What project, mission or quest have you entered into that you’ve consciously said is worth the risk? The greater question may be found in whether those following you believe they’re involved in something that has tremendous importance. We are talking about a cause or a true mission. Do those that call you “leader” find themselves not wanting to be anywhere else or be involved in any other enterprise?
The answer to those two questions will reveal much about your leadership and the health of your organization.
Easy ventures, easy money or easy markets are reserved for the safe crowd. These types of folks consider risk a “four letter word.” An idea never to be embraced unless the odds are soundly in their favor. Low risk situations/endeavors sound really good, but are often poison pills designed to get you comfortable. This pursuit has led to confusing a prudent decision with protecting one’s job. Since we haven’t yet created a device to detect the level of sincerity in another person’s heart, we can only judge them by the types of adventures they’re wiling to go on. Consistently playing it safe and conservative, may be nothing more than a disguise.
Organizations would be more effective if they embraced more risk. Sadly the allure of making money dulls some to taking on more risk. For example, Nintendo purposely keeps production low on its Wii video console so that it won’t hurt promised targets to Wall Street. Ask any parent this Christmas whether they can find or want to find Nintendo’s product. Would it be worth the risk for Nintendo to produce more consoles? I think they would be rewarded generously.
But, alas, the stock price calls.
Organizations become voyeurs (always watching some other enterprise take the shot) over time and stand behind the lines. You might be surprised at how many of your employees desire to risk greatly in order to be a part of something great (see Abraham Mazlo’s Hierarchy of Needs). But organizations are more fixated on how not to lose for the benefit of the few. So the employee is left deflated, as well as the growth the organization states it wants badly.
The world really would change if we’d stop looking for safe paths. Don’t you want to be involved in something that has enough risk to make you nervous, anxious or downright afraid? Doesn’t your organization want to chart a territory for the benefit of all stakeholders? I know you may think I’m crazy, but everything in my life that creates those feelings are pathways to greatness.
This article is not advocating stupid risks. I’ll leave that to those who invested in subprime mortgage securities. It’s about waking up from the slumber of safety. Safety says it’s always wiser to keep doing what you’ve been doing. Foolishly, we think that past results will create equally positive ones in the present and future.
Here are a some insights on how you and your organization can see risk as a friend and not an enemy:
• If your organization hasn’t ventured into new businesses, start investigating the possibilities. The ones that scare you could be big winners.
• Find a mentor/coach/adviser who will challenge you to move out of your comfort zone.
• Volunteer for something you believe in, but have ignored for years because of your insecurities (I’m not smart enough, I don’t know anyone, fear of rejection, etc.).
• Be willing to fail. It won’t kill you, but it could lead to even more opportunities.
• Stop holding on tightly to your position and power. If you’ve got those things in a tight clinch, you’ll do anything to keep them.
• Find some people outside of your “group” (chemical engineer vs. network engineer) to talk to. Warning hear: if you’re African-American, don’t seek out a Hispanic person just because they’re Hispanic. Insincerity can be spotted easily.
By John Benson