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On the habits of unsuccessful people, part 2

Richard Branson Tweet

Richard Branson’s new year tweet pictured above has prompted me to return briefly to my uncharacteristically devilish musings on the habits of the unsuccessful.  If you have read part 1, you will know that over the summer I observed an entire publishing and training industry based on studying the habits of the most successful among us and I playfully wondered what we could learn if we were to instead study the un successful.

Continuing this theme, I want to consider how the unsuccessful approach risk.

Risk is an emotive word, definitions are subjective and the word ‘risk’ has different meanings to different people in different contexts.  For example, I fly a powered paraglider which my wife thinks is risky, but my wife events horses which I think is frankly mental.  

In business, risk is equally subjective - risk can be productive and bring reward but it can also be very destructive.  Whilst there can be no progress without risk, too much unmanaged risk will sink a business.  The ability to first measure and then take a risk is a habit all successful business leaders have in common but conversely, it follows that the inability to measure and take risks must be a habit of the unsuccessful.

Looking at the companies Beringer Tame recruit for I see this played out on a monthly basis.  Hiring and maintaining a great team is tough, really tough and any process involving something as unpredictable as people is inherently risky.  The most successful people I work with are focussed primarily on talent in the people they hire - a combination of potential, desire and experience.

They will be open minded in who they meet and accept an element of risk in their decisions.  However, the least successful hiring managers are those who attempt to remove all risk. 

The unsuccessful manager will do anything to avoid blame or being associated with failure so will set very narrow criteria for new hires; they will obsess over the brands appearing on a CV (the bigger then better) and most likely only consider meeting a potential hire who has done the very same job for a competitor.  Hiring is not seen as an opportunity to bring fresh thinking from a different vertical or give an up and coming junior a chance to go in at the deep end - the only concern for the unsuccessful manager is to be able to point to the CV when things don’t work out and say “see, it wasn’t my fault”.

My conclusion to part 2 - unsuccessful people don’t take risks when hiring

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