Lead like you got nothing to lose

LizJoshBack in the winter of 2009 I experienced one of the highest points of my life followed a week later by one of the lowest. The high point was when I married my favorite person in the world, my beautiful wife. We celebrated our honeymoon in sunny Mexico and then headed back to another cold winter in the Sierra’s. The honeymoon really ended when I walked into work the following Monday to find out that I had been laid off due to the recession.

The next six months were some of the most humbling of my life as I searched unsuccessfully for a job. All the while my new wife supported our small family. I can safely say she did not marry me for my money, because I didn’t have any for the first few years.

My big break came a couple of years later when two of my college buddies asked me to come help them start up a new division for a construction materials manufacturer. Both of these guys had been through the recession ringer like I had. Our recent stint in the unemployment lines had given us a ton of motivation. Failure was not an option because we were never going back to where we had been.

Necessity facilitates the greatest actions

Sometimes I wonder if that department would have gotten off the ground if the three of us were not so hungry. In the early years we worked our tails off. It was not uncommon for us to spend our days working in the field and our nights in the hotel cranking out quotes and designs. There were more fifteen hour days then I care to remember.

That sense of urgency had a lot to do with us having nothing to lose and everything to gain. It was not like we had left great careers to work on this crazy start up. We needed to win because we needed to keep our jobs.

Go big

I think a lot of the success we ended up enjoying can be attributed to the nothing to lose mentality we had during that time. We understood that if the startup was going to succeed, we needed to go big and not worry about the risks. This actively put us in a growth mind set instead of a defensive one. Every second of every day was dedicated to figuring out ways to take a bite out of the competitions market share.

Success is not always helpful to continued growth

I now have the incredible privilege to lead that department. Though in many ways we are still in the development stage, a lot of the early growing pains have been smoothed out. As the team has continued to grow and we hire from a worker pool that is not as concerned about recessions and layoffs, it has become harder to develop that same sense of urgency we once had. What started out as an organic by-product of our countries economic state, has to now be created and fostered by leadership.

I was recently challenged by one of my company’s vice presidents to do just that. He encouraged me to ramp up my team’s sense of urgency and willingness to take risks for the purpose of continued growth. Lately I have been thinking about how exactly I can accomplish that goal.

What would you do?

I am currently implementing a few different strategies to drive continued growth within my division. Some of these included:

It’s too early to tell if any of these will work or not. My question to you is, what am I missing? What would you do to foster a culture of growth? What are ways you motivate your team and encourage them to go big?

I would greatly appreciate your thoughts, ideas, and feedback in the comments below.

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