While watching a college football game last weekend, a coach had simple advice for his players. They were the underdog against one of the nation’s top college football programs. He told his players, “If we are going to win, avoid strategic mistakes.” A strategic mistake in a competitive matchup in any sport — football, tennis, ice hockey, baseball or basketball — could be one that costs the game, season, match or title. Whether a poorly-timed penalty, interception or a missed communication, strategic mistakes carry a heavy cost. If you were an athlete at any point in your life, I’m sure you recall your coaches saying there are good penalties and bad penalties. Good penalties may save a goal, equalize power or buy time. Bad penalties cost a goal, exhaust top players killing a penalty, or give other strategic advantages to the opposing team. But there is also the saying coined by Wayne Gretzky, “You miss every shot you don’t take."

Often when we hear the word “mistake,” it has a negative connotation and naturally, we want to avoid them or being told we made a mistake of any sort. Team members can be afraid to make mistakes and that can stifle innovation creativity and teamwork. So how do you encourage and trust your team members to take risks, all the while limiting strategic mistakes? 

As the world starts to emerge and settles into a “new normal,” I don’t think we will ever forget the year and a half we’ve just lived through. The keys to business survival include taking a long-term view, the willingness to change when necessary and the insight to know when not to, and the agility to be able to act with speed. Basing your long-term strategy on the past is becoming less and less relevant because the amount of change is so high. You need vision, courage, and sound judgment. If you can’t see the future you can’t get there.

These leadership principles are what encouraged me to forge through a major, highly complex multi-million-dollar expansion and business transformation project at our corporate headquarters in New York City. The plans had been in the works for several years before March 2020 but during the early stages of the pandemic, while everyone was at home, we leaned in and chose to proceed. It’s been exhausting work. It’s been difficult and frustrating. Although I’m glad I did exactly what I did. 

In not deviating from my long-term plan, my goal was to create a space that would reflect and amplify our inclusive, inspiring, creative and collaborative work culture in a manner that could be inherently understood by anyone who walks through the door.

I love and respect my entire team and look at them as extended members of my family. To provide a comfortable, home-away-from-home for them to spend 40 hours a week was not only ahead of its time, but also good for business. 

As I write this month’s column in our new open concept workplace, I’m proud to have had the courage to forge forward; keeping my eyes on the future and following through on a well-thought-out, pre-pandemic plan.