Running a business for 10 years made me both a risk taker and very cautious. Caution usually comes cemented in you when you start running a business, but becomes more refined as your intuition grows. Well, at least for most people.
The key is understanding that sometimes you just might be a little too cautious. That’s where risk-taking plays a part. In 2001, the Internet was barely noticeable. If you had a computer and a modem that moved at the speed of smell, then you might make purchases online. And that depended on there actually being Web sites with the products that you wanted.
Tony Bradshaw, our VP of all things Internet, was telling us how we needed to start building up our Web site and selling more products online. We were definitely heading that way soon, he said. Many of our P&L leaders, including me, remember thinking, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony. This Internet thing isn’t going anywhere fast. In the amount of time it takes your modem to dial-up and connect, you can purchase a small country over the phone.
I didn’t want to spend a ton of money beefing up a Web site to sell my Live Event tickets when I was already paying a customer care team who was actually SELLING! It won’t go anywhere!
Well, do I have to tell you just how right we were? OK, maybe the Internet did take off a little. In fact, more than 60% of our business is now done online. Maybe Tony was onto something.
When Melissa Fuller came to me wanting my team to start blazing a trail with Twitter and Facebook, I was quite reluctant. I couldn’t see how either was going to help our cause. In fact, neither was really moving much at the time. But then, I remembered what happened when Tony wanted us to get a jump on that…Internet thingy, and I wasn’t about to be the one holding back progress.
At that time, our company wasn’t doing much at all with either formats. In fact, we really just had one guy sending out stuff on his personal account. But Melissa’s zeal and tenacity were pushing me forward. I gave her room to do as much discovery as she could and bring me something tangible. She needed to show me how spending the time, effort and resources were going to grow our company.
Needless to say, she did. Melissa showed how we could use both platforms to build Tribes, before they were known as Tribes, who would push our message out to people who needed it. Not long after we started, we were getting traction. In fact it was so much, we were pushing the company boundaries. We hadn’t set procedures yet on how to do social media, but our continued drive, started by one woman’s passion, created a movement in our organization that led us to pretty much going full blast in the social media world.
Sometimes, we, as leaders, are the ones coming up with the incredible ideas that keep us ahead of the pack. But after 20 years of leading people, I’ve discovered the brain power and ideas of a team are usually stronger than a leaders. Don’t be the one keeping your team from leading the pack.
Question: Has there been a time you were too cautious and regretted it later?
- Interview with Melissa Fuller [Video] (ChrisLoCurto.com)
12 thoughts on “Leadership: It’s Hard To Be Ahead Of The Pack”
I’m sure there were some times in the past I was too cautious but truthfully, I often suffer from too aggressive! It took my team to reel me back in. Overall though, my agressiveness paid off more often than not. That said, my team’s feedback, verbal and nonverbal, was critical to our success.
It does make a world of difference with the team.
Working alone I have this multiple personality discussion in my head. One voice keeps saying “You’d better face it – Facebook is here and you WILL need it”. Another says “Keep waiting – they haven’t ironed out all the weird privacy problems yet.” Then there’s the one that agrees and adds, “Who has all the time to learn to use it? Are you a local business or an artist? Do you have to have a personal profile before allowed to have a business page? How you gonna link your blog to it?”
Then I say, “You all just shut up and leave me alone because I have a website to keep current, a blog to write, 1000 new photos to sort through/edit/order, 250 drawings coming up, a mural to bid, and 2 dozen little paintings for the Fall shows!”
I’m the boss, so I can do what I want and let those little guys just duke it out on their own. One day they might all just quit and leave me alone with my work and no way to sell it!
Melissa’s idea was a no brainer (not to diminish her suggestion and contribution. It was great). There was no investment other than the effort to begin tweeting and posting quick quips on Facebook. There was little chance for risk or loss. Almost nothing but upside potential. Plus with the radio show, it was easy to promote.
But Bradshaw’s idea was totally different. You would have development costs, hosting costs and ongoing quality control costs. What was the key that made you realize it was appropriate to pull the trigger to go with his recommendation?
Also, while you do 60% of your business online, did you also realize something much larger growth in overall business?
We sure did.
Good thoughts here. I sometimes error on the side of safety. I want to be more a risk taker but it takes time to develop this trait. In any case, I work with young leaders all the time and they constantly challenge my thinking and thought process. I’ve learned to give them some room to work and to see what they come up with. I’m even surprised sometimes as to what they can accomplish.
Excellent! When we’re able to be creative, it changes how we view our work.
We have a saying my first language, which loosely translated means “You die once”. By applying this in your life, there can be no room for regret, since it calls for “full steam ahead”. It’s does imply a bit of risk taking, after all, life is too short. I’m sure i’ve gone against this a couple times, both in my proffessional and personal life, but i have to regroup to come up with specific instances. Definantely food for thought, great post.
mmmm….thanks for that one!
Leadership is all about taking calculated risk from time to time. It is not going overboard by taking rash decisions or slogging out of doubt.
True! As a leader, we cannnot be perfect at all times.
“Cautious” is never a word to describe me. I need more caution in my life! I am usually going 90 miles an hour down the highway – trying the next new thing…..
BUT It IS hard to be ahead of the pack – to be the one out front – doing what no one else is doing (or at least no one you eat lunch with!) – and people are wondering what the heck a “blog” is – and why are you doing it?!
I love your “tribe” – and think you and your team have done an incredible job of creating a following – you are BLESSED!