Taking risks

4 Ways to Motivate Your Staff to Take Big Risks

When’s the last time you took a big risk? Many professionals avoid taking chances related to business, but that’s rarely a path to success. Managers at a company that leads in a crowded marketplace challenge themselves to think differently and aren't afraid of failure or even making a department obsolete to position the organization for greater success.

In successful companies, it’s not just the decision-makers who are taking risks. Employees throughout the whole organization are doing so. To create a company that pushes its industry forward, follow the four steps outlined below to motivate employees to become risk takers:

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1. Promote core values that encourage risk taking.

Never underestimate the power of words, spoken or written. They can make an impact on employees' mindsets and reverberate throughout an entire organization. Because of this, expressions of the core values that encourage risk taking should be visible everywhere and supported by examples of success. Screen savers, meeting agendas, email signatures, poster boards, employee handbooks and company stationery all can provide reminders.

Expressions of core values that can have the greatest impact demand action. For example, imagine seeing these words every day: “Do whatever it takes to achieve this goal. No excuses. Just make it happen and make it happen now!” Chances are, the next time someone is considering an alternative approach to achieving that goal, he or she might adopt it.

Employees who know that the company has their back will venture forth with new ideas and try to produce the greatest return. That's because there's a support structure (often missing in many workplaces) for taking risks.

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2. Create positive pressure for taking risks.  

Establish goals that are nearly impossible to achieve, not to set up yourself or your team to miss the mark. Instead, this tactic creates a culture that prevents sandbagging and replaces it with positive and rewarding pressure for risk taking. As a result, staff members become risk takers and reject the standard practices traditionally used to achieve easily obtainable goals. Have the company view failure as an area of opportunity. But when the company fails, fail fast, in order to continue onward and upward.

Tie incentives to the goals, either through financial rewards or other forms of validation. The biggest motivator that I’ve seen isn’t a monetary gain. It’s personal victory. This is especially true when an employee has been told something can’t be done but he or she followed through and proved that statement wrong. That's why it is vital to hire people who are personally fulfilled by their successes. The personal drive for achievement leads to company success.

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3. Hire people with an edge and a quest for knowledge.

Employees will make or break a company. If pushing beyond the status quo is on the company's agenda, hire the born-to-be risk takers. These individuals can be identified by their hefty disdain for what's assumed to be fact. Among their diverse range of skills, they question the status quo and acquire knowledge on their terms. This is a big indicator of the ability to think outside the box.

During the interview, test the thought process of candidates to see if they’re aligned with the company's risk-taking values. Two questions that will identify standout individuals are “Could we depend on you 24 hours a day?” and “Do you truly want to work here?” The right answers to these questions may seem obvious. But I can guarantee that these questions are effective for making the right-hiring choice.

For the former, the answer itself is not important. The question is meant to force a risk-based answer. Either way, a manager can see if a candidate takes a stand or wanders into ambivalence. For the latter, if the answer is yes after the candidate answered earlier questions well and is aware of the company's risk-taking mandate, then this individual will be suitable for hire. 

4. Highlight staff successes.

Similar to the power of written word, verbal storytelling is a fundamental way to motivate and inspire others. Share anecdotes and learn from the leaders who have taken considerable risks within the company. 

Different types of stories resonate better than others. Anecdotes about individuals who stepped up to a task outside their comfort zone and brought success to the entire organization are great motivators. Another narrative that works well is one of individuals challenging anyone in an organization, proving them wrong and then restructuring internal processes as a result. Ultimately, what matters most is conveying a real-life story that is relatable and inspiring to staff. 

Understand that failure is a necessary by-product of real and meaningful innovation. Actively encourage risk taking within the company by using core values, positive pressure, hiring processes and storytelling. As a result, the company’s growth will be fueled by staffers who will challenge the organization, leadership and themselves.

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