Leaders Anticipate and Defuse Excuses

Aren’t excuses so predictable?

You almost hold back from asking “Hey, Bill, have you got your TPS report ready?” because you know you’ll hear “I would, but I’m still waiting for Hillary to get the cover page ready.”

If you know you’re going to hear an excuse about someone else not delivering, why not head it off at the pass?

“Hey Bill, have you got everything you need from Hillary, yet?”

“Um, no. You know how she is. Always getting stuff to me late.”

“Well, we’re not behind schedule on this, yet; can you make a point to remind her? It would really help the workflow upward if it were on time this week. You got this?”

You’ve accomplished a few things here – anticipated the excuse, directed responsibility for the project back to Bill, and offered him a chance to ask for help by asking “you got this?”. Plus by adding an outcome to your request, you’ve given Bill the reason why this task is important not only for him, but for the organization at large.

If you hear excuses a lot, here are two ideas:

  1. Consider that you might be contributing to the pattern, either by allowing it, or making observable excuses yourself – you might refer to them as “explanations” or “rationales”, but others might see them as excuses.
  2. Write a list of your most frequently heard excuses. Then, develop a ready response to them, or (even better) do what it takes ahead of time to send the message that you’re expecting this obstacle, and offer suggestions on how to overcome the situation.

Delivering late or shoddy work is the most common source of excuse-making. If you can anticipate what makes specific people guilty of these, then give them awareness and tools to head them off, you’ll be leading well. You’ll be anticipating and meeting needs.

DSC_0768_2Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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