Changing Our Perspective On Risk

In order for leaders to make visions, goals, and strategic plans come to life, they need to be courageous and willing to take a risk with things that are new, bold, or different.

Leaders can’t expect that if they continue to do the same things the same ways that they will be able to transform their piece of the business, let alone support their organization’s efforts to grow and transform over the long run.

The most effective leaders we have observed and interviewed believe that they can’t afford not to take risks. The key differentiator is that these leaders think about the risks they could take and go after the right risks in a smart way.

They look for ways to leverage and capitalize on high-value, game-changing opportunities, even when there is some risk involved. They are also able to look at bad risks and seek to minimize, mitigate, or avoid them.Taking risks

Unfortunately, far too many managers and leaders in today’s organizations wonder whether they’re really supposed to be taking risks—or they let strong cultural beliefs and assumptions trap their thinking in the status quo.

This wall of assumptions about risk builds up over time and blocks our ability to initiate change, be innovative, or take risks that could open up powerful windows of opportunity.

See if any of these beliefs and assumptions sound familiar to you:

  • “That’s not done here.”
  • “I’m expected to know the answer.”
  • “Experimenting is frowned upon.”
  • “To err is wrong.”
  • “That’s the way we’ve always done it
  • “I’m not creative.”
  • “We can’t do that.”
  • “That’s not my area of responsibility.”
  • “No one wants to know what I think.”

Over time, thoughts like these build up into what can eventually become an impermeable wall in our minds. This wall prevents us and our teams from being open to trying new things and new approaches.

In order to explore the possibilities and courageously try out something new, bold, or innovative, we have to break down these harmful walls and be willing to take some risks.

Making a few subtle adjustments to your mindset and the beliefs and assumptions of your team will put you (and them) in a better position to take calculated risks.

The best way to do this is to create a culture that is willing to ask, “Why not?” Replace that wall of assumptions by asking questions like the following:

  • Why not try something new?
  • Why not use a different approach?
  • Why not reach out to the customer?
  • Why not look at this in a different way?

Doesn’t this sound much better? Isn’t it more inspiring and results-oriented? Be mindful of your own thought patterns, and be a catalyst for challenging the thoughts and assumptions that may be causing your team members to shy away from taking risks.

As you do so, keep Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous quote in mind:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

As you and your team members work to change your perspective on risk, start taking some small ones. This will help you become more comfortable with risk and will help you see how taking some risks can create a better situation for everyone involved.

And even if it doesn’t work out exactly as you’d planned, you still gain the benefit of learning something from having taken that risk. For you and your team to be successful over the long run, risks are just part of the equation.

Breaking down old notions and ways of thinking can certainly be challenging, but as you work at it over time, you will be better-equipped to make a distinctive contribution to the success of your organization, now and in the future.


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About the Author

Stephanie Mead

Ms. Mead has experience in operations management, leadership development curriculum design, organization development consulting, and international operations. Stephanie has developed complete leadership development curriculums for some of the world’s leading organizations. Her experience also includes creating specialized learning experiences and blended learning programs aimed at maximizing human and organization performance. Stephanie has also co-authored 4 books with other CMOE consultants.