Between Management & the Future, lies the grand canyon of Risks!
Leadership keeps throwing the rope across this canyon, till it hooks onto something and holds!
The shouts of caution drown in the shrieks of amazement only to crescendo into a roar of applause as the leader takes the first steps towards the yawning chasm. As cold sweat trickles down the spine, the leadership mind steels its resolve and shuts itself to the uproar it leaves in its wake….ramrod straight, taut as a string and alert as a cat on the prowl, the leader puts its feet on the stretched tightrope, unmindful of failure. The body and its each cell are tuned to all elements of nature (context around). It senses the tiniest of change around and adapts to the same. It hears no adulation, it expects no rewards; the achievement of the goal is its only obsession. No distraction can deter him, no aspiration is big enough than the objective driving her volition! Maslow’s prisoners hate him, hold him in awe and perspire while the leader carries on across the tightrope oblivious of all emotions; all six-keen senses focused on that point at the end of the rope where lies her reward, the actualisation of his dream; the objective!
Risk mitigation, risk management and risk alleviation are the buzzwords of the management creed. It naturally breeds risk aversion. It curbs recruitment of risk friendly personnel. It deters from developing a culture that develops risk appetite. The organisation becomes a haven of safety, rules, SOPs and deviation management. Today is great; we need to sustain the same and not taking any risks becomes the credo! Analysts, statistical averages and executives set up their tent right at the centre of Mr. Gauss’ bell curve. Anyone showing tendencies to drift towards the extremes is declared a pariah. The controlling head sits atop the bell curve and keeps a hawk’s eye on any flutter beyond the expected. Living within expectations and strolling around the known terrains makes life akin to living on the organisational Riviera. Under Gauss’ median tent, life is about routine, efficiency, productivity and stability. Everyone knows each other, everyone and everything is predictable. All will continue forever; we are sailing in a yacht on Lake Placid. Just Do it; yours is not to think, but to keep at It!
But, risk management need not mean risk aversion or avoidance. It could mean taking risks that does not kill the organisation but when successful, will put the company into a different realm, will raise the bar, create entry barriers and deliver competitive advantage.
All that is known to most! But who will take the risks?
Those who are living a life of ‘topping up their un-fulfilled needs’? Or those who have been passaged to immunise against risks?? Or those Busy in running Rome (executing assignments)???
The challenge lies in selection of people and the proportion of volitionals in the management team at different levels and groups. The Management needs to ensure a culture that recruits, nurtures and allows adequate number of volitionalsto scour the horizon, to cast their ropes across the craters around. Even a column of ants have volitionals who make sorties that discover the ingredients for their long term survival. Non-volitionals or Maslow’s prisoners can act as speed breakers, provide safety kits, build alarm systems, press the brake lever and run the SOPs. But, if one does not have the volitionals in the team, there will be no risk taken, no entry barriers built, no competitive advantage generated and hence,no ‘sustained profitable growth’!
The good news is that most, if not all individuals have a mix of volitional & need fulfillment drivers. A Management that respects the above and consciously steers the drivers as an optimal mix, both at the individual and organisational levels, need not work so hard on their own. The unhappy marriage between Stress and Management or Leadership can then come to an end.
Since, each individual is the carrier of the need fulfillment or volitional drivers, the choice of being prisoners of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or unleashing their volitional energies in pursuit of chosen purposes, remain with the individual. Hence, the individual can himself practice an optimal mix of their own drivers and that is where lies the development potential of each organisation man or woman.
For the Management of any team or organisation, the development potential lies in their choosing, nurturing and allowing the volitional energies of their team members to cast their leadership ropes across the canyon of risks. On the other side, the big risk lies in what is realistic as ‘un-fulfilled needs’ that the individual may expect to be met. Most of Maslow’s needs are real to the perceiver, but they cannot be fulfilled in the short term. Management needs to empathise with the self-perceived trajectory of individuals regarding their major motivators or un-fulfilled needs. They need to have the confidence of being transparent and helping the individuals to match their perceptions of expectations to realities and potentials in the short term. The long term is okay for the volitionals as they are not driven by their un-fulfilled needs, but the actualisation of their Objectives and therefore are there for the long haul (as long as they are hooked by the purpose). For the non-volitionals, the distance they have to go to fulfill their un-fulfilled needs is the short term and the long term is tiring for them.
The Biggest risk lies in whether the Management is driven by volitional energy or their own un-fulfilled needs!
Risk also lies in channelising the volitional energies, in building organisational traffic lights for the un-stoppables – the volitionals! Risk lies in recruiting the super narcissists (can be easily mistaken for volitionals), whose prime motivation comes from fulfilling their need for fame and power. Risk lies in non-conformance between values manifested through the decisions, actions and behaviour of the Management and the accepted (not declared alone) values of the organisation. Risk lies in curbing the volitional energies of many in different parts of the organisation when asked to conform, comply and be one of the six hundred in the Light Brigade (a la Tennyson).
An organisation where all the above is managed well, not only develops success and sustainability, but also offers a happy and vibrant life for all those organisation men and women. Management is like cooking a delicious meal, where Leadership, hooked by a purpose across the canyon of risks adds the fragrance and taste to make it beyond expectations!