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How big of risk are you willing to take in order to get the reward you want? In 2006 professional golfer Phil Mickelson was leading by one stroke going into the tournament’s final hole. On his shot off the tee Mickelson decided to hit a risky slice drive, but over-sliced it badly. Now Mickelson faced a huge decision on his second shot.

Risk versus reward.

He took risk, and missed. Mickelson ended up shooting a double-bogey six on the hole, and lost the championship by one shot.

In 2010 Mickelson was once again faced with a risk versus reward decision. On his second shot off the 13th hole in the Masters, Mickelson again choose risk. This time he hit the shot of his life which would send him to his third Masters green jacket.

How much risk are you willing to take? This question can be applied across all walks of life. It applies to investing, relationships, business, and sports.

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Let’s start with sports, as I think this is the most misunderstood and misinterpreted area.

Do all kids deserve an opportunity to play? Yes, without question. But what reward do they bring to the table? Now, that’s the key.

I’m going to give you the perspective of a coach, agree with it or not, this is how the vast majority of coaches think.

Imagine a scenario where a team has talented underclassmen, maybe they are freshmen. These players have more natural talent and ability than the upperclassmen. When it comes to character and work ethic, the upper and underclassmen have it both. They all work hard, are good kids, and are fun to be around.

In practice and in games the younger players make more plays to help their team win. They may have the same amount of mistakes and turnovers as the older players, but they make more plays.

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Who is going to play more?

The younger, more talented players will. Why? Because they offer a higher reward. They give the team a better shot to win the game. If you have a player that can change the game with their shooting ability or ability to create, they will play more. Even if they make the same amount of mistakes as the other players. It’s risk versus reward, and you go with who gives you a bigger reward.

If two players give you the same amount of risk, but player A gives you a better reward, the choice is simple.

Freshmen lead NCAA teams to championships. Rookies lead professional teams to championships. Age doesn’t matter with talent as long as character and maturity are present.

The problem occurs when people fail to take emotion out of their understanding of a situation. Coaches will always go with the players who give the team the best opportunity to win, when all other things are equal. And that’s the key. The players have to do things the right way. If character does not match the talent level, then the players with less overall talent should play more.

In business, let’s imagine you have a young, exciting, energetic sales representative. They’ve only been on the job for a year or so, but have continued to win over clients. This rep has brought in more sales revenue and opened more accounts than any other member in your office. They have the most drive and talent in the office. They just lack the experience of the older reps.

The older rep has been around for 20 years, has seen it all, and has a good client portfolio, but hasn’’t done anything to bring in new customers in a while. They simply manage their existing accounts and are pretty content with where they’re at.

Portrait of a relaxed Asian business man isolated over white background

Now, you have a big meeting and presentation coming up with your biggest potential client to date.

Who do you bring to the meeting? The young still somewhat inexperienced representative, or the older more experienced rep? Feelings will be hurt either way.

If it’s me, I’m bringing the young gun. I don’t want content. It may be riskier because of the lack of experience, but maybe that’s what will give you edge. A lot of times experience can hold people back. They’ll say, “Well this didn’t work in the past” or “This may not work because..”

Experience plays it safe. They want to feel certainty and comfort, therefore they play it safe. If they win, great. If not, well no biggie, “I’ve still got these other accounts to manage.”

I want someone who wants it. I want somebody who’s hungry and focused on growth. Forget experience, throw it out. Does their energy, passion, work ethic, and presence exude winning? If the answer is yes, what’s there to talk about?

It may be riskier, but you go with who’s going to give you the big reward.

Whether it’s sports or business one thing is universally true; competition. Every leader has to weigh the pros and cons of each situation, and every team member. Any great leader must take the necessary risks to the challenges necessary to win.

Are you willing to take risks in order to win? What’s your stance, do you agree with what’s been said?

We’d love to hear your thoughts and create a dialogue.

As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!


Coach Elmendorf is available to speak to your team, group, or organization. Message him for details.