Robin Everhart has a strong voice and never shies away from doing what’s right, something she learned from her parents early on. Even at times when it hasn’t been easy, she’s found the courage to take “smart” risks. Here are her insights on how to know if a risk is worth taking.
1. Define what you want
Robin has never been shy about wanting to take on more responsibility and lead. She calculated her rise up the corporate ladder by holding a variety of positions, from overseeing legal and ethical compliance issues, to communications and government affairs, to operations, to spearheading diversity. These moves involved a certain amount of risk, but they were worth taking because she became proficient in all areas of the business.
2. What does it take to get there
Robin advises set a goal, and analyze the pros and cons involved in taking a “calculated risk” to achieve it. For example, you’d be leaving “security” for a chance at something different. But once you leave, your position would be filled, so there’s no going back. And there is always the possibility of failure. But, on the other hand, you’d still gain new growth experiences. Relocation, finances, family – there is a lot to take into consideration. Take the time to make sure you are willing to commit to the goal, are there more pluses than minuses? If so, go for it. Next, analyze what it will take to be successful at it. In Robin’s different assignments, she thought about the kind of exposure she would need, what business leaders she would have to align with, and what expertise she would be required to master.
3. Find your advocates
You need certain people in your life who support your stepping out in new ways, advisors who will tell you the truth, no matter what. Sometimes they are trusted friends or business colleagues, “someone willing to play devil’s advocate with you. None of us gets where we are going alone.”
Having a plan and following steps are important, but successful risk taking also requires two particular virtues: courage and integrity. In moments when you’re about to step out of your “comfort zone,” you’ll need integrity as your guide and the courage to stay the course when obstacles arise.
During the great recession, many people felt like keeping their head down and playing it safe. But safe and comfortable isn’t growth. Robin says “if you break taking a risk into smaller bites, moving forward is more palatable,” and can be both rewarding and ultimately, empowering.
Be flexible. “Give yourself permission to change direction when something doesn’t work out.”
Favorite quote: “One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” – Maya Angelou
Favorite movie: Zootopia, Hidden Figures (which she saw with her three young daughters)
Favorite book: anything by Maya Angelou