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BW Businessworld

C Suite: Don’t Be Afraid To Lose Your Job

Initiative and conscientious risk-taking are the hallmarks of great team members and great companies

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Yes, you could lose your job for being inept, incompetent, missing deadlines and milestones, or simply failing to do the work. But you will not be fired for taking chances, and embracing risk and the responsibility that goes with it. And if you are fired for taking a chance and owning the outcome, your boss is a coward, and your company is on the brink of irrelevance.

So,most of us don’t take chances at work. Instead we take crap from management, accept workplace bullying, go along with idiotic ideas, follow unethical orders, hide our opinion and mask our true identities. We even accept lower salaries, because we fear losing our job.

Fifty years ago only experts worried about cigarettes, drunk driving, and wearing seat belts. The rest were more alarmed about nuclear attacks, Russian invasions, and asteroid impacts.

Today, you are more likely to be struck by lightning than killed in a terrorist attack. You are far more likely to be killed by your own furniture, or drown in your bathtub, than from a terrorist attack. And, you are more likely to die in a car accident than a plane crash.

Risk equals probability multiplied by consequence. In other words, smoking cigarettes or driving while texting is considerably more risky than worrying that you are going to be kidnapped and held for ransom. But risk is different than fear. Risk is quantifiable, fear is perception.

The difference between risk and fear is, of course, control. When you are smoking or driving a car you are in control. When you imagine being attacked by a bear on vacation, you have no control, whatsoever. It’s a terrifying thought. It could stop you from taking a nice walk in the woods.

There are a number of other criteria that also affect our perception of risk — like timing. When we believe risk is imminent, we perceive it as more dangerous, and longer term risks are viewed as more moderate. This explains why we postpone exercising and order another glass of wine. There’s no immediate risk, right? But pretty soon the couch potato routine turns into very real health disabilities.

Familiarity is also one of our biggest barriers to attempting anything challenging and difficult. When we are familiar with the challenge, we view it as less risky. Yet statistically safe activities, which we have never done before, are viewed as terrifying.

Just the other night our family watched a show about big, scary waterslides around the world. Waterslides are among the safest, and most controlled recreational environments, complete with professionals who are monitoring the entire experience.

Another consideration that halts our ability to accept risk is considering how reversible the consequences are. Losing your job is an irreversible experience. So, we view the risk as higher. All of these factors – familiarity, control, reversibility and timing — contribute to our sense of risk and fear. However, great leadership, remarkable innovations, and outstanding service, begin with initiative, and embracing risk and the accountability that comes with it.

Initiative and conscientious risk-taking are the hallmarks of great team members and great companies. This learned behaviour only happens when people feel psychologically safe at work. If you work in the kind of company that respects the psychological safety of teams, you are more likely to speak up, share ideas, ask for help, and take initiatives.

If you are a leader responsible for a team, you likely have deadlines and objectives for your team to accomplish. The best way to get team members to step up is to make them feel psychologically safe to take chances.

Shawn Hunter is president and founder of Mindscaling, which builds online learning courses based on the work of bestselling authors. His new book is ‘Small Acts of Leadership: 12 Intentional Behaviors That Lead to Big Impact’ (2016). Please visit www.shawnhunter.com for more information

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Magazine 31 October 2016 c suite jobs innovation

Shawn Hunter

Shawn Hunter is president and founder of Mindscaling, which builds online learning courses based on the work of bestselling authors. His new book is ‘Small Acts of Leadership: 12 Intentional Behaviors That Lead to Big Impact’ (2016).

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