Go Big or Go Home — The Smart Way to Make Bold Moves

August 2018

Image: iStock

My friend Carol works as part of a sales team of four … well, now three, since her coworker, Jack, was recently fired. Carol tells me Jack was, on average, moderately successful in his role. Some months, Jack pulled in skyrocketing revenue, giving management hope of greatness in his abilities. But in other months his numbers were flat. Mostly I heard “here’s another Jack story for you” from a very miffed (and sometimes amused) Carol as she relayed his latest business escapade.

Jack was a coworker that routinely forged ahead boldly with unsanctioned-by-management deals that sometimes compromised the organization’s goals. When “caught”—and only when caught—he would admit his wrongdoing, rationalize his motives from a very narrow point of view (his own), apologize for his broad steps and then forge ahead unfettered. Sometimes Jack’s brassy maneuvering worked, and sometimes it flopped … badly.

Weak leadership let Jack’s Wild West sales approach slide for too long because he was bringing in revenue. His constant scheming created distrust and dissent among his peers, and after all his showboating, his results were mediocre and the team was discouraged by the unfair liberties he was allowed to take. The tipping point for Jack’s employer was a personal payment he received (and boasted about) for services his company would provide to a client.

You Done Me Wrong

When bold actions offend others, an apology can go a long way in diffusing anger, regaining acceptance and restoring relationships. But repeated bold actions without regard to how it affects individuals and enterprises can result in loss of status, power and job. If an employee’s off-the-rails actions fail, the news can be broadcast quickly through social media, causing brands to repair their reputation. This makes a compelling argument to always hire those that align with your company’s values.

When Bold is Best

Every day we see examples of bold moves that promise big growth opportunities in business, politics, communities and personal relationships, and we applaud trailblazers for their risk-taking actions.

There are many ways for companies to fuel growth (portfolio repositioning, market transformation, geographic expansion, segment domination), but the main driver is people. Many people are motivated to be creative and find new solutions to old problems. It’s a company’s responsibility to encourage and manage their talent in ways that align with their values and objectives.

And when personal or professional risks fail, they often aren’t as bad as you had imagined. A failure is a lesson learned … when it happens, dust yourself off, gain experience and be enlightened by the new possibilities this jump off the cliff has presented to you.

Tips for Taking Considerate Action

Where is the balance between taking bold action, intended to meet personal or company goals, and stagnation? And how do you avoid stepping on the toes of stakeholders? Whether you fit a Jack-type profile or are tasked with managing one, it’s best to fully understand or convey the parameters of what’s acceptable to your organization. Use these tips to manage a thoughtful and realistic approach to risk-taking moves:

Be a visionary. You’ve got a ground-breaking idea. Now create drive and excitement by imagining yourself succeeding in your new plan.

Review options with stakeholders and other experts. Not every bold move will be smooth, so fleshing out new directions to explore with your team and experts is prudent.

Communicate with stakeholders. Share your idea with others and listen to their concerns.

Be respectful of resources. Is your company and team poised to execute on your plan? Have you informed stakeholders of your intentions? Have you accepted input from team members?

Run the numbers. Lessen your risk of failure by researching the viability and cost of your venture. And consider how you would handle failure.

Document your pros and cons. Based on your research, anticipate the pros and cons. Do the pros outweigh the cons? Plan on how you would deal with the cons.

Test your plan. Start on a small scale and test the response to your action.

Trust your gut. Using your intelligence, research and planning, decide if it is wise to move forward.

Ready, set, go. If your bold move looks favorable based on all of your planning, take the big leap toward your goal.

Taking risks intelligently is a good thing—the formation of our business, Twirling Tiger Media, almost five years ago, is a testament to that. Some rogue business actions based on impulse are not. Months after Jack’s termination, Carol reports that her reputation-damaged company is still fielding complaints on broken promises that Jack made to clients.

Thank you for reading this,

—Maureen Joyce