When my mother died 9 years ago, it fell to me to do her Eulogy.  I spoke about her and her love and devotion to our family as well as her career.  My mother did well: she was promoted to management in spite of the fact that she wa


Prudent Risks or Risky Business? (10/13/2020)

I love cooking competition shows.  I enjoy seeing the cheftestants create wonderful dishes from strange ingredients in crazy locations with less than enough time to do it right.  They sweat! They run! They cook and then submit themselves to the brutality of the judges for our entertainment and their desire to be victorious. I relish every success and shamefully, every humiliation.  And, there's always the added bonus of the learning experience you get from watching teams and individuals compete without the pressure of having to do so yourself.

There are common themes that emerge in each of the shows.  Here's two: 1. successful chefs have a competitive spirit and keep focused and thoughtful when thrown a wicked twist during a challenge, and, 2. Chefs who take chances with ingredients that are not well-thought out are usually unsuccessful in spite of their competitive spirit.  For example, whenever the cheftestant has 20 minutes to complete a dish and when interviewed says: "I immediately thought risotto!", I shake my head.  Everyone knows it will be a disaster.  It always is.  Whenever a cheftestant doesn't know what to do to make a dish "pop" and pulls truffle oil out of nowhere when anyone who watches these competitions knows that the judges HATE truffle oil, I want to pull my hair out.  Do I need to mention short ribs in 45 minutes?  When these dishes fail and the exit interview takes place with the eliminated chef he or she inevitably states that they knew that they were taking a risk but wanted to go big or something like that.  That word -  risk  - is misused when offered in pride as if it were noble to do something proven not to work over and over again the same way.
Look, risk taking should be encouraged.  It is the fuel behind innovation, it spurs us on to get better.  Prudent risks will work for you if you understand that risk taking is not synonymous with wild abandon but rather with taking bold and daring action for an outstanding result.  And, as each step is taken, thoughtful interaction with what is happening and a focus on known and potential impacts is essential for your success.  If our risotto cooking cheftestant asked himself "what will I do differently to create a good risotto dish in 20 minutes?" or "what is the likelihood that it will work this time?" he might have used that question to move to a different approach or action with increased odds of success.
The key takeaways are these:
  • Anticipate, create, innovate and implement...creating awareness around these steps can help minimize failure oriented risks and maintain progress.
  • During the anticipation phase use reference forecasting to determine what worked well before and what didn't.  This will help you as you define actions and design them for positive outcomes.
  • Understand your own tolerance for risk to reduce stress and keep focus.  Extend that understanding to include the risk tolerance of your boss and your boss' boss.  Adjust your communications accordingly.  If you can raise the comfortability level of those with whom you are communicating, your message will have an excellent chance of getting across.
  • Do the math.  Understand the metrics which underpin risk and reward and let them support your work or use them to adjust strategy.  
  • Manage your project.  A good project plan which includes timely communications and an executive sponsor will minimize surprise and allow more flexibility for productive risk-taking.
Even during a business impacting pandemic where you must surface multi-functional expertise and use it to reinvent business models, it never works to ignore past results.  Integrate those results with your new thinking and see the possibilities and the challenges.  Your path forward will be clearer and your prudent risks will pay off.  You won't have to disguise a bad result with a perceived positive character trait.  Sometimes a bad move is a bad move.  Trying to explain it away as a "risk" really doesn't play well.  
How about you?  In what ways can you create, innovate and implement?  What keeps you from making risotto in 20 minutes?  What makes you want to make risotto in 20 minutes?  Creating awareness about your impulses, thinking and desired result provides insight into how you want to work and the chances you're willing to take and should take going forward.   
I use business coaching and mentoring to help you create actions that work.  My process not only focuses on future goals, but looks at where you are today and past outcomes that inform your ongoing strategy and tactics.  Contact Beth for more information.
We are well into Fall with Halloween right around the corner.  Hope you have a safe, spooky time and enjoy more treats than tricks!  Wear your scary masks but wear a mask all the same.  Talk to you next month.


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