Friday, March 27, 2015

Rising to the Thrill

Wanted: thrill seekers in the world of work

Last weekend, my children jumped out of an airplane to celebrate one of their birthdays.  Several years ago, two of them went up in a plane and jumped.  This year, they took their younger brother.  All three of my children jumped. The conservative finance major jumped.  Be still my heart.

The last birthday thrill jump was off a bridge in Oregon, with bungee cords tied to their bodies.

These faces look happy right?  They look like they are so glad they paid over $400 to jump off a bridge and plummet to the rocks and river below?  So glad that they would pay more to jump out of a 1959 Cessna aircraft for a parachute experience?  Yes, and yes they did.  Thrill seekers that they are.

Needless to say, I did not go watch this event.  I went the first time and it was all I could take as a mother.  To assuage my concern, I started thinking about thrill seekers and the applicability to work environments.  How would this scenario play out at work?

My environment is a combination of e-commerce, payments and government solutions.  Not the brave new world of Mars or the thrill seeking world of Indiana Jones. Quite the contrary, most of our world is secure, locked down, predictable, controlled.  My environment is full of people who rely on consistency and try to resolve inconsistency.  Problems with the website, problems with the payment, problems with up-time?  Radical change in the website?  New products on the fly?  None of these are good things for our people and they work hard to keep the outside from creeping on the inside.  Consistent, routine flowing processes are what we strive for.  Most of the time.

Challenging though it may be, even the staid, route, IT guy needs a thrill once in a while.  Even our banking and eCommerce, "let nothing happen today" people need a thrill once in a while.  But what does the "thrill" look like for them?  And how is it helpful to the employee and the organization?

This question is something I have pondered for a few weeks.  Ever since I heard that my children were jumping again, I wanted to mitigate my fear.  And they wanted to show off theirs.  In talking to them later, half of the learning was the bright new experience.  The finance major said never again, but check, I have done it.  He also said that he had to be twice as brave as thrill seeking is outside his wheelhouse.

My point is, when looking at our workforce through this lens, you can see the "thrill seekers" and those who don't normally, but then do.  What does that mean for your organization?

It means you can develop a way to recognize those who make a bold move, but who won't do it again because it wasn't right or who wouldn't normally step out of their comfort zone. Sometimes it is about a supervisor that manages too tightly.  Sometimes it is just a shy person.   BUT, sometimes they make a bold move!  Check out the shy tech guy link to see what this can look like.  We should recognize and reward them.

It also means that we should keep an eye on our thrill seekers, and help them direct that energy in positive ways for the organization.  Could your finance person take a bold move and introduce a new way to show value?  Could your Service Desk Manager introduce a wild idea to integrate all managers into the data base?  Would that be a thrill?  Or a NightMare?

It is hard to allow the thrill seekers to go out on the edge in a work environment.  The dreamers are often confused with thrill seekers.  They are not the same by a long shot.  Even harder, keeping the thrill seeker from thinking this will be everyday. Thrills are not usual by definition.   Managers are responsible for balancing this in themselves and in their subordinates.  Leaders of the organization must learn to inspire thrill seeking in those who might, and to inspire confident idea presentation in those who will. There is a balance and truly healthy growing organizations need that balance.  Challenging the status quo from the inside is far better than challenge from the competition or worse the Board!

I assure you that my children will be doing something other than white water rafting, bungee jumping or skydiving for the next trip.  They are already talking about flyboarding.  I guess thrill seekers will never stop.  Just for the record: my oldest is in IT, middle in PhD pursuit and youngest in Finance.  Their father in law enforcement.  We have no idea where they got this!