Management Matters: Up Your Risk/Reward Ratio

There are many kinds of risks you can take:

  • Everyone in the meeting agrees and don’t.Speak up or stay silent?
  • Burned out at work, the thought of going back for a totally new degree is very appealing. Register for classes or resign to stay where you are?
  • A job is offered to you but it’s in another state. Move or stay?
  • Always wanted to learn a new skill but no one will sign up with you. Sign up solo or take a hard pass?
  • Someone who is knows you well suggests a new professional opportunity. Go or hold back?

Risk is a skill. That’s good news because skills can be learned and life is filled with risks. Both failure and success are part of our daily lives. However, while we accept that we need to learn when we are young, as we age we develop a larger fear of potential peril. We often believe that risk should be minimized at all cost. Pressure to conform, stay ‘safe’ and avoid any error in judgement means that we stop risking and look to stay as safe as possible.

Choosing risk is not about being fearless. It’s moving forward regardless of fear and anxiety. If we want to develop the ability to take more risks so that we can maximize our rewards, it would be terrific if could create environments that are safe; places where we can share ideas, reflect on dreams, talk about our views and learn new things without the fear of looking foolish, losing the respect of others, or having it cost precious time or money.

Sadly, that’s not the world that we live in, but it can existis some places and you can develop the critical skills to enhance your resilience and develop a higher risk tolerance. Training rooms or meeting rooms with someone who understands how people feel about risk would be a good place to start. People who are resilient learn to deal well with pressure, adapt to change and have an optimistic perspective.

The best teacher is experience.Like driving, you don’t get better from the comfort of a chair. But you can be on the lookout for these characteristics of resilient people:

  • Focus on problem solving instead of throwing up their hands, becoming emotional, and focusing on their unhappy feelings that are the causes of those feelings,
  • Concentrate on the strengths they already possess, creating confidence. They review past successes, creating a good opinion of their abilities.
  • Trust their inner voice and read others well.
  • Stay flexible and adaptable in action, emotion and thought. They have back up plans so that the overall goal is not completely derailed.
  • Are BOTH optimistic and pessimistic,trusting and careful, humorous and serious, emotional and rational.

The ability to bounce back quickly from setbacks and emerge upbeat and optimistic is a way of converting misfortune into the chance to be something good. Think about an experience in your own life that you consider to be one of the worst. Then ask yourself: what did I learn from that and why was it useful for it to happen to me? Learning lessons from bad experiences are the building blocks that form a foundation of resiliency.

So -

  • Speak up at the meeting. You probably are not alone in your opinion.
  • Register for a class. When you are motivated and curious, learning is not so hard and can be energizing.
  • Consider the opportunity for success, not just discomfort and loss.
  • Send out some feelers to see if others in this new field are interested in you. Your prior experience may be the right stepping stone to future success.

When I ask clients “ what’s the worst that can happen,” it allows them to examine that scenario and come up with a backup plan. Once they know what they might do if things don’t go as planned, they are prepared for potential problems. This conversation allows people to then take the time and opportunity to risk, and find reward as well as develop resiliency.

Everyone has the potential to become more resilient. Those who leverage this skill set become a bit less risk averse. These are the folks who understand that a willingness to try something new, make mistakes, advocate unpopular positions or tackle very challenging obstacles (that have no obvious solutions or guaranteed outcomes) is the very thing that makes risk taking a part of their personal and professional growth and accomplishments.

Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management training and development consulting practice that specializes in developing human resources in the areas of leadership and management training, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 25 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. Joni can be reached at

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