As leaders, what’s your threshold for risk-taking in the workplace? Should it be encouraged? Thwarted? Carefully monitored? After all, risks make things unpredictable.
They make people uncomfortable. And, they fail … a lot. So often leaders are okay if their people are risk-averse. At least when it comes to executing with reliability and consistency. The irony is that by not encouraging their people to take risks – smart, calculated ones – leaders and managers are hurting their organizations by playing it safe. Risk-taking leads to ideas and breakthroughs that can drive new business. As a matter of fact, the only way to be successful is to fail forward on purpose. Big S’s (successes) are only possible with Small f’s (failures).
So how does a leader invoke and support a culture of risk-taking? They need to be willing to hug the failures rather than dismiss them. They need to support and celebrate their people who are willing to take a chance on change. They need to story tell about the failures that illuminated the path to ultimate success. This all requires a strong and persistent culture change. But, here’s the good news. It’s possible! Here are five ways to help your organization become one that celebrates safe risk-taking.
1. Expect (and praise) failure
Let people know that while you go on this new journey – while you’re taking the risk of doing something new – failure is expected. The goal is to make failures small, fast and cheap, instead of long, slow and expensive. And always celebrate those people who took a risk and failed. It’s the perfect opportunity to confirm that risk taking is okay and presents an opportunity to learn from experience.
2. Empower “safe” risk-taking
Nearly 67% of American workers can name at least one thing that would prevent them from taking any kind of risk at work. So, leaders need to demonstrate what a smart or calculated risk looks like because most people just won’t do it on their own. And then when someone makes a smart risk, see #1!
3. Seek out challengers
Encourage your people to step back and look at the things “we’ve always done this way.” Is the way we’ve always done it really the best way? Remind them that you’re committed to taking risks – knowing some will work and some won’t – because that’s how you’ll generate the breakthroughs to propel your culture to greater heights.
4. Provide support