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Ride into the Danger Zone (stepping out and taking a risk)

This week I am attending the WorkHuman 2015 Conference in Orlando, Florida. The goal of this conference is to help companies find ways to create a community of support and positivity that brings greater meaning to everyone’s work lives.  I’ll share what I learn here and on Twitter (@mkfaulkner43 #WorkHuman). 


 

If you’re going to make a mistake, make a mistake of passion.
–  Dr. Montgomery, jazz teacher

If I had a pick a word for Day One of WorkHuman, I would say it’s Balance.

Day Two, I would pick Risk. As in, take more of them.

I like this word. In fact, I LOVE this word. Risk. It’s a good one and it reminds all of us that innovation and greatness doesn’t come from sitting on our ass waiting for someone to tell us the best way to do things. We have to go for it.

All the keynote speakers so far today – Rob Lowe (yes, he IS that pretty in real life) and Nilofer Merchant (FOLLOW HER) – pushed the idea of stretching your comfort zone, taking big risks, not being afraid to fail, to BE WEIRD.

We are so hard-wired to stay in our boxes, follow the rules, conform. It’s time we embrace the fact that danger is a necessary ingredient to realizing our full potential.

We all work with and for people who never look outside of the four walls of their particular business, who believe the experience they have and the way they have always done things is exactly the right and best way to do it.

And you know what? It might be. For them. In that system. In that industry.

But for the rest of us? We need to be bold. We need to show courage. We need to stop thinking and start doing.

As employees, this means sharing our ideas and making proposals that we think are smart. Yes – there is a very real chance that it will get shot down the first, second, tenth time. But if you don’t believe in your idea enough to keep reworking it, getting more data, and trying again, why do you think anyone else would believe in it? The approval of others isn’t the only measure as to whether or not you have a good idea. Just because they don’t see it and get it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

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As leaders, it means stopping our incessant need to “protect” – to protect what we have, to protect what our teams have, to protect some perceived notion of security. Leaders are EXACTLY in the right position to rock the boat – and rock it a lot – in order to move their business forward. Leaders have the influence, the knowledge, and the audience to be able to take real risk and make a difference. Leaders will set the example that risk-taking – and potential failure – is okay, encouraged, and ultimately, valued because of the impact it can have on the organization.

It doesn’t mean you get to be stupid about it.

It means you believe in the validity of an idea so much that you want it to succeed.

It means you believe in yourself enough that you know you are someone worth taking a risk for.

Risk taking is contagious. It breaks the status quo and challenges our assumptions about what we do, how we do it, and most importantly, why we do it. Risk taking made Rob Lowe a star and made Nilofer Merchant a successful businesswoman and author. They embraced their drive, embraced their beliefs, embraced a dream. And that’s why they’re standing on a stage telling the rest of us how to take risks – because they’ve already done it.

Embrace the danger. Move the business forward. Move yourself forward.

Take a risk.

 

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
– T. S. Eliot

 
 

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Missed opportunities, or what if you spent $4M and no one cared?

[Editor’s Note: Due to the horrible performance by this author’s team, the game itself shall not be discussed.  I mean, seriously – what the heck was that?!]

Every year, the Super Bowl audience breaks down to two camps – those who care about the game and those who care about the commercials.  Ever since Apple’s ‘1984’ ad aired, the Super Bowl has risen in prominence as THE place for companies to make a marketing impact.  With the increase of on demand entertainment, live sporting events on the level of the Super Bowl offer one of the few places where millions of eyes will be watching at the same time.  And given the mythical status some Super Bowl ads attain, this is one of the few times that people WANT to watch the commercials. So you would think companies would do their best to make the most of this moment.

Sadly, this year’s crop fell short.  In fact, recent years have revealed some lackluster attempts to get our attention.  We long for the days of EDS’s “herding cats” or the CareerBuilder chimps. Instead, we get a Maserati ad that everyone hoped was a horror movie trailer and others that made Joe Namath’s coat the highlight of the evening. [Ed. Note: The Budweiser Puppy/Clydesdale ad was still awesome.  Because….puppy.  Duh.]  Not exactly everyone’s idea of $4M well spent.

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We’ve all had situations in which we had a great opportunity to make a positive impression…and fell flat on our face.  Or worse, made no impression at all.  By examining the possible mistakes made by this year’s Super Bowl ad companies, it’s possible you can avoid a similar problem when provided a high visibility stage upon which to make a statement:

  • Playing it safe:  A lot of the ads toyed with audacity, but couldn’t quite get there.  That $4M price tag might have kept companies from wanting to go too far out of the norm.  As a result, there was a lack of creativity.  And I’m not the only one who thought so.
    What it means to you: When you get a chance to play on the big stage, decide whether or not you want to swing for the fences.  If you’re going to take a risk, take a real risk.  A jazz instructor I knew once said, “If you’re going to make a mistake, make a mistake of passion.”
  • Not managing the message: If you followed the Twitter feed for Super Bowl ads, you saw a wide range of negative comments – some deserved (and funny), some bizarre and intolerant. As a result, the ad’s message was lost in the aftermath.
    What it means to you: It’s not possible to anticipate all reactions to the content, but it’s good to have a backup plan. When you take your moment in the sun, consider the audience, the possible response, and how you’ll handle any backlash.
  • Losing sight of the goal: This one can also be thought of as “Letting the size of the stage dictate your message”.  Bud Light, who has had some winners in the past, decided to feature a regular guy who doesn’t know he’s in a commercial – and not just any commercial, a Super Bowl Commercial.  So you ended up with Don Cheadle and a llama, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in inappropriate shorts.  And how is this about beer? Or even about the Bud brand?
    What this means to you: Just because you’re in a high visibility situation, it doesn’t mean you should forget why you’re there.  Whatever message you want to send, keep the core of that message.  What do you want people to remember – you and your message, or the fact that you had a dancing bear introduce you?

Chances are, your stage isn’t as big as what we saw on Sunday.  But every single time you have a chance to make an impression, you should think of it as your personal Super Bowl.  Seize the opportunity to tell your story, share your message, and be memorable – in a GOOD way.  Don’t spend the social equivalent of $4M just so people can say, “meh.”

 Do you have a story about how a time you made an impression on the big stage?  Share in the comments?

 

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