Yesterday, I returned from a bike ride in eastern Maryland with seasoned endurance riders. They are smart, funny women with the kind of good judgment you can count on.
We rode in October’s golden light by the lowlands of Black Water Refuge, geese in V’s flying overhead, Bald Eagles perched or soaring, sorghum and soybean fields tan and dried waiting to be harvested. The temperatures were perfect: just cool enough for bike shorts and a light jacket. Fresh breezes added an enjoyable variety of hard work riding into them and pleasant reprieve when the winds dropped or trees provided a windbreak.
I’d been so clearheaded when I decided on the 42-mile distance to avoid furthering a shoulder injury and because there was no doubt I could do it. But there was that feeling of missing out on something I really wanted to see if I could do—the 62-mile distance.
When the routes for the two distances diverged, I followed right along with my more experienced friends who were doing the longer 62-mile one. What a sense of total delight—akin to that childlike joy of being let out of school for the day!
And then the “head game” began. Worry that I couldn’t do the distance. What fueled it? I could tell you it was because I hadn’t trained for it, I hadn’t done the distance before or was fearful of increased shoulder pain. These and other reasons would be true.
But at its most basic, I worried because I didn’t know if I could do it and didn’t know how I would handle whatever circumstances might arise if I couldn’t.
That sounds so silly to write. After all, I’ve handled many situations where I didn’t know if I could succeed or know how I would handle it when things didn’t turn out as planned. But my response isn’t so dissimilar from how some companies engage (or don’t) when they want to innovate or take on new initiatives that push the comfort envelope.
The head game will begin whether from a division with a lot of influence or with a key member of the leadership team: suddenly, no risk management strategy could ever manage all the potential risks! Other times, the head games begin once the commitment has been made and the strategy implementation is underway. In either case, you back away from distance you really want to do. The head game wins and your company loses.
Set your goal, make your contingency plan to optimize emergent opportunities and minimize risk then get your company going. Know that there will be head games. Expect it. But watch for every single expression of capability and capacity while your organization is moving forward. Engage your leadership team to help others see it.
If you are pushing yourselves to try what you haven’t done before you are infusing the old fears and tired old habits with new data about what’s possible.
As people observe their capacity and capabilities en route, there will be a surge of momentum and justified confidence.
As they stay in motion toward the objective, the organizational set point for what’s possible takes a logic defying (or more accurately head game defying) incremental jump to another level. What’s more? The jump is usually accomplished with surprisingly reasonable resource demands.
Your organization may fail on a key measure. But that’s the short run and you’ve created a risk mitigation plan before engaging in the effort. Bottom-line? Your company wins. And it will win again if you leverage what you learned. As Patricia Naven-Greenfield, one of the fittest women I know, says matter of factly,
“You won’t know until you get out there and do it.”
Really, it’s as simple as that.
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