A lot of the time (but not always!), skepticism is construed as managing risk.

Personally, I believe that skepticism has become a mindset that has gained major footing in American culture. It’s like a screen that colors our daily sentiment.  We are weighed down by it, and a lot of the time will approach a new situation with a level of negative skepticism as a defence mechanism so to avoid meaningful change.

But I think what’s key to note here is that it’s fine to be skeptical on a topic. Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “Great intellects are skeptical,”.  However, it can be detrimental to be a skeptical person. This mindset will only hold someone back from their potential, their ability to grow, and their ability to be their best self.

Whilst middle managers may lean ever so slightly towards the skepticism end of the risk management scale while they develop broader situational development, executives should be in risk management mode to best lead the organization and their teams.

This is about incorporating a healthy dose of risk management when making decisions and strategizing to push the company to a new level. It’s about understanding how to navigate compliance and regulatory, protecting company assets, understanding economic outcomes, and communicating plausible scenarios. It’s not about apprehension to change, distrust in the new perspectives, reluctance to evaluate new opportunities, and being suspicious of the unknown. Managing risk versus skepticism is often the difference in making inclusive decisions and creating a culture for broad, needed change.

If we were to apply this to a chief financial officer’s (CFO) role, being seen as skeptical will mean that the most creative and innovative ideas will go around them. It is likely that they won’t be brought into the decision-making process if their lens is always a skeptical and pessimistic one; they will be pushed away from the decision table. To be a good partner to these potential innovations, they have to have a healthy sense of risk management. This means covering potential blind spots without stunting innovative growth opportunities.

However, just like being too far on the skeptical side of this scale can hold you back, being too far on the optimistic side can also have drawbacks – most notably, making decisions without considering the risks at all.

Finding a balance between these two will make for an executive who is managing risk while also taking risks, as without any risk there is no reward.

If you would like to discuss how we can help coach an effective risk management strategy to your executive team, please get in touch with me at ken.merritt@orgshakers.com

Dissent in the workplace is a delicate thing. Challenging the status quo can be seen as a rebellious and necessary act, but normalising dissent is a lot easier said than done. People get defensive, or begin questioning their own judgement. There is a sense of discomfort in dissenting which has to be navigated sensitively.

That being said, those employers that are creating a space for constructive criticism to take place are the ones unlocking all of their innovative potential.

So, what does this space look like, and how can employers create it?

The first step is by ensuring that the space in which the team are discussing and debating is a psychologically safe one.

Firstly, leaders should clarify openly that they are welcome to opposing opinions. A manager or executive who is leading the discussion will carry natural weight in their words, so they should use this to their advantage; ask for contributions, ask for debate, ask for challenges to the status quo. Establishing the space as one where employees can contribute freely will immediately boost engagement in the topic being discussed.

It is then great to follow this with establishing that ‘there are no wrong answers’. Asking employees to take an interpersonal risk is a vulnerable thing to do; nobody wants to be deemed ‘incorrect’ or ‘silly’. The encouragement of dissent is all about the encouragement of innovation – in the right space, ideas that may have seemed far-fetched can ignite a domino-effect of thought from another employee and so on. Leaders need to actively make the space to be a bit wacky, as they may strike gold in unlikely places!

Once the debate is in full swing, the chairman (in this case, the manager in charge) will naturally notice who is more willing to be honest and open. They should actively engage with these people and ask them directly for their opinions – if others around them see that they can truly dissent without repercussions (within socially acceptable boundaries, of course) then this will likely entice and embolden the rest of the team to get more involved.

This is also a fantastic diversity and inclusion strategy, as it pushes for divergent thinking. For those employees who are more neurodivergent, they will feel much more comfortable and valued sharing their perceptions and ideas in a psychologically safe environment.

Dissent can unlock a wealth of opportunities for employers, it just has to be managed correctly. And it’s no secret that many contemporary companies have been wildly successful by challenging the status quo.

If you want to discuss coaching and training options for encouraging dissent in a productive way in your workplace, please get in touch with us here.

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