In the last six months I’ve had a number of career professionals from various industries and business backgrounds requesting one of my rotating mentoring slots on a single topic: risktaking. Their requests have run the gamut from just beginning their hero’s risktaking journey to someone who once thought their risktaking chops would last a career lifetime, only to discover that after recent setbacks their risktaking efforts are considered reckless instead of responsible.
I have to admit to having been a bit surprised that informed, responsible risktaking, a capability I consider foundational to business success as part of a smart, long-view career strategy, would be usurped by the transactional “fake it ‘til you make it”, especially by career professionals with 5-10 years of experience.
It’s smart (and sometimes humbling) to reassess our business skills and capabilities even after decades of experience. Given the ever-changing marketplace, it’s indeed a wise career move to gauge competencies based on existing workplace requirements as well as future-based needs.
Let’s take a look at three levels of risktaking required in today’s work environment—capabilities that will continue to move the innovation needle for you well into the future.
Stepping stone risktaking skills range from competently managing ambiguity—facing workplace change and confidently facing unknown situations—to navigating the nuance of gender politics and managing different risktaking styles.
Foundational risktaking would include your ability to assess the risks and benefits of a business or project proposal, while also possessing the ability to recognize when it’s the right time to step up and seize an opportunity. When you begin stepping out of your comfort zone, you will definitely want to know that you have a support net in place before you need it.
By understanding the foundational skills associated with informed, responsible risktaking, career professionals learn to trust their ability to make and present sound decisions. Organizations advance their culture and ability to innovate as the workforce grows in its ability to apply and model smart risktaking. Definitely a win-win situation.
Nail the foundational level of risktaking during our upcoming 8-week webinar series. Update 10/8/2019: Course series is no longer accepting new students.
Consider intermediate risktaking as the strategic arm of your foundational capabilities. It’s a time when you evolve your basic, stepping stone approach to risktaking and begin strategically using it to advance your career and business objectives by taking on leadership and coaching roles.
Capabilities associated with strategic risktaking would include the ability to assess when a risk is worth taking and when it can it be hurtful to your career. You learn how to leverage risktaking savvy that keeps you in front of the curve, while making impactful business and career decisions in an up or down economy.
As you advance in your risktaking and innovation strategies you’ll dig deeper into the psychology of how and when people take professional risks and how economic conditions and workplace changes can impact productivity and decision-making skills. As an emerging leader you’ll want to learn new strategies for coaching people who may be reluctant to step up and assume more risk, while at the other end of the risktaking spectrum, you’ll learn new coaching strategies for managing reckless mavericks.
As you continue stepping out of your comfort zone, you’ll want strategies for building strong resilience bonds for potential setbacks and failed high-risk attempts. You’ll also want to learn how to carve out and claim a risktaking role for yourself when leading or joining a new team or group.
Advanced (Mastery Level)
Mastery-level risktaking skills are required when leading and managing high-impact, complex initiatives, such as the introduction of innovative products and the implementation of high-risk programs and fast-moving projects.
It’s true that leading and managing high-risk efforts—business turnarounds or new mergers and acquisitions—can advance your career at a faster clip, but can just as easily set things back for you and your team when not managed responsibly.
At the advanced stages of personal and professional risktaking, it’s the duality challenge that comes into play: incorporating a systematic approach to project structure and governance, while managing the ebb and flow and uncertainties associated with change management. It’s this duality challenge while managing both the upstream and downstream dynamics associated with complex efforts that can put you at risk of “being up the creek without a paddle”.
The term upriver (or upstream) refers to the direction towards the source of the river, i.e., against the direction of flow. Likewise, the term downriver (or downstream) describes the direction towards the mouth of the river, in which the current flows.
Upstream dynamics would include individuals who make up the “opening of the circle”: executives/sr. leadership and key stakeholders. Downstream dynamics would include your customers, partners, suppliers/vendors, and community, those who “close the circle”.
Update 10/8/19: Course series is no longer accepting new students.
At the end of the day, it’s your willingness to step out of your comfort zone and own advancing your risktaking capabilities that determine your career success. Please keep in mind, though, that an ever-changing (and unforgiving at times) workplace will require career professionals to manage the basics associated with informed, responsible risktaking.