At some point in our lives, we've used an excuse - whether to protect someone's feelings or to cover up a larger problem. Whatever the reason, we've all used them and we've heard a lot of them. Personally, I hate excuses! I think they short-change someone's potential and limit their vision. As leaders, we are often met with pushback and excuses from our team, especially when the going gets tough.
You've heard the saying, 'Excuses are like a-holes; everyone has one!' It's the truth. Here are some of the most frequent excuses I've heard throughout my career:
• It's not in the budget
• It wasn't a fair fight
• I don't have the staff
• The market is too small to support that
• I never saw the email
• We can't see the ROI
• The sales team said they can't sell it
• We've always done it that way
• We've never done that before
• We tried it once before and it didn't work
• That's not company policy
• That's not the way we do it
• That's not what I was told
• I had to rescue my cat from a tree
There are plenty more I can mention, but I'm sure you get the point. I'll even bet you nodded a few times and even mentally added a few of your own.
Excuses are easy, addictive and designed to shut things down. They are the easiest answers to find because they create the shortest stories, and carry the most weight in your fight against doing something. But when you delve deeper and ask why people can't do something, you find they are just creating reasons and stories to support the status quo of their somewhat limited worldview. They could also be covering a lack of knowledge or skill -- both of which are easy to overcome. When people give excuses, they are looking for the next line in the small story they want to tell. At the same time, they fail to create the big stories that will empower them to do more.
When confronted with excuses, leaders need to push hard and even become a little pigheaded and irrational. In any line of work, people tend to get comfortable with the status quo and fail to push forward in order to get to the next level. As a result, leaders must make those same people question the status quo and have zero tolerance for excuses. Success also makes people complacent. Having succeeded at something in the past might make some people not work as hard as they need to get the job done. It's worked in the past, why not now? BIG mistake! Knowledge is power, so expand your horizons. Sure, things worked the same for the last 30 years, but by the 31st year, the industry might've changed.
We need our people to break their own boundaries and write big stories, not one-line short stories based on presuppositions and assumptions that don't take you very far. We've all been caught thinking small and we're all guilty of complacency. By eliminating excuses we get one step closer to thinking big and acting bigger.
In order to think big and eliminate excuses, you must:
• Push hard and instead of using an excuse, focus and empower your team by ensuring they remember what matters, where things are going, and what you want to build
• Have a "can do" attitude. When you start to change your thinking to "can do," it becomes contagious to those around you. If you think, "can do," your team will think "can do, " too
• It doesn't do any good to point fingers, that's an excuse, too. When mistakes happen ask yourself, "Did anyone die?" Fix a problem by moving forward, not dwelling in past mistakes, or who made the mistake. It can have a paralyzing effect on your team
There's always a reason not to do something or an explanation why something did not happen in business, from the specific, to the general, to the ridiculous. Sometimes the solution is as simple as convincing those people in front of you and as hard as 'how do I make that happen?" The answer to that quandary is you have to change the way they think and make them question things. Don't just come up with a problem. State your problem and come up with a solution. That's how you convince those in front to move forward.
My advice to everyone is, be the solution to the problem and don't get stuck thinking small.