Does taking risks scare you? To an extent, maybe it should – fear is a built-in mechanism warning our bodies that something may not be right. On the other hand, what if this mechanism was just another obstacle to hurdle on the path to success?
In recent years, companies have been gravitating away from the head-down direction-takers and moving toward those willing to take matters into their own hands. While it may cause CEOs and leaders to step out of their comfort zones, there are multiple reasons why your company should embrace risk-takers these days.
What constitutes a risk-taker?
Merriam-Webster defines risk-taking as "the act or fact of doing something that involves danger or risk to achieve a goal." The risk-taker is the person who takes a risk to achieve a goal. According to Study.com, the risk-taker in business "is someone who risks everything in the hope of achievement or accepts greater potential for loss in decisions and tolerates uncertainty."
According to Deborah Perry Piscione, author of The Risk Factor: Why Every Organization Needs Big Bets, Bold Characters, and the Occasional Spectacular Failure, risk-takers share these qualities:
- They refuse to accept the status quo.
- They sense a much greater purpose in life.
- They focus on products, services and ideas that emphasize value creation.
- They value talented people and understand how and when to collaborate with them.
- They can execute an innovative idea, whether they do it themselves or delegate to others.
- They can scale their innovation to a level that impacts others.
Piscione also stated in her book that risk-takers are incredibly curious about how things work, they hate losing even more than they love winning, and they believe anything is possible.
Even leadership teams can take their cues from risk-takers. It's an often-overlooked quality of management to truly recognize the momentum of an employee and give them the space to evolve.
Benefits of hiring a risk-taker
You should strive to build a diverse workforce that consists of multiple personality types. Each employee brings their own strengths and weaknesses to your company. Here are the top three benefits of hiring a risk-taker:
"Companies need fire-starters – the people willing to ignite a different kind of conversation," an executive with an S&P 500 company recently said to me. To his point, he's referring to employees who are willing to avoid the standard courses of action to arrive at a new way of thinking and success. Those confined to traditional methods will hardly see the same growth as those willing to think and operate outside the box.
The risk-takers within your company offer another advantage necessary for growth and continued success: creativity. With the rush of millennial and Generation Z employees to the workforce, creativity is being expressed through nontraditional techniques as the most tech-savvy generations pave the way. The surge of tech-savvy and skilled team members is helping tap into a new outlet for those in various company departments, such as marketing and design.
High-achieving team players
For those who associate an adventurous employee with poor decision-making and an inability to work as a team, you may be pleasantly surprised: The freedom created from that type of culture helps people to be either team players or mavericks – and both are beneficial to your company. Sometimes the employees break into teams working toward a common goal, and sometimes it's a singular effort on the part of an employee who has a vision and runs with it.
How to manage a risk-taker
Employees need to know that they are supported in their risky ventures. As a leader, you can provide a safety net by promoting the behavior you want employees to exhibit through your own actions.
- Modeling: If employees see the leadership taking chances, they will gain confidence in their own ventures.
- Enabling: Provide the tools and information that employees need to make the right decisions.
- Supporting: Show your support through both words and actions.
- Consistency: People are confused when support wavers, so stay strong, even when risky decisions don't have a positive outcome.
When Jim Donald took over as CEO of Extended Stay America, the company was just emerging from bankruptcy, so naturally, employees were nervous about their job security. He famously encouraged risk-taking by handing out thousands of "get out of jail free" cards that his staff could redeem when they took a risk on behalf of the company – no questions asked.
Maureen Berkner Boyt, founder and CEO of The Moxie Exchange, suggests taking a straightforward approach to failure as part of the natural course of business that will help employees develop a level of comfort with the possibility of failing. She suggests planning for worst-case scenarios, throwing a "biggest failure" party, and being honest about your own failures as ways to encourage acceptance of potential lack of success.
For every risk-taker hired, inevitably, there will be others who do not share that adventurous spirit – and that's exactly as it should be. Ultimately, it's about creating a culture rich with balance and acceptance for employees who bring their own individual skill sets and strengths to the table – and the results from each of them.
Skye Schooley contributed to the writing and research in this article.