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Taking Risks: Are You a Sniper or a Gunslinger?

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Dave Christiansen recognizes that most organizations need the professional boldness of the gunslinger and the wily risk avoidance of the sniper. Here's why.

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Emulate the Styles of Snipers and Gunslingers

I sometimes think of the Quigley scene as I contemplate risks that I might take in the workplace. Bullets and guns are replaced by words, proposals, and presentations, but parallels exist. Sometimes it’s better to take a risk from a distance, lending help to an effort without getting personally involved. At other times, it’s better to get personally involved, taking responsibility for a problem and seeing it through to a conclusion.

Each of these styles boils down to two distinctive factors: involvement and exposure.

  • Gunslingers are the most involved. They’re right there in the blood and dirt, exposed to every stray bullet and broken beer bottle in the saloon. When they succeed, everyone knows who did it. Likewise, when they fail, their failure is well known.
  • Snipers avoid involvement and exposure. They stand on the periphery of the risk, waiting for an opportunity to strike that’s effective and doesn’t expose them to any of the negative consequences of failure.

As a general rule, gunslinging is the best way to grow, particularly early in your career. You need to get deeply involved with problem-solving in a very direct way if you want to develop skills that will promote your reputation as a valuable contributor in any situation. Another benefit of being a gunslinger is the type of experiences it can bring you. Once you get past your inhibitions about volunteering for efforts when you aren’t an "expert" in the subject matter, you’ll be exposed to a wide range of problems and experiences. This practice helps to round you out as an IT professional and develop problem-solving skills (which are timeless) versus technical skills (which quickly become dated).

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