Loose Lips

Loose Lips by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Many of you have participated in activities in which risk and trust were involved. Maybe you jump out of airplanes or climb sheer rock faces or race cars or bungee jump or dive. Even if you don’t regularly participate in any of these activities yourself, surely you’ve watched others perform “dangerous” activities. Did you watch Nik Wallenda recently as he walked across the Grand Canyon on a 2 inch (5 cm) wire?

If you’re a rationale person who participates in activities with a degree of risk, you try, obviously, to minimize the risk. Confused yet? Let me explain. If you’re walking on a 2 inch wire 1,500 feet (460 meters) above the bottom of the canyon, you expect the wire to hold. You expect the anchors holding the wire to hold. In short, you put a high level of trust and confidence in your equipment and the people who rig the wire.

Likewise, if you skydive, you put a significant amount of faith in your equipment. You might even pack your own parachute because you don’t trust anyone else to do it as well. You check your gear. Once. Twice. Three times. … If you’re hanging from a sheer rock face hundreds of feet above the ground, you expect the rope to hold and the anchors you placed in the rock crevices. You probably bought high quality (and expensive!) equipment because you don’t want to take any more chances than necessary.

Yes, you participate in an activity with inherent risk and dangers, but you want to minimize the risk to the extent you can. The same is true for me. In the last couple years, I started diving. I love it! It’s a great hobby and huge reliever of stress. Not to mention that it’s a passport to an amazing underwater world of adventure. However, I bought high quality gear. I maintain it well. I check and double-check everything before each dive. I dive with a buddy. I could go on and one, but the point is simply that given the stakes (my life), I don’t want to cut corners or take chances. It’s critically important to me, and anyone who participates in activities with risk, to trust my equipment. To know it won’t let me down. It’s a foundation of sorts. I don’t want to be 120 feet (40 meters) underwater and have a major equipment failure.

The same is true in organizations regarding confidential information. Secrets. Sensitive data. You, and others in the organization, expect confidential information to be treated with care. You trust the organization and those in it to safeguard secrets, personal or institutional. You don’t want the organization to give away your social security number or your salary. You don’t want your strategic plans to be shared with a competitor.

When you go about your everyday life (at work, at home, at school, at the hospital), you expect others to treat your “secrets” with care. You have an inherent trust and confidence in others (and systems) to protect your data. You don’t want them sharing your “secrets.” Just like an extreme sports athlete needs to trust their equipment to perform well, you need to trust your organization if you are to perform at your best.

You’ve probably heard the old saying that “loose lips sink ships.” Well, loose lips also sink organizations. Please be careful not to have loose lips. Please be careful not to gossip. Please be careful not to share secrets. Please be careful not to betray confidences. Be someone who can be trusted. Be someone who maintains confidences. Be someone who builds a strong foundation of trust.

Can you maintain another’s confidence? Are you careful not to share sensitive information inappropriately? Or do you enjoy letting others know how much you know? Can you be trusted or are you a gossip?


Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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