Thursday, June 18, 2009

When You Never Fail ...

You are not taking enough risks.  In a strange coincidence today, I talked about this very subject with three different people.

One of these conversations was with a subordinate.  Or more accurately it was a subordinate of a subordinate.  This worker was frustrated for a number of reasons.  One of which was the belief that this person felt as if he and his team were not performing at a high level.  He made the comment that he had never missed deadlines in the past and yet he and his team had missed several deadlines over the last few months.

Now, I corrected this person.  As the person who decided when and if things go out on time, I have not been unhappy with the performance of this team.  I do not think the team has performed great but they certainly have not failed either.  This person's comment bothered me though.  How is it possible that you have NEVER missed a deadline.  I have not missed very many in my life, it is why I've done very well in my career, but I certainly have missed a few (non-critical) dates in my life.  I pointed out to this person that if he really felt as if he had never failed to deliver in the past, that it simply meant he had not taken enough risks or been aggressive enough in his life.

It would be easy enough for me to always deliver on the things I said I would by simply promising less.  But wouldn't that defeat the point of great achievement?  If great achievement were predictable than it wouldn't be so great.  Great achievement inherently has risks because you are going into uncharted territory.   So I told this employee, that he obviously was not pushing hard enough before and that his performance was probably not as great as he thought.  Unfortunately, I don't think he took the feedback very well.  Maybe that's why we had to have the discussion in the first place.

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