needs time, space or energy spent on us. Another way I kind of describe risk is we all with seatbelts in the car and that's become very common and normal. In fact, it's legislated in most places around the world and there's a reason for that and it's a risk controlled. So the risk is that if we have an accident, we're going to get thrown through the car window and have a very unpleasant time of it, if not die. So the seatbelt is that control to prevent minimize the danger of that risk. And that's what we're doing when we look at risk, because we're kind of looking for how can we minimize, how can we mitigate, how can we control that element to its lowest form so that it doesn't have this overwhelming impact of this life changing occurrence about it? And that's why it's safe for women to look at it. It can be really useful when you have something to refer back to, when you get into overwhelming kind of these emotions bubble up and you start to pile everything on top. You can go back to something that you kind of got to remind you. "Actually, it's just this". Then you have potential controls in place to kind of go, oh, this happens. You know, as we all know, we've got a spare blouse. We can wear something different. We can throw a jacket over the top. We've got blouses and scarves and pins and, you know, all sorts of things. We can accompany that coffee stain and we'll cover it with a myriad of risk control mitigation measures for that coffee stain risk and if we look at it beforehand and before that risk happens, then we're actually even better prepared for when it happens. So instead of this escalation and this overwhelm, we have this. "Oh, right. I've actually looked at that risk and I've actually got some things in place and we just go and do that". And then we kind of get on with our day because also, as we know, when something like that happens, we also have a tendency to let it determine what the rest of the day looks like. And everything is sort of filtered through that coffee stain, as it were. And it comes out a little dirty and smelly, whereas if we can kind of stop that process, then the rest of the day can be more than what you anticipated. And you'll see opportunities that were there that perhaps you won't see through the filter of that coffee stain. And that's why I guess I'm pretty passionate about getting the message of risk and not being afraid to look at it because it actually gives you power back over your life when things happen and we feel a loss of control and a loss of power using risk management techniques actually allows us to get back in control and back in power and have some sense of management around that event, even if it is truly out of control.
TP: Thank you. And it was really a great example of one coffee to your kids into jail.
BP: Look at it. Sounds extreme, but this woman literally did this. And that's why I, "Hey, hang on. Hang on a minute. Come on. This is, you don't need to do this to yourself. You know, be kind to yourself. Be gentle. Stop all this pressure that is completely unnecessary on yourself because an accident happened". Yeah.
TP: You have mentioned that risk should be our friend. Can you please tell me more about this one? For most of entrepreneurs, it's like "What? Nobody wants to take risks. Nobody wants to do anything risky. Why should I keep it as a friend?"
BP: Because you can anticipate, you can plan all the things I said before, you know, it gives you some control and and management over things when they happen. But if you're actually in a risk framework, what you will start to do is actually see things before they occur. Now, the good thing about that is you also start to see opportunity, so when you're looking for risk, you're looking for things that are going to deviate from the path. So this is your assigned path, is your business plan, is the steps you have chosen and documented you're going to take to achieve a goal. So if you're focused on the future of that goal and those steps in a risk framework, not only are you looking for things that can knock you off that path, but while you're looking for them, you'll see things that might knock you off that path onto a better path. Because not all risk is negative, you know, and people talk about, oh, not taking risks, but that's why there's high risk investments. With great risk comes great rewards. And so the bigger the risks, particularly in a financial environment, sometimes the bigger the payout. And that can happen in business, too, not necessarily in a financial sense, but in a sense of, you know, someone crosses your path and throws out a statement that leads you to come up with another product idea or another concept that sort of isn't in the market, but would fill a gap because you're in that space of looking for things that might deviate you from the path. You'll often say things that might positively deviate from the path. And so having that open mindset gives you the opportunity not only to see problems before they come and actually put measures in place to control and mitigate like we've talked about. It actually allows you to see opportunities that you can might be getting on early and make plans around to take advantage of. So if you're speculating on the market, that's what people do, then look at sort of what's happening and look at patterns and make predictions based on those patterns for what might occur in the future and then make bets, essentially, which is buying and sharing and trading stocks for that potential gain. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. We do the same in life. And if we do the same in life, we get comfortable with it. We will find that a tolerance for risk actually grows and it's a bit more flexible, like a muscle. So we know when to exertion and when to restore it. And so I think when I said risk because your friend, it not only can save you from a lot of overwhelm and sort of being mired in problems without knowing how you got there, you can actually find yourself in opportunities and take advantage of them when you find yourself there.
Risk is a way of breaking down things into smaller components so that there's not this massive stack of things. - Becky Paroz, Podcast Step Up & Thrive
TP: So the idea is not to stay in status quo and not to do anything different, but really checking out what would be this possibility for you and your business to grow.
BP: Correct, Yes, it's all about possibilities and possibilities can be negative or that can be positive. And if you're said in that space, you've seen both.
TP: Thank you. This is a really, really great insight. And now it's time for our quick section. And this is something what we do regularly on our podcast. And my question is, what is your biggest revelation about of risk?
BP: My biggest revelation about risk is that looking at risk does not make it happen. And I think that's where fear and risk come in, a lot of people don't want to spend time fearing and thinking about the thing they fear because they believe that will coach to them. What you focus on is what you get. There's a lot of nuance around that in coaching spaces and things like that. But risk and fear are not the same thing. Risk is a practical process of looking at what could go right and what could go wrong. Fear is allowing the emotion to overtake you and create stagnancy and lack of movement. So discerning between the two and realizing that focusing on risk does not make risks happen, I think is probably, I think, a really good statement to sort of make now that we've discussed it. And if anyone is still not sure, looking at it and planning for it and having controls in place does not automatically mean you have to, but it means you will be ready should it happen.
TP: Thank you so much. Those were really great tips for everybody to implement in their life and business. And.. Yeah, and if our listeners would now like to know more about you and follow you, can they do so?
BP: So my handle is @wordsofbeck. So that's on Instagram and my website is www.wordsofbeck.com.au. ...au... I'm an Aussie and must be vastly different time and temperature from where you are to where I am now. You can find me in a couple of Facebook places. Words of Beck is what you'd be looking for. And yeah, I'd love for anyone to reach out and tell me what they got out of this talk or if I'd like to know more. This is one of the key things I offer mentoring and coaching in, because I think it's a really key skill that women, once they grasp, can use to grow and expand so much beyond the current confines.
TP: And I know that you are open to short chats with people so that they could get more.
BP: Between 30 minutes and an hour free as far as complimentary before anyone, so we can kind of they can see if they work with me and I work with them and all that sort of thing. I don't instantly charge the minute you say hello.
TP: Thank you so much for coming to the podcast. It was really great to speak with some other engineer. And it was it was nice to hear all those valuable tips.
BP: Nice to find another engineer on the other side of the world who has similar experiences and can relate. There's not enough of this yet. Anything I think we can do to encourage young women to look at engineering and stem and getting out there in construction and discovering what an amazing world it is. I think this should definitely should be more of that. It's been my absolute pleasure Tuuli too, I think you're quite right that it's been my pleasure to have this discussion with you.
TP: Thank you.
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