Tried and True: No Longer a Safe Bet

As we attempt to create more agile organizations, pivoting to meet the emerging opportunities in the marketplace, we understand that we need to take risks. At the same time, the culture we have created has our staff taking the safe, tried-and-true path in spite of our efforts to encourage risk taking. So, what does it take to Nurture Growth in the direction of risk taking?

Most of us have never walked a tight rope. However, we do understand that to effectively get from A to B we need to be focused on B – where we are going. On a tight rope, the risk of a misstep is very severe. While we may know, intellectually, that we need to look forward, we can’t help but look down. When we look down, we freeze our actions, as we are afraid of taking a misstep or making a mistake.

As leaders, we create tight ropes for our teams. While we recognize the need, to balance the certainty of outcomes from consistent processes with the agility of adapting to the new opportunities, we tend to fall in love with our process. We focus our management on achieving the desired outcome. The underlying message to our team is “follow the rules no matter what.” We create the fear of a misstep. We cause our team to look down and second guess their next step.

The job of the leader is to create a path to the goal that is wide enough that our team members are looking towards the goal without fear, but not so wide that there we miss alignment towards the goal. This path allows our team members to move with confidence and to self-correct if they move off course. To create this path as a leader is to be clear on what success looks like while giving space for team members to try new ideas, and take risks to achieve better results.

The path you create also needs guardrails. Your guardrails define what is in bounds and what is out. They reflect the organization’s values. Most of your team members will not see the guardrails. They exist for the team member that pushes beyond the boundaries.

So, Nurture Growth in your team, but create a path that allows them to look towards the goal, take risks, try new approaches and then self-correct towards that goal – all within the boundaries of the values of your organization.