Do you take enough risk?

This is not Spencer, or indeed myself. Just to be clear.

A couple of weeks ago I was working in Houston with my long term friend and business associate Spencer Holmes.  We were running a Project Leadership simulation with a group of senior consultants, including the Global Head of Consulting for a top notch company in their specialist field.  We had a plan to put them through their paces with a simulation based delibrately in a world they don’t know, so we could concentrate on their behaviours rather than on the technical content. We had developed the simulation last year and piloted it with some of their team in the UK.

Spencer kicked the event off, and quickly had them listing out where their projects go wrong currently, and it soon became evident that there was not only a lot of meat on the bone, but also a real desire in the room to do something concrete and real to address the problems they had identified.

During the first break it took Spencer and I all of 30 seconds to agree that we needed to completely redesign the event, as there was a much greater opportunity to produce real change  than we had originally envisaged.  We decided to ditch the simulation and instead to have them run a real project over the two days designed to produce lasting change.  When we had them all back in the room (these things take time with consultants – a bit like herding cats, I often think!) we put this to the group, who instantly agreed.

And away we went.  By the end of the event we had a concrete result (a business proposal to introduce 4 initiatives which would make a lasting change to the way their business goes about running projects), real passion and energy and genuine commitment to make this work.  The group became the project team, the sponsor was already committed as he had been part of the project initiation, and the ball had started rolling.  Our original objectives were achieved and more, but using a completely different approach to what we had planned, and in essence we invented it as we went along.

The feedback was that it was absolutely the right thing to do, and that we got way more out of the event than we would have otherwise. I’d do the same again, every time.  However, we took a huge risk.  We ditched our plan, live and on air, with our event sponsor in the room, and when we started out we had little idea of where we might end up.  Are we mad, or was it the right thing to do?  A safer approach would have been to stick to the plan, log  the issues identified and propose a way to address them at some later point.  We’d have still got a result and some good learning, and wouldn’t have exposed ourselves as we did.

What would you have done?  How often do you raise the stakes in your work, and risk exposing yourself in the interest of higher rewards?  My conclusion is “not enough”, speaking for myself.  Don’t we need more peope to do this more often if we are to make better use of the time and resources we have?

I often say that to find a Win/Win requires two things:  Courage and Creativity.  How often do you draw on those qualities in yourself?


About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at
This entry was posted in Leadership Skills, Life Skills, Personality types and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Do you take enough risk?

  1. Alastair Gossage says:

    One cautionary note, you have used the adjective”real” repetitively and sometimes twice within the same sentence. I sometimes wonder what the former English teacher of many consultants would think of their use of English, grammer, and construction of sentences? Not that it is applicable to his piece, the reader too often has to deconstruct “consultants speak” into plain english. Yet these pearls of wisdom are apparently coming from a group of people who have somehow developed answers to others shortcomings!


    • Thanks for noticing that Alastair. No excuses, the 2 “reals” in one sentence is very sloppy. I try and do a good job as my own proof reader, but detail is not a personal strength!

      I will watch out for “consultant speak”, I know it can drive people crazy. Thanks for the reality check.

      I hope there aren’t any spelling mistakes either, as those I think are even more unforgiveable.

      “Grammar” is spelt with an a, not an e, where I come from, by the way. 🙂


  2. Pingback: Do you take enough risk? | Inarticulate ramblings of a management consultant

What do you think? Please leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s