Sometimes the greatest risk you can take is to take no risk at all.
Or as James Dean phrased it, “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”
Three events this week brought that thought squarely home.
- A colleague who was nudged out of his role with a firm asked for more separation pay than the organization indicated it customarily offered. By asking politely albeit assertively (rather than simply going passively) the colleague was granted more than twice the “normal” severance amount.
- An organization with which I work played hunker down during the last couple of years, rather than take any firm actions. The result? Good will has been squandered at the board level, and the risk of malaise exposure has racheted up.
- A client who was doing OK in his role took the risk of tackling exec coaching and achieved outstanding results. The safe bet – doing nothing – had a very limited upside. The riskier bet – sitting under the spotlight that can come with executive coaching – had a downside (no significant change) and an upside (widely recognized improvements). The client banked on the risk and did very well.
You always have at least four options in just about any situation:
- Do what you’ve been doing.
- Try harder (doing the same thing).
- Hunker down (do the absolute minimum or do nothing).
- Try something different – try different actions and strategies than you’ve been using.
- Sufficient time and the right type of time practicing a skill (or role).
- Perseverance (or grit).
- Trying reasonable diverse strategies – growth is about trying, and doing – not just sitting (on your laurels).
The greatest risk is most cases is the stay pat or hunker down strategy; it buys you time, but not much else. Achievement is about perseverance and trying – trying different reasonable strategies, trying new behaviors, and growing in every way you can.
Decent executive or team coaching (people like me) or an assist from mentors and peers can be very helpful.
To leap a tall building (thinking Superwoman or Superman) starts with practice, perseverance and strategies; in other words taking some risk, and trying something different..
Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.