5 easy steps to taking a risk
By tim brown
Leadership | July 21, 2016
Every place I turn lately to read about becoming a better leader, I’m told: “Take more risks.”
More risks? Is that the way to success? To happiness? Satisfaction? What is taking more risks going to do for me? Lose control? Lose the farm? Lose my mind? Who needs that? Who can afford that?
At the risk of missing out, though, maybe there is wisdom in taking chances, branching out, living at a higher level of adventure – even along the path to becoming a stronger leader.
Here are five challenges to get you on the path to greater leadership by taking more risks (I could’ve offered 7 but…too risky).
1. Build your network
Develop a greater network of contacts by 10% before the year is over. How? Talk more to coworkers. Greet those you see regularly, e.g., elevator riders, store clerks, those standing in a Starbucks line. Anyone. Everyone.
Long before the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrrazzi was published, guess where I was? Eating lunch with others. Sometimes they were clients, sometimes reporters, other times coworkers, and sometimes just dear friends. I believe it has made a world of difference in my career, not to mention the treasured bonds of friendship that have deepened one lunch at a time.
But here’s the thing: Not everyone is comfortable trying to hold an hourlong conversation with another. Totally understand. My advice: DO IT anyway. Practice and practice and practice, and guess what: you’ll become a pro at conversation. You’ll find a fascination with other people and their adventures. You’ll be enriched.
In sum, build your list of contacts you can be more comfortable with. Then ask them about their jobs, duties, etc. Don’t stop there, though. Talk to waiters, waitresses, hosts, building guards. Just get to know others — and to feel comfortable starting a conversation. Amaze yourself.
2. Give presentations
Next to death and divorce, people fear giving presentations. Is that true? Then try it. Face it. Do it over and over. Do it until it becomes so second nature that you actually might be a bit bored with it.
You don’t have to give a formal presentation before 100 people. Instead, just speak up in your next meeting. Set a goal to say something of value in a meeting. Then actually do it (after your heart stops racing). And feel the exhilaration, the accomplishment and the greater sense of confidence. You will soon learn you had it inside of you all the time. You knew what you were feeling. You shared it. And now you’re feeling great about yourself. All because you spoke up. Magic.
3. Get outside your comfort zone
Do any relevant work-related thing outside of your comfort zone. Volunteer to help on a committee. Work to get on a Chamber task team. Anything in those realms will help you see the world in a new light. That risk is an adventure that can pay out in huge sums. You could find relationships and resources – connections – that could shape a future you never imagined.
4. Get outside your comfort zone (again)
Do any personal thing outside of your zone. Sing out loud. Smile at others. Help someone. Provide little treasures of assistance as you observe the world around you that you may have been closing off over the years. The point here is it takes no special training to accomplish this item because it’s coming directly from you to others in your own world.
5. Open your mind to new ideas
Surround yourself with others who think in a different fashion than you. This is not for the faint of heart, but it is for the confident soul. Being around even one other person who thinks along a different path opens your eyes to another line of thinking. You don’t have to buy into it, but just allowing yourself to be exposed to it will provide a reaction. And you may agree with some points; you may dismiss all of it, but the experience alone can be a highlight in your bank of experiences.
Part of me says, Why not do all of these? In the song “Gumboots,” genius lyricist Paul Simon sings, “Say, ain’t we walking down the same street together on the very same day?” Which always made me think we’re here for a reason. So is everyone else. Maybe by opening up to each other, we can discover some great things. Then the risk would be all worth it.