How a Culture of Controlling Risk Affects Growth and movement through an Inflection Point.
Most of us who grew up in the 80s remember Tom Cruise sweeping the floor, singing, in nothing but a white shirt, tightie whities, and socks. We all took whatever resembled a microphone, threw caution to the wind, and pretended to be him. I am no longer a big Tom Cruise fan, but I am still a huge fan of letting my hair down, singing, throwing caution to the wind, and taking calculated risks.
A lot has happened since the risk-taking, mini-skirt-wearing, hairspray-your-hair-until-it-can’t-move 80s. We have stopped singing. We have stopped hanging out in our “tightie whities” and we have stopped throwing caution to the wind and enjoying life. Unfortunately, so have many of our companies and the people in them.
Meet Joe of Joe’s Steel. They are a Steel Manufacturer with a reputation for having the best steel in the country, but are now starting to lose market share AND mindshare to Larry’s Steel, Inc., a mere twenty miles away. Profit is going down, the best people with the highest potential are being plucked from Joe’s steel, and frankly, Joe is scared. The energy in his company has always been a bit humdrum but it’s never been a cause for worry, since he’s been the biggest player. They avoid risk, act cautiously, and are a bit zombie-ish, but nobody dare complains. It’s a paycheck.
Larry, meanwhile, can’t keep up with the demand. The energy at his place is buzzing, the people are moving, constantly thinking, innovating, taking risk, failing forward, trying again. They are busy. They have a risk-forward culture. It’s exciting. They don’t just SAY they can take risks, they actually get positively recognized for doing it, even if their idea fails.
Back at Joe’s, people are getting admonished for not seeing this coming. How could they not take the same risks, he asks? How could they not tell him, he asks? Finally, a brave soul, Ann, speaks up and says… “Sir, we are worried about embarrassing ourselves”. Frank speaks, “or creating a crisis”, and Jill says, “or failing and losing our job. We have seen it happen here several times when someone said something.” Poor folks, they just want to survive in a risk-averse culture and stay out of trouble.
So, now for the hard question, folks… what is YOUR culture like? Are you so afraid of devastating your reputation, your value, and your business, that you resemble Joe’s cautionary tale? Or are you willing to let your high potentials and the people you deemed smart enough to hire, to use their brains to innovate the heck out of your company and take you to your next inflection point?
It’s time to sing in our tightie whities again! (Please DO NOT ACTUALLY DO THIS at work or we will have a much bigger problem on our hands.). Be a business that has fun again, train your employees to take risks and WHEN they fail, applaud them because it’s a matter of time before they knock it out of the park. You will find that with this risk-taking culture, your folks will put you in a position to buy out your competition, expand into new markets, and invest in organic growth. You will learn how to deal with risk quickly and efficiently by recognizing it, promoting trust, commitment, accountability, and best of all, your high potentials will no longer be flight risks.
So how do you become a risk-forward, fail-forward, innovative, culturally healthy company that controls your threats? Firstly, you need a large dose of patience and tenacity because it doesn’t happen overnight. Then you need to establish and LIVE the values that you want everyone else to live as well. Those may include transparency, owning failure, honoring risk, and staying ahead of the trends.
In order to motivate transparency, proactively and consistently have open discussions about information that signal risk and upcoming issues before they become crises. Teach them to spot them, analyze them, and remedy them quickly. As far as owning failure and honoring risk, it’s a matter of not admonishing EVER, and seeing the calculated risks and failures as data points of information. It’s also about resisting the urge to have too many controls in place, as that just begs for people to create workarounds.
This is not a magic wand. This is a team sport that takes time, and if you want growth, you will need consensus and a Mindshift if you want a shift in mindshare and market share.
It will take time to come up with new processes, policies, and people that have creative, fail-forward mindsets. It’s important to understand the impact to the infrastructure when you are making risk decisions. Remember that during ANY inflection point, it is crucial your team pauses, assumes they have made many judgments and assumptions that are causing bias in their decision making, and questions their thoughts instead of blindly accepting them.
Of course, risk and growth can sometimes create “Lions” roaring in the workplace, making it harder for everyone else to get things done. If your company is going through a growth spuryt or stuck at an inflection point and everyone needs to get aligned before they get on the train to the next STOP, the next level, of success, give us a call at (951) 888-5857, visit our website or drop us a line at email@example.com.
Our Team of 6 experts will make sure you are well equipped for success in all areas of Growth, Strategy, Finance, M&A, Sales, Marketing, and, you got it, Talent!
That is the principal behind Inflection Masters! We remove the barriers to growth so companies can break through their inflection point.
You can read more from the members of Inflection Masters here.
About the Author: Carol Marzouk is the founder and CEO of Leadership N Soul, and one of the Inflection Masters experts. Known as the Executive Lion Tamer, for her three decades of leadership work with those who some consider to be the “toughest” C-level executives, attorneys, and surgeons, she has been called a behavior strategist and communication transformation magician by her clients in all industries, from small businesses to well-known conglomerates.
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