Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why We must Listen to Excuses

This morning, I read a great post by @leadershipfreak called Getting Past Excuses, and it was very powerful for me to understand the importance of building systems to help teams and individuals get past making excuses so they can move to action.

But what about the excuse?

There was a reason that it was made in the first place. Leaders move too quick to the "get over it" mentality when dealing with the person who is making excuses. Moving past the excuse without analyzing the source of its existence can lead to the excuse rearing its ugly head in the future. In essence, getting over it without identifying the source can lead to resentment and ultimately lack of productivity.

What causes a person to make an excuse?

1. Fear
People make excuses if they fear for their job, status or safety. Leaders must probe excuse-makers with questions that help the person resolve their fear, but more importantly help the leader identify if systems or statements made by the leader have generated fears within the individuals or better yet, the organization as a whole.

2. Misconceptions
Excuses can be the result of preconceived ideas about expectations that are not what the leader intended to communicate. When leaders make a statement, followers can internalize it to mean many things. Listening for misconceptions, asking follow up questions and clarifying misunderstandings can definitely build trust between the leader and members of the organization; thus reducing the frequency of excuses being made.

3. Old Expectations
Expectations that were made 5 years ago or two leaders ago still exist in every organization. Whether you like it or not, leaders must listen to excuses to see if an antiquated expectation is preventing individuals or teams from being able to produce results. If so, the leader must clarify and rectify the discrepancy so teams can move forward.

There are quotes as far as the eye can see that speak to the weakness within excuses and excuse-makers. I contend that excuses communicate something deeper, a weakness of trust within the organization. Leaders must listen to organization to identify gaps in trust and understanding in order for teams and individuals to move to a place where flexibility and empowerment transform excuses into action.

We have a choice. We can listen to excuses and use them as building blocks of systemic progress, or we can dismiss them all together and watch our organization fail to achieve.

What's your excuse for not listening to excuses?

1 comment:

  1. John:

    This is Great! This blog will help me as I continue to work with and lead others. It is easy to see people as complainers or slackers. Sometimes, an excuse should be a red flag for the school/organization. Thank you for sharing!