Risk, the Entrepreneur and Intelligent Disobedience Don't leave your business vulnerable to risks you can do something about.

By Ira Chaleff

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Entrepreneurs have a lot to worry about - raising capital, securing patents and trademarks, being first to market, putting together the right team, holding it together, creating buzz, strain on family time -- do you really need to hear about one more area of concern?

Yes, you do.

Entrepreneurs are so busy launching their companies and their products and services that, except in the most regulated of industries, they don't feel the need to put risk management towards the top of their to-do list. There will be time enough for that once the launch is successful.


What if the pressure to launch - internal and external -- is so great that to achieve the feat you need to screen out any cautionary voices trying to warn you of potentially fatal flaws? What if those flaws can kill your reputation before it is made, can trigger the defection of key team members or mire you in lawsuits and battles with regulatory bodies? It's hard to swim once there is an anchor around your neck.

What is the answer to this dilemma?

The right question is who is the answer to this dilemma?

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It is your people, those with whom you surround yourself to achieve your goals. Rationally, you want to be able to count on them to warn you of risks you do not see, to pull you back from decisions likely to injure your chances of success, to generate alternatives that are both better and safer.

But will you or they act rationally? It's not likely. A significant amount of research shows human beings are more likely to obey an authority, who is wrong, than risk countering that authority and earning his or her displeasure or retribution.

All of which leaves you and your company vulnerable.

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How do you overcome this risk factor while flying the plane? Because of human nature the actions to take aren't easy, but they are doable. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

  1. Never change lanes without checking your mirrors and looking over your shoulder.
  2. What? I thought we were talking about running a company, not driving a car.
  3. We are. You know your car has blind spots so you never change lanes without checking the mirrors and looking over your shoulder. Do the same in your company.

But how do you this?

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  1. First, don't oversell your idea or plan. You make it too risky to counter it. Raise your idea as tentative and your plan as a draft. Ask for what they see that you may be missing.
  2. Next, stay alert to dissent, and elevate and explore it instead of shutting it down. Prove that you really do want others' ideas.
  3. Even more memorably, if subordinates receive an order they perceive to be too risky to implement and; therefore, resist doing so, thank them for their integrity.
  4. Thank them for disobeying me?
  5. Thank them, even if it costs you money. Never accept "I was doing what you told me to do" as an answer for anything. Everyone is responsible for their choices.
  6. Go make money. Now, you will be able to keep it.
  7. Give everyone copies of my book Intelligent Disobedience. Hey, I'm an entrepreneur too.
  8. Their families will thank you because I also show how to keep their kids safe (and yours).

Read this again. Practice it. Enjoy your increased chances for success.

Ira Chaleff

Founder and president of Executive Coaching & Consulting Associates

Ira Chaleff is the best-selling author of The Courageous Follower and Intelligent Disobedience, as well as the founder of the International Leadership Association’s Followership Learning Community and a member of the ILA board of directors. He is a frequent speaker and workshop presenter on Courageous Followership, and is adjunct faculty at Georgetown University.

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