06
Sep
10

There’s an excuse for that!

Thought of something you’d like to do on your iPhone? Voila, “there’s an app for that.” Yup, there are apps for just about everything and more are on the way that will do things you never dreamed possible. And like iPhone apps, when a project doesn’t get done on time, when a procedure isn’t followed, when a mess is left for someone else to clean up, “there’s an excuse for that.” There’s an excuse for almost anything that gets done wrong, gets done late or doesn’t get done at all.

We humans have been perfecting our excuse-making skills since childhood. While playing with other kids and losing a play, remember the, “I wasn’t ready,” or, “My shoe was untied,” excuses? By the time we get to high school, excuses have evolved to a more creative and imaginative level such as, “My dog ate my homework.” By the time we enter the workforce, the art of excuse-making reaches the pinnacle of refinement. Here, excuses sound like, “My alarm didn’t go off,” or, “I didn’t know,” or, “I thought so-and-so was going to do it,” and let’s not forget the ever-popular, “It’s not my job.”

Here are three no-compromise strategies to purge excuse-making from your company:

  • An excuse is simply justification: Performing at a level below one’s true capabilities is a choice. Excuses are attempts to justify laziness, procrastination and indifference. Excuses are a direct by-product of a bad decision or pattern of behavior. 
Strategy: Don’t get sucked into the justification. It’s a waste of time. Keep the conversation focused on the employee’s decision and/or behavior. Ask, “What steps can you take to prevent this from happening again?” Don’t end it there. Keep checking in with the employee. Correct when necessary – and give positive feedback when you see progress.
  • Excuses deflect accountability: An employee arrives late for work and says, “I was stuck behind a school bus.” Is it that darn slow-moving school bus that caused the lateness, or, an employee who didn’t allow that little bit of extra time for the unexpected?
Strategy: Creating an “accountable” company culture is the true work of the no-compromise leader. Take the employee through the ripple effect of his or her failure to be accountable to the team, the company and the customer. Clarify how even simple breakdowns in accountability can have costly repercussions throughout an organization.
  • World-class or something less: It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, just doing business in these economic times is seriously tough work. Generating growth, profitability and opportunity is even tougher. The more excuses that occur at any level of a company, the slower its progress. The more excuses pile up, the more distracted and sidetracked the company becomes as it gets further bogged down in its internal dysfunctions. 
Strategy: People fight for a worthy cause. When a company unites around a worthy cause, people engage at higher levels of performance. Why? Because they want to win. Does your company have a worthy cause to fight for? Does your company vision have the gravitational pull inspiring enough to collectively lift performance and behavior to the next level? If not, it’s time to rethink and polish up your vision. Chances are, it’s not motivating you either.

Here’s one last strategy to consider: Are you making excuses for your decisions and behaviors that cause you to perform below your capabilities? If so, the purging of excuses from your company begins with you. What’s that you just said? “You don’t have time to deal with this now.” Sounds like an excuse to me.

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click the Comment button above.

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.

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