Risk Is Relative

A question I often encourage managers to ask of their team is: “What was the last risk you took, and how did you feel about it?” This question reveals an important understanding about collaboration: everyone has a different tolerance for risk.

What feels risky to you may feel completely safe and predictable to someone else and vice versa. What’s normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.

It’s important to note this because we often ascribe our own sense of risk tolerance to others and believe that risk is objective. It’s not. Not by a long shot.

If you are early in your career, something might not feel risky because you don’t understand the potential consequences of getting it wrong. This might yield confidence, but it’s a false confidence based on immaturity.

If you are later in your career, something might not feel risky because you’ve seen it before and know how to tread the waters. This is mature confidence.

In the middle, where most of us reside, things are a little murkier. So it helps to have conversations about perceived risk. Don’t assume everyone sees things the same.

Risk is relative. Have a conversation about perceived consequences of failure with your collaborators.

Is there any place in your current work where your perception of risk might be at odds with your collaborators’?

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