Insights

To risk or not to risk…

Last week my wife’s laptop charger stopped working. It was late in the evening and she was working on something critical, when her laptop went out of charge. She needed to finish the work that night, so a charger was critical. We called the manufacturer who asked us to go to the nearest store. At the store, we were told that they had no stock, an order had to placed, and the new charger would arrive only the next day. We called and checked in some other stores too, but they all said the same thing.

As we were about to leave, one of the sales representatives looking at our helplessness suggested that we could take one of the chargers from the store, for that night and return it first thing in the morning. He pointed out that he was doing this at his own risk and would be in big, big trouble should we not return the charger first thing in the morning.

One of his colleagues however, did not approve of the idea and said we will have to wait till the next morning. Not only was he not willing to take a chance, his tone was not the most pleasant as well.

We left the store, ordering the new charger, wondering what we could do. We reached out to a few friends, but as basic as it may sound, chargers for a specific model with all the various ‘pin’ sizes don’t seem to be readily available.

Sometime later however, we got a call from the store and the helpful sales representative mentioned that they had decided to give us the charger for the night, on the condition that we had to return it first thing in the morning. He reiterated that he was taking a risk, but wanted to help a customer in need…

Needless to say, we went back, took the charger and thanked him. It sure saved us!

As usual, this really got me thinking…

In all the years I’ve worked for and with organizations, most leaders will acknowledge that they want their teams to do the right thing – “stay true to the values of the organization and be resourceful”. Yet, as in this case, often within the same organization, many a times it happens that one person is ready to take a risk and take customer service to the next level, while another wants to play it safe.

I think there are two factors that drive this:

Individual:

Like the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman writes, ‘For most people, the fear of losing $100 is more intense than the hope of gaining $150’. We just seem to be wired to play safe, i.e. we are loss averse. This, despite understanding that a small calculated risk can greatly improve a result you are trying to achieve. Like someone once said to me, not taking risks can be worse than taking a calculated risk.

Organizational:

Most leaders and organizations want their teams and people to have the ability to take calculated risks and bring along opportunities for enhancing employee confidence, customer satisfaction and newer ideas.

But in reality and during actual execution, things turn out to be different because there is a constant worry lingering, about the consequences of taking a risk and failing. This can only be set right by leaders who enable their people to take some calculated risk.

Finally, if by taking the risk, we also do the right thing… it might just be worth it. Of course, eventually each one decides whether “to risk or not to risk”.

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