In Action, Change, Leaders

“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Last week in this space I encouraged people to try & avoid groundhog years.  Get out and do something.  Don’t just sit there and re-live the same thing over and over again.  Try stuff.  At least make an effort to make some change.

Not surprisingly, there was some pushback to that idea.  All of the pushback can be summarized as “I’m not going to make change if I’m not sure it’s going to work.”  Why would I put a bunch of effort into doing something if it ends up being the wrong thing?

If you are a leader, you cannot sit on your hands and do nothing because you don’t want to make a mistake.  If you do that, you’re not a leader.  At some point, you have to stand up and get moving.  And, some of the time you might move in the wrong direction.

Actually, let me fix that last sentence.  Some of the time you will move in the wrong direction.  It is unavoidable.  You can do all the research or strategic thinking or planning that you want, and sometimes you’ll choose to do something that doesn’t end well.  That is part of life.  You cannot be a leader and avoid that outcome entirely.

While we’re having a not-super-pleasant conversation, this same concept applies to popularity.  I’ve seen leaders who don’t act in part because they’re afraid people might get mad at them.  Maybe customers, maybe employees, whatever.  Inevitably, what makes people mad at them is their refusal to act.

Certainly as leaders we don’t want to make catastrophic mistakes or take some action that puts us out of business.  But I’ve seen plenty of leaders whose failure to act ended up putting them out of business.  If you’re heading straight for an iceberg, turning right may be the wrong decision, turning left may be the wrong decision, but going straight is definitely the wrong decision.

Think about the path your business is on.  What needs to change?  What’s keeping you from making that change?  If it’s lack of information, then do your research.  If it’s lack of resources, then figure out how to increase capacity.  If it’s fear of making a mistake, then take a deep breath and dive in.


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