Chocolate! Pizza! Dill Pickles! Adrenaline! What kind of cravings do we deal with in leadership situations? Many of the decisions we make stem from where our comfortable spot is. For some, you move from a place you know to a place that is close. You crave predictability, stability, and certainty. There’s a mathematical beauty in this: If you do X you get Y. This is a fantastic perspective in short term planning. They go to the next logical step and there are no leaps of faith. The draw back is that if they always adopt this approach, they wander around in the parking lot and never get to the store.
For others, they get a ladder, place it on a table, balance a stool on it and look out. If they see a place they want to go, they just lean the tower in that direction and it falls over. They build another tower and repeat until they get there. These leaders crave adventure, variety, an element of risk. They take nothing but leaps of faith. The draw back in this situation is that they run out of climbing materials, and when they fall, they fall hard.
Can we agree there has to be a balance? If you have a goal in mind that doesn’t challenge you, will it make a difference when you reach it? If the journey doesn’t demand anything from you, do you grow? If your goal is always so far ahead that you cannot see a path, are you likely to reach it? After so many falls, are you likely to try? You cannot succeed if you relegate yourself to one approach or the other.
Safety must be present to give you the boldness to try something new. Risk must be present to make the goal worthwhile. Take stock of your risk tolerance and your safety tolerance. Yes, there is safety tolerance. If you play it safe for too long, you become bored. How long does it take to go from feeling safe and secure to boredom? Follow a 5 year old around. Listen to a teenager on the 2nd day of summer break. Balance your activity so that you get some risk followed by some safety and you will see yourself making progress toward your goals.
Realizing that your group is made of people who have different cravings, you must give the risk takers risks to take, but cannot frighten the living daylights out of those that crave safety. The reverse is also true: giving safety and predictability for too long will cause boredom and restlessness with those who crave risks. Communication and connecting with each member helps you decide how much risk you want to take on at any period of time, and allow them to get comfortable and feel safe in the new situation before you move to the next step.
In conclusion, think of Safety and Risk on a teeter totter. They will never be completely balanced, but the less they wobble, the better the outcome.