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“I can’t think of everything!” “I didn’t have time.” “That’s not my responsibility.” Have you heard any of these excuses as a leader? Have you MADE any of these excuses? It can be difficult to know how to respond when people try to give excuses as to why they cannot meet your expectations. However, it is a leader’s job to help people expect more of themselves and take on the challenges of their job! Today on The Champion Forum podcast, we discuss how to address the excuses many employees give and how you can create a culture where people don’t make excuses.
What is the difference between a good reason and an excuse?
The main function of a reason is not to justify, but to explain. Reasons are used by people who accept their faults and step up and take accountability for your actions.
An excuse exists to justify, blame, or defend a fault without taking accountability. An excuse-maker will rarely come up with a solution. Excuses bring productivity to a screeching halt. They waste time and kill potential.
For example, a reason for not going for a run is, “I have a broken leg.” An excuse is, “I don’t have the time.”
What should you do about employees who routinely make excuses?
The easy solution seems to be to just fire them. Then, hire someone better. However, that isn’t as easy or as productive as you might think. Bringing on a new worker is expensive and often inconvenient. Recruiting cost, training, ramp-up time, morale issues, etc. If excuses are part of your team’s culture, then it really doesn’t matter if you get rid of all those unproductive workers. You are still going to be plagued with excuses.
Q: Have you ever worked with someone who made excuses? What were their favorite excuses? How did their behavior impact your relationship?
6 ways to lead better through excuses
1. Make your expectations obvious.
Make sure your team members know what tasks they have been assigned and exactly when it must be completed. Never assign one task to two or more people. This can cause employees to feel uncertain about their own responsibility and it makes it easy for each employee to claim they thought the other was working on it.
Q: What do you expect your employees to do? How do you make sure these expectations are clear and easy to understand?
2. Have a system of accountability.
You can do this by following a simple 5-step process. 1) Set clear expectations; 2) Assign tasks to the right people; 3) Measure your progress; 4) Offer appropriate feedback, and 5) Ensure people are aware of the consequences.
3. Monitor workloads.
One common excuse workers use is that they have too much on their plate. If you keeping track of their workload, you can clearly determine whether it is an excuse or a viable reason they are failing to meet your expectations. When you come face to face with all of the work you are asking one person to do, you might realize that you are expecting too much. Then, you can adjust schedules, assignments, and priorities accordingly.
4. Show employees their value.
Nobody likes doing busy work. People want to feel like they are making a difference. Still, some employees try to make excuses for why they didn’t do their work by saying, “I don’t see the benefit for me.” That is why it is important to create a system that shows employees how the tasks you are assigning them fit into the big picture.
No matter how large or small your role, you are contributing to the larger story unfolding within your life, your business, and your organization. When your entire team embraces that type of attitude and belief system, incredible things happen.
Q: Why is their role important? How does the assignment help them make a difference? How do they relate to the ultimate vision of the company?
5. Create a culture where teamwork is valued.
Nobody should ever get away with saying, “That’s not my job.” When teamwork is a core value, you will create an environment where everyone helps everyone else and the entire team is working toward one mission and vision. Siloed workers are not productive workers.
6. Show the importance of failure.
Sometimes excuses come from a worker’s personal fear and insecurity. Sometimes failure is the first step to figuring out the next big thing! A lot of fear of failure comes from culture. If they see others being punished for their failures, they aren’t going to want to take any chances. Create an environment where failure is not punished. Instead, train your employees to view each failure as a learning opportunity.
When was the last time you failed at something? Take some time to think about how you felt when you made the decision. What did you do when you realized your decision was going to fail? What did you learn from the experience? How did you feel like other people responded to the experience? Now think about the last time one of your employees failed. When did you realize their decision was going to result in failure? What did you learn? How did you respond to their failure? Compare how you responded to each failure. Did you respond to one better than the other? Why? How can you continue to create a culture where failure is not punished?
Look at the system of accountability in step two. Do you follow all of these steps? Get a second opinion by asking a coworker, trusted employee, or boss to identify any steps you skip. Make sure that you cover them the next time you assign tasks at a meeting.
Part of creating a culture of teamwork and accountability is breaking down silos. Silos occur when each person is only interested in accomplishing their own objectives. They usually have little understanding of their company outside of their own responsibilities. Challenge this mindset on your team! Ask your team members during your next meetings what their co-workers are working on. Ask them how their coworkers’ tasks help the whole team succeed. If your employees cannot do this, check out this link to help break down silos in the workplace.
The 5 Questions you should be asking to employees when expectations aren’t being met
Setting Expectations Presentation