Managers should create an atmosphere that encourages their people to take some degree of risk to break new ground and move ahead of the competition. Of course, since most managers are afraid to fail, they seldom create this atmosphere in their operations. It certainly makes sense that I won't take as many risks in the future as I did in the past if my past risk taking hurt my career. These folks are the ever-growing group of employees who refuse to stick their necks out and who prefer to blend in with the crowd rather than take risks that could mean failure.

Your success depends on the management style of your boss. A key element is this person's attitude toward risk- taking. If you get a pat on the back when you win, but life is miserable for you after you lose, you have a problem.

I remember a director of sales who had an original idea for a weekend package that was approved for trial but later bombed after extensive marketing. The general manager never let the director of sales forget it. Three years later, he still was making sarcastic remarks about this failure. I can assure you that this bright, go-getter director of sales never reached his true potential because of this one failure and his certain reluctance to suggest any idea in the future that required a risk of any kind.

In my early years in the business, I worked for some bosses who would never let you forget any program that didn't quite live up to expectations. Fortunately, I then worked for three great executives over the next 15 years who believed risk-taking, after intelligent research, was necessary to take the lead in every competitive situation.

While I didn't win every time, these three managers made it clear that they consistently supported me. This attitude made me very comfortable in what might be considered by some as risky situations.

Don't ever think for a moment you can rise to the top by simply blending in with everyone else. Take calculated risks that will demonstrate your leadership abilities while accepting the reality that you are not a failure if you don't win every time.

Tom McCarthy, CHME, CHA, is president of Hotel Professional Education and Consulting of Falls Church, VA. He is a past president of Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and is a member of the HSMAI Hall of Fame. He can be reached at ttmccarthy@cox.net or 703-931-0757.

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