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That time I fell off a cliff

15 years ago I fell off a cliff on the Oregon coast. I was walking too close to an edge covered in brush.  My wife and three small kids were standing about 20 feet away, safely behind the railing, as I said those famous last words:

“Stay there; I just want a better view for a minute.”  

The next thing I know I had stepped off the edge and was clinging to the side for dear life! 

(If you’re curious what the Oregon Coast cliffs look like, here’s a picture.)

The good news is I caught myself on the brush, and my wife came to my rescue.  I’m sure I could have gotten myself up without help, but I guess my screaming gave a different impressing.

Yes, I am fine.  No, I don’t go near the edge anymore.

Now I look for places to take measured risks.  Places with guard rails and paths that I can explore with a clear idea of the risk.  This lets me safely explore the environment, and find fantastic views and hidden away places.  It makes the visit more enjoyable, memorable and increases my enthusiasm by 10X!

What’s your approach to risk?

Risk brings learning and rewards.  If your team is like mine, they want to try new things, experiment with new frameworks and push themselves to improve.  As the manager you might be more risk-adverse, wishing the team would just stick to the tried and true path.

Guard rails to the rescue

If you are constantly pushing back on your team’s risky ideas, maybe it’s time for some guard rails.  Discussing the kinds of risks you are willing to take, for how long, and what you hope to learn/gain is an important part of creating an environment where it’s safe for them to take risks.

If you don’t do this, they will either not try new things, or try all the new things.  Both are problems to address.

You might start by talking with the team and ask, “What do you think my approach to risk is?  Where are we too risky?  Where are we not taking enough measured risks?  How can we incorporate measured risk into our work?”

A conversation like this might yield all kinds of new ideas.  And, it might energize your team in ways you didn’t expect!

About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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