Around graduation time, bookstores strategically place the well-known Dr. Seuss book Oh, The Places You’ll Go at the front entrance. They know this popular gift for new graduates reminds them that the path they’re about to take will be full of mistakes, twists, turns, and road blocks, but with hard work, a positive outlook, and resilience, they’ll move mountains. The book may have been written for children, but its message holds true for all ages.
I think we need a similar book for new leaders called Oh, The Mistakes You’ll Make. No matter how many years of business experience you’ve had before your first leadership position, you’re going to make mistakes. No expensive MBA or mentor can save you from this unavoidable fate. It will happen—the first mistake. That first mistake will be followed by a second and a third. And if you have a long career as a leader, you may forget the small mistakes and only keep record of the biggest ones. But one thing is for sure. There will be mistakes.
It’s not that you will fail as a leader. You will be flawed just as we all are. Some mistakes will be due to inexperience. Others will be due to risks that were miscalculated or a lack of reliable information.
Each mistake will sting. They each leave a mark.
And after each one, you will reflect, dust yourself off, learn from it, and pivot to ensure you don’t take that same path again.
In leadership, the goal isn’t to not make any mistakes. The goal is to never make the same mistake twice.
Over the course of your career, you will at times trust too much, trust too little, over-communicate, under-communicate, act too swiftly, not act quickly enough, be indecisive, be hasty and much more. If your team trusts you, they will stay on board as you correct the course.
As long as you’re open to feedback, take time to reflect, accept coaching/mentorship/learning opportunities, and make changes, you’ll be in good company with the most iconic leaders and CEOs.
Oh the mistakes you’ll make, and the things you’ll learn, on your way to the places you’ll go. They will all make you a better person and leader if you allow them to.
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”
? Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, Copyright 1990, Random House