(Although we are talking about this in an organizational setting today, you will see the necessity for similar considerations in your family life, decisions about finances, and in roles in your community.)
In today’s economy, there is a lot of pressure to take risks that will increase the company’s market share and bottom line. Recently, we heard the CEO of a large, conservative financial organization state that he wants his teams to “go for it and ask forgiveness later.” And, as he was saying those words, several of his Sr. VPs stood behind him, out of his sight, looking at us and shaking their heads “no,” indicating that while the CEO may believe his words, they did not. While it is essential to take risks to create innovative products, services and customer experiences, it is also essential that people take the “right” risks, and avoid taking risks simply for the sake of being seen as a risk taker.
In our coaching sessions with senior executives, we have had many discussions about how to support their leaders, managers and staff to take the right risks, avoid the risks that put the company in jeopardy, and to distinguish between the two.
One way to distinguish between the two is by introducing the concept of being “fearless vs. reckless.”
When someone is being fearless, they are leaning into possibilities and stretching themselves to think in new ways, explore new options, and take action despite the fact that they may be uncomfortable or feel afraid.
On the other hand, when someone is being reckless, they are out of touch with reality and are often being fueled by bravado. In most cases, when people are being reckless, they are not evaluating the risks that are in front of them but instead they are catapulting themselves head first into an oncoming disaster.
When we coach people to be fearless but not reckless it gives them a measure by which to take risks, and it becomes a great way for staff to internalize their ability to assess opportunities and look for the risks that they can take.
There are real opportunities for growth in the evolving economic landscape, in the obstacles and challenges companies face, and in the unique perspectives that staff members, at all levels of the organization, bring to the table. If the opportunity requires courage, focus and determination to accomplish – that’s a time to be fearless; if the opportunity requires an overreaching of either power or skill, and has the potential for significantly negative organizational ripples – it may be reckless. And, if it’s not clear, it is essential that everyone believe they can freely and safely engage someone with the ability to assess the risk for the organization from a different point of view.
Success in today’s economy requires that everyone in your organization is equipped and able to help the organization succeed and that often requires taking risks. By distinguishing between being fearless and being reckless you are more likely to get your teams taking the kinds of risks that will move you forward, and successfully add to your bottom line.