I love March – primarily for March Madness and because I love basketball. I spent the weekend watching as many NCAA Tournament games as possible, including a trip to Columbus, OH to watch my Michigan State Spartans compete in the 1st and 2nd rounds (which technically is in accurate – it was actually the 2nd and 3rd rounds because of those stupid play in games on Tuesday and Wednesday are “really” the 1st round – but they’re not, we all know it – the only people who truly think that is the 1st round is the NCAA and the parents of the kids playing in those games – which BTW are the only people in those stands watching!).
While enjoying this pastime I heard very often the sports cliche: “They are playing not to lose versus trying to win”.
For those who have competed in sports (and for many in business), you know exactly what this looks and feels like. It’s playing keep away with the ball when you’re up 3 in the first half! No! Stop! Run your normal offense. It’s your favorite NFL team going into a prevent defense up 10 points with 15 minutes to play (Don’t do it – it’s going to “prevent” you from winning!). Playing not to lose is being conservative – maybe to conservative – to the point of you stop doing what it took that got you in the position to win.
We do this in HR.
Too many times we tell managers “No”, when we should be telling them “Yes” – we become some risk avoidant they we miss out on some very good opportunities for our organization. It’s not HR’s job to avoid risk – it’s HR’s job to measure the level of risk and work with our organizational partners to determine if they are comfortable with the level of risk we are about to take. Those are to very different things – many HR Pros misconstrue this issue. They try at all costs to avoid all risk, which isn’t necessarily the right thing for the business. They aren’t trying to win, they’re trying not to lose.
The next time you find yourself in a position of giving advice to your operations partners at work, ask yourself this one question –
- Am I trying to make the company/organization better right now, or am I trying to eliminate risk?
Then determine, what should I be doing? For some of you the right choice will be to say – at this point, right now, I have to eliminate risk – it’s the right call. But for many of you, you will have to circle back and truly try to make your organizations better by managing the risk that is presented.
Spend today trying to win.