Whenever I take on a new client, I am always keen to meet their inner risk manager, the part of them that is constantly scanning for risks, dangers and threats. Great leaders and entrepreneurs often report an almost clairvoyant quality seeing threats and opportunities obscured to most or reading people’s motives as if with x-ray eyes. All of which comes from a healthy relationship with your inner risk manager.
Most people do not have a mature relationship with risk. Our culture prefers positive people to those who raise alerts, prefers the visionary or fun-loving parts of you to your inner risk manager. So the part of your being that is keeping you safe often functions in shadowy ways. Clients see the tactics their ignored risk manager uses—such as tightening or freezing muscles, confusing with too many options or loss of mojo. Anything to slow you down enough to examine the risks your prejudice would have you ignore.
Here are three changes you can make to evolve your relationship with your inner risk manager.
Respect The Downsides
You probably have experience of listening to someone or something that you had previously ignored. It takes a shift of respect. Once you realize there is value here, there are deliberate steps to change the habit.
Notice the dismissing. For example, people report stories they tell themselves like, “I have to focus on success” or “I have to override my fear”. Then set up a time each week to listen and think. One client, who had gotten horribly stuck, rigorously set aside half an hour of thinking time each Sunday—just him alone with a pen and pad of paper in the bathroom—and transformed his ability to navigate his company’s crisis intelligently after just three weeks.
When we ask our inner risk manager to show us the threats and suggest contingencies, we no longer need the tightening confusion of irrational fear to be alert to danger.
Explore The Deep Dark Hole
When we ask people to talk about their fears, there is often a mismatch of intensity. The issue doesn’t seem to justify how frozen he or she has become. For example, a founder who knows it’s time to release a team member and just cannot do the deed. As we got to know his inner risk manager, we discovered what was really being protected. Turns out there was a bout with depression in earlier years. Until we made it conscious, the person had no idea this was driving the emotion. The risk of upsetting a team member, even failing in the business, are lightweight compared with this deep dark hole. Their inner risk manager was prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure he doesn’t go there.
Whether it is aloneness, or some particular kind of hurt or aggression, there is usually a deeper risk at play than the surface events of the moment. Mature risk manager function is not about therapy to extract past trauma. It is about awareness. When you know someone well enough, know yourself well enough, you understand what the risk manager is protecting and you can create warning mechanisms and establish contingencies that reduce the risk of deep dark hole from happening.
Keep Asking for More
As our inner risk manager is given ways to be heard and is understood more fully, we find that he or she genuinely wants to help. His or her first priority is to keep you safe, whether you like the methods or not. Often we find that risk managers get lazy. They have gotten used to clumsy means of protecting us, even if that means sacrificing a vision or passing up an opportunity.
While most come believing their fears are holding them back, trying to dismiss their inner risk manager and lessen its voice, we encourage people to ask their risk managers to step up. When you get how quickly these parts of us scan our surroundings and how deeply they are seeing, it is obvious they have a lot more to offer. As soon as this more mature relationship with risk evolves, we find people access moments of extraordinary perception, courage and vision.
We would love to hear what you are learning about taking really good risks.