There’s the story of the trucking company owner who was looking for a new driver for a tanker. He wanted an accomplished and skilled driver who he could trust completely with his load. So he took the top two applicants and, pointing toward a cliff in the distance, asked: “See that cliff over there? How close can you drive my truck to that cliff without going over?”
Feeling very confident in his ability, the first applicant boasted: “I can drive your truck within three feet of that cliff and not go over the edge!”
Applicant two had a completely different response and stated: “I’ll stay as far away from that cliff as I can!” The owner smiled, and eagerly pronounced, “great, you’re hired! You’re the kind of driver I want!”
When you’re managing, which driver do you relate to the most? If you’re the first driver, you push the envelope as often as you can. You disregard the counsel of your HR department because it isn’t convenient for you. Maybe you don’t even loop them in to what’s going on because you know you won’t like what they have to say. Sometimes you may even flaunt the law, such as wage and hour violations (letting them “volunteer” for part of their job because you just view that as “dedicated”; exaggerating their job functions to make them look like an exempt employee when you know they’re really not; offering comp time so you don’t have to pay them overtime).
Or you may relate more to driver number two. You have complete respect for your company’s processes and policies, you respect and value your employees, you do all you can to ensure compliance with the law and you respect and value the advice of colleagues who are the experts in areas that are not your own expertise.
Do you agree with the decision of the owner above? Would you value the employee who works in a way that provides the greatest protection of your company’s assets? Or would you value the one who takes chances in a way the places your assets at great risk?
Yes, risk takers are good and necessary – when it’s appropriate to take a risk. If you want to be a manager that your company values, it’s wise to know when you can and should take a risk, and when you should exercise wisdom and discretion and protect your company.