“When you make a mistake, apologize sincerely, forgive yourself and move forward; people are counting on you.” Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran, the president of Kalamazoo College, gave me this great advice and it has stayed with me for years. It is something that all leaders need to remember if they are truly going to have impact on the lives of those they serve.
Everyone is going to make mistakes. Let me repeat that: everyone is going to make mistakes. As leaders, we have to clearly acknowledge when a mistake is made because not only is it the right thing to do, it sets an example for those around us. It may seem funny to say, but I know it’s a good day when I see those on my team make a mistake and then live up to this axiom.
It is important that as leaders we somewhat celebrate mistakes by validating the lessons learned. One of the great leaders our nation has produced is John Wooden, legendary coach, who famously said, “The team that makes the most mistakes usually wins.”
Great teams, great organizations are students of mistakes, both of themselves and others. They learn from them, are accountable to them and then go forward making new and different mistakes.
Eileen’s advice may not always be easy, but it would be a mistake to believe that anything worth doing ever is.