Taking Smart Risks and Making the Right Decisions
Full disclosure: I do not consider myself to be a risk-taking individual. When I was in Queenstown, New Zealand (widely known as the adventure capital of the world), I chose to visit a maze, rather than skydive, zipline, or bungee jump above some of the most beautiful vistas imaginable. As a child, I was a late walker because – at least according to my mother – I wasn’t ready to take a step until I believed I wouldn’t fall. I like to choose the route that feels safe, reassuring – and non-heart-attack-inducing.
And that’s ok. Sometimes, being cautious is a good thing. But, when I think about the best things in my life, and the moments I am most proud of, many came from taking risks. In order to succeed and rise to the top, we have to make choices that are uncomfortable and uncertain.
But, taking risks doesn’t have to be so scary. Read on for our best tips for taking smart risks and making the right decisions.
“Be bold, be bold – but not too bold”
Many of us know the conclusion of this rhyme: “be bold, be bold – but not too bold, lest your heart’s blood run cold.” Taking smart risks is all about balance. To get to great things, we need to speak up; we need to innovate; we need to invest time, money and energy in things that are not 100% certain. But we also need to balance that boldness with self-preservation (no one really wants their “heart’s blood to run cold” from overboldness!). We need supportive team members and partners, research to back up our ideas, emergency funds to fall back on. In short, when being bold, it’s best to plan to be bold and include some risk-mitigation in your planning.
Weigh your options and consult others – but trust yourself
When determining a course of action, don’t underestimate the power of a simple pro and con list. It is essential that you understand the options available to you and their implications. What will happen if you take this action? What will happen if you don’t take this action? What other actions could you take in this situation?
Spend some time sussing out the meaning of your choices and get input from people you trust. However, don’t let the voices of others and the on-paper goodness of a decision sway you too much. Maybe the con side of your list has more points, but are those points weighted equally? What matters most? At the end of the day, if you are in the position to make a decision, chances are you are 100% capable of making that decision. Once you’re informed, trust your smarts and your gut to lead you in the right direction.
Take your time making big decisions – but don’t wait too long
As you can probably tell, making the right choices isn’t a fast process. If you do it well, it takes time to understand a complex situation and the potential consequences of a risky move. It is important to take that time – carve time out of your busy schedule, delegate tasks, do what you have to do to get quality think time on this issue. But, don’t wait too long or the window of opportunity may pass.
By: Elissa Gurman
A strong executive team works at continuous improvement.
See how we facilitate executive and board sessions