by Jonathan Jones
I have heard so many times from young leaders recently, “I have never experienced a time like this. Everything was going so great.” If you expect success without being aware of the dangers, you set yourself up for a fall--or worse, a disaster.
In their book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins and Morten Hansen coined the phrase “Productive Paranoia.” To be productively paranoid means you are aware of the risks around you, but you continue to move forward toward your goal. We can push through challenges in life and business, and they will make us stronger. However, what happens when we face a challenge for which we are unprepared? There are risks that can create catastrophe in an organization, such as running out of cash, which can lead to bankruptcy. As a leader, you must be aware of the risks and take action to prevent or mitigate them. In this case, you are productive with your paranoia.
If your company has survived the challenges of COVID-19, then reflect on what safeguards you had in place that helped you through the challenges. Keep those protections top of mind and be grateful. Realizing something could happen again, think about all the potential challenges you can face. Write them down. Assess their likelihood and negative impacts. Then put a plan into place to prevent those risks. Finally, take action. Simple actions include periodic fire drills, safety training for frontline staff, cybersecurity training, and strong cash-management programs. Having such a plan is not a guarantee for survival but increases your likelihood for success. Such planning requires discipline.
Being aware of all risks is not thinking negatively; it is preparing you for success. You are being productively paranoid.
Jonathan Jones (Jonathan.firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-608-0783) is a CEO peer group chair/coach for Vistage International.