I recently watched a video with Mark Pincus (CEO, Zynga) and Bing Gordon (Ex Chief Creative Officer, EA and board member of Amazon, Ngmoco, and Zynga) and something they talked about continues to stick in my mind – bet your job decisions (go to 16.28 on the video).
‘Anyone who’s good has to make a bet your job risk once a year – and some of them have to work out’ – Bing Gordon
It got me thinking that if you want to achieve a certain level of success you simply have to put your neck on the line from time to time and show a bit of an entrepreneurial mindset. You need to take some risks to your career in order to get the big pay-off (rapid promotion, pay increases, bonuses etc.) as these types of rewards very rarely come to someone who constantly plays it safe.
Some examples of bet your job decisions might be:
- Making a decision to change a product feature that will be controversial with its users in the belief that it will ultimately improve the product and user experience (even if they perhaps don’t realize it at the time)
- Making a decision that is outside of your remit (perhaps your boss wasn’t around and the decision was time critical)
- At times work outside your area of responsibility, because you believe you can add value
- Removing someone from the organization because it is the right thing to do even though they may be popular with many
- Giving someone responsibility because you believe in them – even if there are others in the organization that might question it and will point fingers if it doesn’t work out
‘If they don’t think you are giving them a scary amount of responsibility then you’re not doing your job’ – Mark Pincus
I think the other important aspect of this is that companies need to provide an environment where people feel they can take the risks and make the decisions that will grow the company.
People need to be stretched and given what at first might feel like a scary amount of responsibility. There also needs to be trust between everyone and when people take risks that don’t quite work out, yet take responsibility for it and learn from their mistakes – you must positively re-enforce this behavior and not let it dent their confidence. The last thing you want is for them to retreat into their comfort zone and play it safe all the time.
Now, if someone is taking risks regularly and none of them are working out then you need to question their decision making ability and either shift them to a role where they cannot make such decisions or move them out of the organization if such a role doesn’t exist (that’s the ‘some of them have to work out’ part of the quote :))
My personal take home
By nature I tend to be quite risk adverse so I can tend to focus on trying to organise people and projects in the safest way where the probability of executing to a high standard and on time is high.
However I need to be much more open minded to exploring areas of innovation and encouraging break through ideas from people and then let that flow through into execution. Ultimately this is the type of stuff that ends up ‘moving the needle’. I’m going to work hard on this over the coming months and be much more conscious of it as I am going about things and making decisions.
What bet your job risks have you taken in the past or perhaps are you considering taking soon?