Over and over throughout my career I’ve realized that opportunities to take risks abound. We just need to look for them. Professional risks, planned and unplanned, come in various buckets: conversations, strategy, behaviors, process and procedures, new initiatives, path, and style. Risk-taking is part of all credible leadership. The sooner we accept this and consciously choose it, the more effective we are in our work-related roles.
I’ve taken several major risks over the years. And, in 2014, I stepped out of my comfort zone to take a big risk: investing nine precious months in writing a very personal book that can benefit YOU.
Next month, I promise I’ll tell you more about my book slated for Amazon and Kindle release later in March. But in the meantime, you can read an excerpt from one of the chapters in Part II. Oh—by the way, guess what the topic is. See below.
- It invites you to see opportunity. Reframe the risk with which you grapple as a chance to advance yourself and/or your organization. By terminating that stagnant or problem staffer you create space for someone ideal. By delegating more responsibility to a trusted team member you free up time to focus on your priorities. Trashing a familiar, cumbersome process that slows workflow paves the way to develop something that’s truly efficient.
- It boosts your self-confidence. The more often you take risks and succeed, the more confident you feel. Once on the other side, you realize you survived. Further, sometimes you discern without a shadow of a doubt that you must do what is necessary for the health and wellbeing of your organization. Initiating difficult, critical conversations with an employee, volunteer, or Board member may not be easy. You risk altering the relationship or prompting the person to quit. But you take the risk because you know it’s right.
- It helps you to learn and grow. When you take risks, you don’t stay stagnant. Often you expand your skill set. Saying yes to something you’ve never tried before takes you into a new domain. Sign up for an advanced computer class where everybody is ten or twenty years younger than you. Agree to write a public service announcement for your agency’s latest offering. Accept the challenge of preparing and delivering a twenty-minute speech for your company’s annual meeting.
- It allows you to shine as a leader. Very few people like to take risks. Consider the folks in your professional circle. How do they really feel about risk-taking? You can set yourself a part from others by making a conscious decision to say or do something they wouldn’t. For example, many people aren’t willing to take a stand for an idea or an action when the stakes are high. Develop a habit of doing this with issues that count. True leaders don’t hide.
- It opens up possibilities. Today, most professionals spend countless hours in meetings during a typical workweek. What exactly are you contributing while you sit there? Stop accepting everything you hear at face value. Take a risk and ask essential questions that probe the layers of complex problems and dilemmas. Dare to make bold observations about team function, product development, or work culture. Inspiring people to think more deeply empowers them to identify and connect with a host of possibilities they may never have considered.
- It encourages you to become more proactive. Taking small risks that have minor consequences attached to them is one of the best ways you can move from a predominantly reactive mode into a more deliberate proactive approach to your job responsibilities. Tired of all the petty interruptions each day? Close your office door for one hour. Train your staff to honor this signal that you are absorbed in tasks and projects that require your undivided attention. Such a strategy helps you reclaim some focused time without damaging key relationships.
- It supports your efforts to overcome the fear of failure. Every time you take a risk and succeed, your fear of failure loses power. You disregard the stigma often associated with defeat, collapse, deficiencies, missteps, and botch. Willingly you shed childhood assumptions like: Only losers fail; one failure leads to another; all failure is bad. You realize that occasionally smart, educated people do fail, that trying new ideas can be good, and that the negative impact of most failures is only temporary. You learn to put failure into healthy perspective.
What’s your next business risk?