Take Risk and Find the Fire Again

I am excited to introduce a guest post written by Scott Mautz, the author of Find Your Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration – and Make Work Exciting Again. Enjoy! – Chip

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When my daughter was younger and we headed to the playground together, my first thought didn’t go to the lack of risk found there. In fact, taking her to the playground felt like enough risk by itself.

Through the last several years, though, researchers and more keen observers have brought to light a new phenomenon: risk-averse playgrounds.

I’m not talking about accessible playgrounds (which are awesome BTW). I’m talking about things like tall slides. Instead of going fast, they spiral, often so slowly that you don’t even really slide. Or they’re so short they look like they’re for a 5-year old not a 10-year old (yes, sometimes, they are, I get it).

The seesaws, the monkey bars, the high swings are often replaced by things that are more stationary, more stable, more–sterile.

And what these keen observers have noticed is that kids need risk to learn. If they don’t learn what happens if they fall, they’ll be afraid to ever fly.

The same is true for you at work. No risk, little reward. Sure, it might be comfortable, but is it exciting?

Maybe a new Keurig cup flavor in the office kitchen is enough to keep you excited at work. For the rest of us, here are Twelve Tactics to Encourage Risk-Taking at Work:

  1. Get clear on the rules of risk-taking.

We’re talking about risk taking in the context of risking a failure to reap rewards for your organization, not risking taking the unmarked sandwich that “will just go bad anyway” or finding out what HR really means when they say “casual dress.”

Discuss with your manager (and/or with your direct reports) what risk taking looks like in your organization. Understand the rules of engagement: What happens if you (or they) fail? Who supports the risk taker on the way to a new breakthrough?  Who approves the “risk”?

Frame the risk for yourself and/or your employees before you get started.

  1. Start a small brushfire.

If you’re faced with a traditional company that prefers the conservative approach, start small. Fan the flames. Start with a small request, “Have you thought about adding this step to the process?” or “What if we tried…”

Even a conservative company could see the benefit of trying something new. Why don’t you start the movement? Just state a clear business case for your experiment–rules, budgets, timelines.

  1. Create risk pools.

The insurance industry is a mess these days in the U.S., but when used properly, they show the benefit of risk pools. Betting $100 on the horse with the hilarious name and the terrible odds is more fun when you went in on it with 9 other friends. The same is true when taking risk at work (although I suggest doing your homework before taking 95:1 odds).

  1. Get the math right.

If you’re still avoiding taking that risk (in work or life), chances are you are overestimating the negative impact. If you’ve taken the steps above and understand the rules of the game and the math of taking the risk, chances are you will realize that the risk-reward ratio is in your favor. Do the math for your manager and yourself, and then go for it.

  1. Identify your irrational behaviors.

Are you risk averse because you have an incessant need to please? Do you avoid risk for fear of losing control, or worse, ego?

Get realistic about what is holding you back and let this be your chance to prove to yourself that risk is worth it.

  1. Be inspired by the end user.

If you can’t do it for yourself, take the risk for your end user. Is it a new distribution idea that will get a needed product in the marketplace more quickly?  Will this process simply make life easier for the office manager?  Do it for them.

  1. Think of risk-taking as a skill that must be built.

Sure, my six-pack abs showed up overnight, just like my hipster beard. But for most people, abs–and risk taking–are things that you must work on slowly. Risk taking is an essential skill for success, but just like you didn’t learn to be a great manager overnight, you need to cultivate your risk tolerance. Set a goal and then continue to build on it with each step.

  1. Set a high bar.

Big goals mean big ideas. Set a high bar for yourself to accomplish great things at work, and you’ll naturally take more risks to get there.

  1. Plan to succeed.

Attack the risk like you mean to succeed. If your goal is not timid, your actions shouldn’t be, either. Make a plan and then go all-in.

  1. Resist your neurological “no.”

Starting with a brush fire and fanning the flames is not simply to make it easier to follow through on your risk. It’s also to help you push through the little voice telling you to give up too soon. Remember, risk-taking is a practice to cultivate over time.

  1. Role model a safe haven for hearing ideas.

To create a culture of risk-taking and experimenting, lead by example. Be that person that everyone wants to share ideas with. Exposure to more ideas will encourage you and your teammates to advance those ideas–and you can share the risk (see #3).

  1. Double down at risk-taking breaking points.

The excitement of risk can be weighed down at various points on your way to breakthrough. Approvals processes, meetings and simply time dampen enthusiasm for change and growth. That’s when you must double-down on your efforts.

Do your homework and go for it. Take the risk, and then the next risk and the next.

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Scott is the CEO of Profound Performance – a keynote, workshop, coaching, and online training company that helps you “Work, Lead, & Live Fulfilled”. He is also a Procter & Gamble veteran who ran several of the company’s largest multi-billion dollar businesses, including their single largest, a $3 Billion Dollar division.  At P&G, Scott consistently transformed business results and organizational/cultural health scores along with it. Author of upcoming book, Find the Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration and Make Work Exciting Again, and award-winning keynote speaker and author of Make it Matter: How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning, a book that’s been named “The 2016 Leadership Book of the Year.

 

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