If the number of times we hear excuses in our classes comes anywhere near the amount of times you, as a leader, hear excuses from your reports then it’s time to put an end to all this excusiness. An excuse is just an explanation for something that went wrong or didn’t get completed. The mere act of giving an excuse is to shift blame and is indirectly asking for the leader to cut them some slack.
If you’ve been in one of our programs you know action planning and goal setting is a big part. It’s an important part of the program. We have individuals set a professional action plan. Unless their supervisor sends them with a specific project we leave it up to them. It can be something they are currently working on, or it can be something they have a desire to see come to fruition. In any case they walk through the steps and actually write the plan before they leave the classroom. Then too often they return to the classroom several weeks later and what do they bring with them the majority of the time? An unfinished action plan and excuses!
What’s a leader to do? First on the list is to ask yourself if you are allowing this behavior. If you have routinely extended deadlines or forgiven inadequate performance or (and please tell me you’ve never done this) finished the project on your own, then you are the problem and it has to stop. Today. Develop a plan for accountability and hold your people to it. Watch how much gets done when people are required to finish their projects!
A few additional simple steps you can take to stop the excuses and get more productivity:
1. If you are not holding your people accountable to deadlines - this needs to stop. Accountability is a critical part of leadership and of developing your people.
2. If you are the reason deadlines are missed because you are not available to approve work or be a resource – set aside time for your people (this is a failure of yours, not theirs). Be a resource for your people and make sure they know you have the confidence in them to finish the task – especially if the task is out of their comfort zone.
3. Train your people how to create an action plan. Work with them on realistic time frames that should be included. Remind them that sometimes these time frames may need to be tweaked, but it never means the project won’t be completed.
4. Stress the importance of being someone seen as dependable. When assignments are given they are completed. It says a lot about an employee.
5. Train your employee to overcome obstacles. I honestly believe this tops the list as to why people fail at meeting deadlines and meeting goals. Something throws them a curve ball and they cannot overcome. Learning how to critically think through options will help them to succeed.
Leaders hand out assignments because they are important. They are critical to the day-to-day operations, they are important to improvements, and they are important to progress. When tasks aren’t completed on time the individual suffers, the team suffers, the organization suffers, but even more than that – the customer suffers – either directly or indirectly. Make it a practice to not accept excusiness anymore.