“This feels risky! This feels risky!”
A colleague and I were joking nervously on the first day of an intense, weeklong training class.
We were about to begin a rigorous simulation as we learned to coach teams through high-risk, conflict-ripe situations.
In the release of tension through humor, we were being honest about our feelings and our sense of the learning risk we faced.
We met that risk. It was not easy.
But it was a definitely a risk worth taking.
Most of the business risks I’ve taken during my career have fallen into the “risk worth taking” category. They’ve been risks of all kinds, including:
– Starting a career in a difficult national and local economy
– Changing careers
– Changing companies
– Starting a business
– Moving halfway across the country
– Stopping work for a couple of years to get a master’s degree
– Changing careers
– Changing jobs several times in the same company
– Starting another business
– Adding new products and services as the market changes, some opportunities emerging, while others go away
For some, it’s because they see risk as an experience to be endured, not a process to be managed.
Or they don’t understand risk and its benefits, when successfully faced.
Risks in business can occur in many ways.
They can be the result of uncertainties with new projects, products or services.
Risks can arise when a company grows very quickly, or when it expands into unfamiliar markets and works to meet the needs of new customers.
Individual employees, too, face the risks of change. Sometimes that change is welcome or invited. But many times, that is not the case.
You get the picture: business risk can arise in many expected and unexpected ways.
No matter how you well you manage risk now, you can always learn to handle it better.
Start by understanding your risk personality.
Are you most likely to:
– Seek risk, seeing it as a challenge and an adventure in some way?
– Love the adrenalin rush of risk so much that you create it in situations where it doesn’t have to be?
– Try to understand and manage risk?
– Steer clear of risk in all forms?
– Believe that risk does not exist in your business or industry?
Remember, however you feel about risk, your competitors are trying to manage it better than you do.
And the company that handles risk most effectively has a clear advantage over more fearful and/or less adaptable competitors.
That’s because change is always underway, whatever your business or industry.
Consider these many moving parts that most companies face:
– Customers change in terms of what they want and need
– Markets move and adapt as new competitors emerge and others leave
– Technology continues to advance, and to become smaller, faster, and sometimes, less expensive
– Employees move to different jobs and companies
– Suppliers create new products and services, and enter new markets with the products and services they already sell
The net of it is that if you hate risk, and hate to change, you may become obsolete as you try to stay right where you are, attempting to preserve the status quo.
To understand how well you handle risk now, start by considering how you handled risks in the past:
1. Think of two to three major risks you faced in the past few years.
2. Did you anticipate these risks? If not, could you have anticipated them with more or different information?
3. How well did you handle each risk?
4. How could you have handled them better?
5. Are there risks you avoided? Were you able to keep them at bay, or did they show up again in a different, more vigorous or otherwise more challenging way?
Begin, also, to look ahead:
6. How would you like to improve your risk assessment and management abilities in 2013 and beyond?
7. What information might help you anticipate, understand, and manage risks better? How can you gather this information most easily?
Improvement begins with understanding and acceptance.
Knowing where you stand, currently, goes a long way toward helping you improve your risk management and other abilities.
We’ll return to the subject of risk in the next blog post. I’ll share ideas for how you can begin to handle risk better.
In the meantime, if you’d like more ideas on how to make the next year a better year, here’s a previous blog post I wrote, Seven tips to make your business change-ready for an improved year.
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