We hear about people “playing it safe” all the time. You hear it in investing scenarios when someone invests in vehicles that may not aggressively increase in value, but probably won’t lose value.
Sport team’s do it all the time. Football teams develop prevent defenses, which allow opposing teams to make short gains, but are prevented from making a long pass or score a touchdown in a single play. A short pass combined with a long run can backfire on them.
It all comes down to how bold you want to be.
People do it in the workplace too. We see people who work harder at avoiding being wrong than being right.
Risk avoidance causes people in the workplace to do some pretty strange things.
When it’s time to report status, instead of telling the truth, they paint a much rosier picture than reality. It’s what I call the “duck approach”. Like a duck, they’re smiling and serene on the outside, but underwater, they’re paddling like hell trying to fix things.
The same happens when trying to get people to commit to a deadline. They know that as soon as they commit to a date and miss it, they risk being beaten up over it. Most people would rather be ambiguous and say they’re still working on it. “I’ll have it in a couple of days or so.”
These are the type of people who never lose. They’re always right, because they’re never wrong. By never taking a risk by challenging themselves, they always come out “Okay”.
True winners though, don’t worry about losing. Wayne Gretzke is famous for saying “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Still, there are those that are quite content not taking the shots and, thus, not missing any of them.
Think of all of the opportunities that present themselves over the course of a career:
- The chance at a promotion within your firm
- The chance to interview at another firm for a better job
- The opportunity to present the quarterly update to the president of the company
- Asking that man/woman down the hall for a date (note: you should be unattached for this one)
People can be so fixated on not failing that they never take the chance to win.
If you win every time, you’re probably not trying hard enough.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
As always, I welcome your questions and comments.