Friday, May 20, 2011

On taking a risk


“Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one's ideas, to take a calculated risk - and to act.” – Andre Malaux

The volunteer recognition day is a huge day in my calendar year. It’s a ceremony and lunch that honors the contribution of volunteers. It’s an event packed with VIPs namely the Volunteers, Members of parliament, CEOs, invited dignitaries and so on and so forth.

“You have to risk going too far to discover just how far you can really go.” – TS Elliot

Each year I MC the event. As well as planning the program I love this aspect.

Each year I try and do something different. One year we had opera singers volunteering their time. Another year a wonderful school band. This year I was looking to do something a little different. The thought struck me that it would be good to invite one of the volunteers to MC the event. The volunteer I chose was 18, bright and cheery and had told us of her interest in Theatre where she had performed. It seemed a natural choice. The face of the future in many ways.

When I asked her she was extremely excited. And what she then asked me came as a surprise. “Can I sing?” she said beaming. She informed me she was getting singing lessons but had never sung on her own before in front of an audience.

Here was the risk.

But I told her go for it. In fact I told her that I had a feeling that her contribution would make it the best recognition event ever. No pressure! Me? – I simply pictured the best event ever subscribing to the mantra that “thoughts become things so think the good ones”.

“The two important things I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavour is taking the first step, making the first decision” – Robyn Davidson

And what happened? People are talking about the best Volunteer Recognition event ever!

That’s one example of risk taking that we can take. Whilst we never take risk with safety matters, hence our marriage to risk management, I wonder if we don’t take enough risks in our own personal and professional development, in our advocacy for volunteers and in speaking out on volunteer management.

Many years ago I first took a major risk by walking into a CEOs office stating that I felt that that the organisation could do a lot more to recognize volunteers and resource volunteer management.

But what exactly was the risk there. There were many. The risk of rejection. The risk of being reprimanded for not going through so called official channels. The risk that people would not get the fact that successful volunteer programs need effective volunteer coordination and management.

But the risk paid off.

“You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on.” – Paul Bradbury

How about the risk to try a new way of doing things? Or an innovative program. What holds us back from trying something new?
Do we play volunteer management safely? What about the risk of speaking up on behalf of your profession. The risk of challenging a status quo or a long held belief on volunteerism.

What about the risk of putting a viewpoint of yours down on paper and publically expressing yourself?

How about the risk of advocating for volunteers and not just coordinating them?

Or do we prefer it all to be safe, secure in doing it the way we always have done things and sailing on a calm water never rocking the boat?

Horses for courses of course.

‘Go out on a limb – that’s where the fruit is” – Jimmy Carter

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