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I am reading this series about the British fighting Napoleon in Spain and Portugal during the 1800’s. What makes it more interesting is that one of my ancestors was there as a Senior Officer on the British side. One of the fascinating elements of this war that has been playing on my mind is that of the ‘Forlorn Hope’. You see, when the British were attacking a castle or walled town, and they had created a hole or breech in the wall, they needed volunteers that would lead the first charge into the breech. These men would likely face certain death within minutes, but if they survived and succeeded then they were guaranteed to be promoted and showered with recognition for the remainder of their days. These men were called the Forlorn Hope.

What got me thinking is that sometimes in our careers we need to place ourselves in high risk situations. We are not going to be sent to certain death but may be there is a high risk of failure. Failure is a very big and bitter pill to swallow. However, where there is high risk there is also high reward, praise and promotion. Therefore there needs to be a balance between the risk we maybe facing versus confidence in our ability and skills to succeed and rule the day.

Several of my mentors have said to me consistently, ‘ Richard, you want the biggest and ugliest role you can find ‘, so in some sense this is what I look for when I am considering new roles.

I was asked to take on a high risk role in 2006 which terrified me due to the two predecessors having been seen to have failed. I took this role and used my ability and skills to implement some semi-radical changes in approach and thinking, I didn’t know what would happen, but I succeeded.

I have found myself in the same situation recently where I was presented with two roles which were excellent except they were high risk. It would have been very easy to remain in my current role which I enjoyed immensely. I took one of these roles, the biggest and ugliest role, and whilst it is early days and nothing is assured – I need to have confidence in my abilities and skills with rule the day. Cheers,

Write to me if you are facing a forlorn hope!

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One comment on “Forlorn Hope

  1. Having seen companies make big mistakes by not taking time to face the prospect of failure, I would have to agree with this post. I would argue to say that almost any success has stemmed from risk. Doing what you’ve always done and taking the safe route very rarely ever leads to much. Sometimes companies who are used to success fail to change at the most important times and end up swallowing that bitter failure pill.

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