MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: Why is it important for women to take risks in business? is written by Kim Getty, president of Deutsch LA.
One of the hardest things for anyone to overcome in life is fear. It’s a primal feeling, and it’s there for a reason: to protect us. But when it comes to your career, it can be the very thing that keeps you from succeeding. If you let fear play the game for you, you’ll lose every time. Learning to overcome the things that scare you and take smartly calculated risks is just as important as any skill you’ll learn in your career. Those who master this are the ones who make it to the top. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about the importance of taking risks over the years:
The biggest risk is often not taking one
Negativity bias means that we tend to overestimate risks and underestimate opportunities. This is a common instinct, where fear holds us back and keeps us from vying for a new position, trying our hand in an area where we lack experience, or standing up and asking for more responsibility. Looking for and embracing opportunities, even if they are risky, is the key to progress.
Sometimes staying put is the risk worth taking
When faced with challenges or tension at work, I think a lot of women — no matter what industry we’re in — choose flight over fight. We naturally tend to avoid physical risk, which is smart. But in the business world, many women let conflict or uncertainty push them to take off for the next thing.
I have been at advertising agency Deutsch LA for 12 years, climbing my way into the position I have today and working with a diverse range of people and personalities in order to get here. Twelve years is a lifetime in the advertising world, but I challenge people by saying, “If you’re not happy, change the job you’re in, but don’t change jobs.” Sometimes facing what’s in front of you — and working to make it better — can be even scarier and more difficult than starting over someplace new. However, if you’re trying to make your mark on a company, it’s usually worth it.
Taking risks trains you to take bigger ones
The tricky thing is, the more risks you take, the more risks you’ll face. And while that sounds kind of scary, believe me, it’s a good thing. The more experience and responsibility you gain as you progress in your career, the bigger the calls become. A few years ago, Deutsch LA had an opportunity to build a new capability in the experiential space. While we’d never done that kind of work before, we saw the creative and business potential, so we went for it. We built a brand new practice from scratch, and it paid off. Within three years we had won the Grand Ex, the defining award in the experiential space (which no advertising agency had won before), and developed an important roster of clients.
Just a year ago, we looked around and saw the untapped opportunity that our clients had with the Hispanic market. We knew we could help them do a better job there, so we started our Hispanic division, DLAtino — without a doubt an easier step to take this time.
Fortunately, risk-taking is like muscle memory: It keeps getting easier. The risks you have taken in the past will give you knowledge and experience to draw from, and the strength to overcome your fears. When you decide that you’re going to be the kind of person who takes smart risks, you start training yourself for the bigger roles that follow.
Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: Why is it important for women to take risks in business?
Here’s why this CEO doesn’t fear failure by Robin Koval, CEO and president of Legacy
How to be a fearless risk-taker at work by Donna Wiederkehr, CMO of Dentsu Aegis Network.
What the financial crisis taught this Bank of America executive about risk by Meredith Verdone, global wealth & investment management marketing executive at Bank of America.
How this woman became the first female dean of a top b-school by Sally Blount, Dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
What I think about when I think about failing by Colleen Smith, vice president of SaaS and Cloud at Progress.
Here’s how bragging can boost your career by Beth Monaghan, principal and co-founder of InkHouse.
This CEO cashed in her IRA to start her own companyby Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.
An unlikely degree choice got me my dream job by Lori Bailey, global head of special lines at Zurich Insurance.
Why getting too comfy at work is the ultimate career killer by Krista Bourne, president of Houston Gulf Coast Region at Verizon Wireless.
Would you risk your job to move abroad? by Mary Beth Laughton, senior vice president of e-commerce and digital marketing at Sephora.
Why it’s okay to break the rules at work by Susan Coelius Keplinger, entrepreneur.
Why recent graduates shouldn’t plan their careersbyTeresa Briggs, vice chair and west region managing partner at Deloitte.
Is gender bias a reason to quit your job? by Lauren Stiller Rikleen, president of Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership.
The one way to guarantee failure at work by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.
Why starting my own business at 25 was a huge mistakeby Carolyn Rodz, CEO of Market Mentor.
Build-A-Bear CEO: Why women need to take risks in business by Sharon Price John, CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop.