Over the last decade or so, smart workplace risks became marginalized by most companies because of the volatile economic situation. Companies that previously embraced calculated risks began to shift to a more conservative approach. In that timeframe, the decision paid off for many companies. Today the market is back in most sectors, yet many teams and companies continue with this reserved approach.
If you’re a team leader, now is the time to empower your associates to take smart risks. A team always has to remain cautious to a healthy degree, but risk is mandatory for advancement. If you find your team is reluctant to take the plunge, it’s your job to give them motivation. Here’s how you can drive their ambitious endeavors:
1. Show the Benefits of an Innovative Culture
Most of the world’s best findings come from grand goals and trial and error. Innovation cannot happen without taking risks, and rarely without error along the way. It’s natural to fear failure, and for good reason: the wrong kind of failure can lose a company money, investors, and associates. The right kind of failure comes in small doses that a team learns from and improves upon to great benefit.
When a team begins to see the results of risk taking, it will inspire them to keep pushing forward to find answers and pursue other worthwhile ventures that benefit the team. These benefits include revenue gains for the company, sparked by innovative cultures, and work gains for the team. The challenges that come with innovating also break up stagnation in the work day keeping associates engaged.
2. Demonstrate How it Builds Confidence
Smart risk-taking is empowering, but this is a difficult message to send without demonstrating to the team how to do so with confidence. If a team is slow to warm on an idea, consider sharing case studies from other teams, or even better, take the lead and show them by taking a risk yourself. The spirit should trickle down through the whole team as a result, lending associates confidence in their actions and driving them to succeed.
Of course, demonstration does not always bring about immediate results. Leaders and teammates alike must learn the importance of trial and error and how making mistakes along the way is healthy, so long as they learn from them. The best way to demonstrate this is to show how failing quickly and cheaply can lead to long-term lessons.
3. Teach Smart Risk-Taking Methodology
A good leader will provide helpful tips that differentiate smart risk-taking from ill-advised risk-taking. I recommend leaders advise their teams to take bite-sized chunks when making decisions, rather than tackling them all at once–this way every step is purposeful.
It is also important to ask for feedback along the way. You can never have enough information, and the more you have the more comfortable you will be in your decisions. On the other hand, waiting for all the information leads to analysis paralysis, stalling projects. Leaders and team members alike must strive to learn the balance.
4. Keep Associates Accountable
I believe in creating gaps. In my experience, people do not show their true potential if they feel like someone else will cover for them. When a person knows a task won’t be completed without them, they will start making decisions and learn to assess the risks intelligently. The safety net is visibly gone and they will step up to the plate. Creating gaps forces development of your team members.
This approach lends associates responsibility and power, through which they become leaders in their own right. Instead of simply following orders, they must do their due diligence to get the job done and ultimately demonstrate leadership, risk-taking, and innovation without dictation.
5. Promote Brainstorming Sessions
While it’s important to give individuals responsibility, collaborative, thoughtful discussions between team members allow ideas and solutions to be shared. Through collaboration, an associate can take their thoughts into a team endeavor, promoting teamwork and problem-solving all at once.
I believe that cross-functional collaboration drives progress. Good ideas rarely come from one individual; commonly, actionable ideas and plans for implementation come from one person’s idea cultivated and expanded upon by the team. This type of thought generation and problem solving leads to unique, forward-thinking solutions. Promoting groupthink and team collaboration challenges individuals to take concepts to the next level.
Brainstorming sessions challenge associates to make better decisions and look at things from a variety of perspectives. An individual may go to a team member or group for feedback and come out making the same decision, but after being challenged by others they will feel confident in that choice, clearly understand the risk, or have ideas on how to better that decision.
6. Encourage Open Communication
Lastly, meaningful risks cannot be taken in the dark or behind closed doors. That’s why open communication between team members and leaders is so important in promoting a culture of smart innovation. I find that the best teamwork comes when the group is open and honest with one another–this way, there can be a free flow of ideas unhindered by judgment.
An idea in itself is not good or bad, after all. Its applicability to the problem, level of impact, or ability to be implemented are the reasons it should or shouldn’t be followed through. More ideas lead to more creativity and ultimately shape the solution that the team will move forward with.
So go onward and empower your team to crave calculated risks instead of fear them. Ambitious team members, when given the responsibility and opportunity, can become incredible assets that will supercharge innovation in your company. They only need the right incentives and direction.