In late September 2010 I had the opportunity to attend two women’s conferences in a row. The first was the Grace Hopper’s Celebration of Women in Computing in Atlanta, and the second was the Women’s International Network (W.I.N.) Global Leadership Conference in Paris.
There was one message that resonated from both experiences. It seemed to follow me where ever I went, hanging there like a brilliant star in the forefront of my mind. I couldn’t ignore it. At first, I felt the message might be shining just so I personally could see it and learn from it.
What I realize now is that everyone needs to hear this message – especially women. Women who thirst for more in their life. Women who aspire. Women who want something challenging AND meaningful. (I am sure many men need the message too, but at the time, the importance of it for women was shining brightly.)
The message was articulated precisely by Pascale Dumas, of HP France, at W.I.N. When asked what she would do differently, if she had to do it all again, she answered simply (with a beautiful French accent of course), “I would take more risks.”
I would take more risks.
And then I watched two different panel discussions at each conference, both containing successful women leaders who echoed the same message on lessons learned.
I would take more risks.
For me, it translated into the present tense: take more risks. Now. Period. End of sentence. No caveats. No additions. No stipulations. Action.
Take more risks. NOW.With this new bright star message in my mind, it’s illuminating everything and I see the need for it everywhere. Opportunities to take more risk. Openings to define what risk might be for me. New ways to look at how taking risks would benefit me. And to learn what is truly at stake if the risk taking goes sideways. What I might learn. What I might prove to myself. What confidence I would lose or gain. And I can see it in all of the women I work with – their struggle to have the confidence to take risks.
In an interview at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, Ginni Rometty, the first female CEO of IBM, talked about the importance of confidence in taking risks.
“Really early in my career, I can remember being offered a big job. And I can remember [my] reaction to the person who offered it to me. I right away said, ‘You know what? I’m not ready for this job. I need more time, I need more experience and then I could really do it well.’
So I said to him, ‘I need to go home and think about it.’
I went home that night and told my husband, and I’ve been married 32 years now, and he’s just sitting there. As I’m telling him about this, he just looked at me and said, ‘Do you think a man would have ever answered that question that way?’
……What [that] taught me was you have to be very confident even though you’re so self-critical inside about what it is you may or may not know. And that, to me, leads to taking risks.”
Sounds like she knows a thing or two about this. Personally, I believe taking risks is an important life lesson that we all should practice. Particularly the practice of risk taking even while we have doubts. I believe this is a building block of confidence. To lean in and take more risks, when we’re not 100% sure, and see what happens.
I have been practicing this art (not science) of taking risks more frequently since those conferences and here are a few things I have learned:
Stacey Sargent is the CEO of Connect Growth and Development
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This blog post is a re-post from her website.