As a leader, I consider myself to be very pragmatic. I have a clear preference for making factual and practical decisions that carry a high probability of success (I know that may sound positive but as a leader, one has to be much more open to taking risks at a faster rate) You may have heard the term “fail fast or fail forward” before and it ultimately breeds long term success.
2018 has truly been a year of deep reflection and self evaluation for me and guess what I discovered? Despite my career success, I was NEVER really good at taking risks; shocker right?
During reflection, what jumped out at me was when I was dating my first boyfriend….man I really loved that guy but the first real mistake he made, I kicked him to the curb. Neither the pleas of our family members nor friends managed to get through to me. Seven great years of partnership and friendship and I did not give my high school sweetheart a second chance. Needless to say, it was a really tough decision and time in my life (and his too). In my mind when I weighed the odds, I was not prepared to take the risk of him disrupting the vision I had for my life (that would be so reckless and irresponsible of me). Makes me wonder, why am I so afraid of taking risks and ultimately how can I get better at this?
Well, since I am all for continuous improvement, I recently made a vow to start adjusting my mindset so that I am more open to “taking risks”. Truth be told, it’s been a real struggle because I really am a very practical person. Naturally, I tend to assess situations with the aim of identifying a workable solution that minimises any perceived negative impact to all involved or to the business. Even though I feel I should earn a point or two for my recent efforts; it continues to trouble me as to why I am so adversed to taking risk?
Imagine, earlier this year my daughter sat the Common Entrance Examination (and did extremely well if I might add). As we were in the final prepping stage, an opportunity was presented for me to pursue Executive Leadership Training in Canada. I was really elated to have been selected for this prestigious training; I recall feeling all sorts of emotions that day but reality very quickly set in. What the heck am I thinking”? How could I up and leave my daughter at this critical time? Would my lack of presence result in her underperforming in an exam that very well could shape the rest of her life? Oh my God…what kind of mother would I be? These were some of the thoughts that literally consumed me for one full week before I agree to make the trip and trust me, even then, I still was no way near comfortable with the risk I had agreed to take. Thankfully, my Amyah is such a mature and smart kid that while I was there stressing, she was certain that she would nail it!
So where does this need to always have everything under control come from? Seems to be a deep rooted trait that may have been influenced by my early childhood. Living with so much uncertainty day in and day out from living with a single mum who earned very low wages, along with my three other siblings, clearly had an impact on my desire to be structured in my way of life. Whether it be my work schedule, projects, finances, my relationships and even my living space (not good with clutter or things being out of place), I perform so much better when there is a clear plan and approach. Who knows, maybe it’s a slight case of undiagnosed OCD (Obsessive Compulsory Disorder). Whatever the root cause, it has served me well throughout the years. That being said, now I am swiftly entering a new era that requires a slightly different approach. Executive Leadership requires me to take more decisive action in the face of uncertainty. Experts refer to this as VUCA ~ Managing in a Volitile – Uncertain – Complex yet Ambitious time in order to achieve success.
Next year will be my big 40 and here I am committed to embarking on a new journey that will disrupt over 25 years of behavioral actions and thinking. My biggest challenge will be reshaping my approach to decision making in the face of my rapidly evolving professional responsibilities and demands, not to mention the anxiety of raising my daughter in such a disruptive world where she’s already so sure about herself.
Will I have what it takes to create greater balance and continue embracing new risks? Time will surely tell…..I can say however that this level of self reflection has caused me to brace myself for the anticipated challenges ahead. I now sit squarely outside of my cozy comfort zone….