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  • Sam Decker

Career Tip #12: Take Bigger Risks

Executives who land a high level position, play it safe, and clutch onto high salaries, need to be flushed out of companies. They have the triple impact of holding back innovation, sucking profits from bonuses, and demotivating great people who eventually leave. And, by definition, these executives reach a plateau.

Whether you’re an executive or not, I suggest you take bigger risks to move your career forward (and for fun). Make big plays. Take initiative for change at a strategic level. Bigger risks help your career because you stand out, differentiate, and accomplish great things. Whether you’re an individual contributor or manager, anyone who takes initiatives and risks can become a leader. They are the ones who are break through the next level. Their reputation is lasting and their contributions are recognized and rewarded over the long haul. Plus, the accomplishments create great soundbites!

At Dell I led a small ‘big change’ team. We were responsible for Dell’s consumer CRM strategy, customer centricity, retail competitive strategy, Hispanic marketing, customer segmentation, and other large projects. All of these initiatives were not part of day to day operations. They had to be invented, sold, implemented and finessed into company operations over time. The challenge for each of team member, from a career perspective, was to get the perspective they were in a marathon while others were in day to day sprints. It was hard to get visibility during the project. There were not repetitive small wins. The journey for big projects are difficult and long, but the rewards are great. Weekly wins are not as memorable as changing the way a company operates and driving hundreds of millions in profit impact for a company. Those who take on big responsibilities and risks will be trusted with more.

A couple of suggestions for big risk takers…

To mitigate career risk, get executive sponsorship, build relationships with internal influencers, and get other functions involved in the project (shared risk).

And if your company doesn’t appreciate you (unfortunately many companies don’t embrace change leaders), then jump off their board game. You may not pass go and collect a $200 bonus, but you’ll be in a better game with greater rewards in the future.


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