Australian Government,  Blog post,  Communications professional,  Leadership

Learning to take risks

By nature, I am a pretty risk-averse person. I am methodical and planned, so I spend a lot of time thinking and researching before committing to anything from buying new sheets to a big work project. Recently, I have been reflecting that some of the biggest regrets in life have been when I have been too scared to try.

Like that time, I didn’t go sky diving at Lake Bled in Slovenia because it felt too risky. Biggest regret of my travelling life. But that’s another story.

It’s not just a personal trait. Having worked in or with government for the past ten years, risk aversion gets pretty ingrained in how you operate. For a communications professional, this can be stifling, but it is a reality of how you work. Don’t be too creative – what would people think! What if the public responded negatively? Don’t try something new – there aren’t enough resources, too many unknowns, the Minister might not like it. We have heard it all before.

A few years ago, I surveyed government communications professionals and found that almost 60% feel their implementation is impacted by risk-averse management.

Imagine what we are missing out on? Imagine the amazing, creative, innovative things we could do in communications if we take more risks.

Since leaving my government management role, one of my key reflections has been that I wish I had been more open to failure. Not just taking a risk, but being ok with it not working out. Imagine what we could have done.

A pivotal moment for me was reading Kristen Hadeed’s book Permission to Screw Up. I know I have talked about it before. It is one of those books you read, and you get that “Ah-huh” moment. Her philosophy is that you need to let your people (and yourself) make mistakes because otherwise, you will never learn and never grow.

When I was working in government, some of my teams’ biggest successes were when we went out on a limb and tried to deliver something different. When we were trusted by management to fully utilise our skills. I can reflect back now and see that I often stifled my team’s ideas because of resources, internal politics, executive buy-in…the list goes on. I wish I had given us permission to screw up more often.

I’ve recently taken a few risks in my business, and it’s made me reflect that actually great things can happen. I am better now at asking myself, ‘what is the worst that can happen?’ and doing a little risk assessment in my head. Risks can be worth it. Plus, it’s no fun to play it safe all of the time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *