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Giving Space To Take Risks (#18 - 8/4/23)
What was the last risk you took at work? Were you trying out a new technology, a new process, or giving someone more responsibility than you thought they could handle? Whatever the risk, why did you do it? What was the end goal?
I sometimes worry that I’m not taking enough risks as a leader, which is very different than when I was an engineer. Early on I would take risks by looking for untread ground that had the potential to make things X times faster if it worked, but always knew I could fall back on the old ways if it failed.
I encouraged my teams to do the same. “Know the length of your runway,” is something I still say. The intent is not to scare people out of a decision, but to help them understand when to let it go. This was especially true when working at a digital agency.
Example: We have 6 weeks to get this done (the runway), spend the first two on this multiplier tool, but we pull the ripcord at 2 weeks. Essentially at that two week mark, we’ll make a decision of whether or not to pursue the higher risk, higher reward option, or revert to what we know will work.
This example has played out several times in my career and it is successful about 50% of the time. The 50% of the time where it doesn’t work out, the risk was still a net positive from a learning perspective and helped with future projects.
As managers and leaders, we have to give space for experimentation and risk. Ask your teams this next week if they think they have the ability to do so.
Links I Found Helpful This Week:
What I’m Watching: Moneyball
I’ve watched this movie close to ten times and I’m still impressed by it. The performances, story, Brad Pitt eating endless calories on-screen, all great. One thing I keep keying in on is how Billy Beane handles a massive pivot of the organization. He understands the constraints (dollars), and understands that they have to completely change how they think about getting players. This comes to a head when Beane’s Head Scout confronts him about what he and “Google boy” are doing.
Just because it hasn’t been done that way in the past, doesn’t mean it can’t work. Not every business can be run like teams following the Moneyball handbook (nor should they), but you can think differently.
How have people been doing things in the past and what if we chose to do something different?
Whether forced into it or of your own volition, what if you took that step into something completely opposite of how everyone else thinks?
Where might it get you?
What might it change?
Love this movie.
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