On Being Bold: Step on the Gas

Step on the gas
Being bold: Step on the gas

A few years ago, I purchased a classic car – a 1975 Oldsmobile Delta 88 convertible.  It’s been a fun car to drive around town on nice summer days.  It’s usually what I drive to go watch my kids play soccer and baseball. And I’ve only gotten caught in the rain a couple of times.

I was a bit too timid

Soon after I bought it, I noticed that when the engine was cold when I first started it, it would stall when I lightly hit the gas.  I took it in for a tune up and it improved a little.  But it still stalled the first few times I tried to take off.

After some trial and error – and a few times being stalled in the middle of some busy intersections – I figured out that instead of tapping the accelerator, I needed to really step on the gas.  By confidently giving it more gas, it would take off and wouldn’t stall on me.

Step on the gas at work

I’ve noticed the same thing at work.  There were times early in my career when I was afraid to speak up in a meeting.  Higher-level executives might be discussing an issue.  I would have a suggestion, but figured they either had already thought of that or, worse yet, they would think it was a stupid idea.

So I would just sit there in silence while they struggled through the issue.  Too often, my idea would eventually come out of someone else’s mouth and everyone would like the idea.  I would walk out of the meeting wishing I had just been bold enough to throw out the idea.

We often work in environments where making mistakes – like making a stupid suggestion – is punished, or at least laughed at.  It’s safer to not make a mistake than to take the risk of embarrassing yourself.

Much like tapping on the accelerator instead of stepping on it to give it some real gas, we often play ‘not to lose’ rather than being bold and playing to win.

I’ve learn over the years that my instincts are right more often than not.  Most of my biggest regrets are for things I didn’t do rather than for things I did wrong.

Don’t Floor it

When I take off in my old car, I can’t floor it.  I have to control it a little to avoid peeling out and leaving tire tracks in my wake – and killing people.  You have to temper your boldness as well.

I’ve witnessed people who try too hard.  They come off as loud, abrasive and obnoxious, dominating the conversation and trying to convince everyone that their opinion is the only one worth considering.

See my related post: Are You Contagious?

That can be a difficult balance.  But once that balance is struck, you can quickly get out of that rut of loss avoidance and start winning once in a while.

Have you ever wished you had done more to step on the gas in your past?

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 comments and criticisms. 

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The Illusion of Control
The 2 Biggest Management Challenges
Boundless optimism: We Need 16 to Tie, 17
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Contrasting Middle-School Management Styles
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