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  • The Risk You Will Take This Year

    Joe Calloway, The Risk You Will Take This Year

    The hard stuff is reaching deep down inside and looking honestly into your soul and asking, “Do we really want to do this, and are we willing to change how we’ve done it up to now?”. I do a lot of presentations about improving business performance and growth, which means that I go to a lot of corporate conventions and meetings. Believe me, you can’t predict the probable success of a company based on the look or sound of its meetings. Quite often, it’s the quietly determined companies who don’t make much noise that are the ones who actually walk the talk. Enthusiasm isn’t necessarily loud.

    That’s not to say that big budget meetings can’t help produce big results. They can. Sometimes what’s needed to create momentum and enthusiasm is a good dose of fun, show business, and motivation. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the big company meeting at the big resort hotel. It’s just that for it to produce something worthwhile, it must be accompanied by the commitment to make something happen.

    In working with my clients, I sometimes confront them with some simple yet very tough questions about their stated goals: “Do you really mean this?” “How far are you willing to take this thing?” “What’s your tolerance for chaos?” “How scared are you able to be and still function?” “Are you willing to let go of everything that works in order to get to where you say you want to go?” “Who are you?” “What do you really stand for?” “When it comes right down to it, what’s really important around here?” “When you say that your intention is to be the best in the business or to achieve true excellence or to take your business to the next level, are you serious, or are you really just kidding around?”

    There are very serious ramifications involved if the answer is “Yes, we’re serious.” The reality may be that you and your company just may not be willing to do what it takes to achieve greatness. Which is fine. Just be clear on what you’re committing to if you say, “We mean it. Let’s go.” It’s much better not to kid yourselves and freely choose to pretty much stay where you are. The reality may be that you have spent years as a company fighting your way to the middle of the pack, and now you just want to rest for a while. No problem. Of course, the inherent danger in that strategy is that there’s really no such thing as holding your position. You’re either gaining ground or losing ground.

    But better to be honestly mediocre and try to stay where you are with a sense of contentment than be unrealistically ambitious about what is yet to be and never get there because you never really wanted to go in the first place. It’s demoralizing to any group of people to say year after year that this is the year that we go to the mountaintop, when all that ever happens is we just keep on doing what we’ve been doing with a new set of posters on the walls.

    There’s risk in any decision, including the cliche’ that the riskiest thing you can do is to play it safe.  If you do nothing, you risk falling behind.  If you talk a big game of big changes but don’t follow through, you risk demoralizing yourself and your employees.If you truly do commit to significant changes, you almost certainly risk a degree of confusion, uncertainty and some internal resistance. But I believe in the idea that “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing wrong.”  Don’t wait until the time for change is perfect.  It never will be.  If change is worthwhile, do it imperfectly.  You’ll gain information that will enable you to adjust and do it better.  Imperfect progress is better than perfect stagnation.

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