We’ve all heard excuses, and, most likely, have made some ourselves. How many of us have heard or used one of the following? I’ll let you pick the excuse that sounds best to you:
- I don’t have time / I have this thing coming up / I’m busy
- My computer / car / pen is broken
- I didn’t feel good
- I don’t know how / I’m afraid I’ll ______ / I got stuck
- I forgot
- My dog died
- I just didn’t feel like doing it
Yes, things come up. Life is full of uncertainty, and there are only so many hours in a day.
So, how do you squash excuses?
There’s no secret word or Jedi mind trick that fixes it. However, two things that will greatly help you squash your excuses include developing and sharing your big ‘Why’. In addition, having open communication; letting everyone know your status, and if a project / task needs to be delegated.
This article focuses on how to more effectively use communication to overcome excuses.
Jakob Hager, who co-founded TaskWunder, stresses the importance of having a framework in place for when communication fails.
“A business is a set of rules, of which communication is a major part. In an ideal world, we would only have to build rules that regulate how good communication works. However, I believe that a good (and scalable) business also builds rules for what happens when communication fails or misunderstandings happen. CID (Communication, Iteration Delegation) is a good general framework for building those rules.”
Mike Gingerich from TabSite offered the following advice on how to keep communication open by providing a comfortable environment.
“A central key in getting others to communicate effectively is to create an environment where they can feel comfortable, safe, and valued. Within that type of respectful environment, people are more open to communicating. A second key aspect is creating the expectation that communication is expected. This comes from laying out groundwork early on and demonstrating over time a commitment to following through on the communication expectations. Together this can help foster a creative environment where team members contribute and participate in a valuable way.”
We’re proponents of open, clear communication, outlined in our 9 Triangles, to keep us organized, and to help us plan every aspect of managing and running projects:
The very first triangle that makes up the strong foundation is Personal Efficiency. It’s made up of Do, Delegate, Delete (DDD), explained by this video:
It’s simple: Want to (D)o it? Take it on and do it immediately. If not, (D)elegate it to someone else. Once you’ve decided on which option to go with, (D)elete it. If you leave it lingering for later and don’t answer it immediately, there’s a good chance you’ll continue to procrastinate, and the project will languish as more emails come in and bury it.
The next triangle in the foundation is Leadership. It is composed of Communication, Iteration, and Delegation (CID):
This builds on your personal efficiency, instantly (C)ommunicating your status when asked, and providing (I)terations through updates while (D)elegating as needed to spread the workload.
Here are some responses to the frequent excuses you may encounter:
Notice how we’re able to apply the concepts from above, which heavily rely on the CID framework:
1. I don’t have time / I have this thing coming up / I’m busy.
Restructure your time to be more efficient and prioritize your tasks with DDD. If you’re still unable to fit it in, delegate it.
My computer / car / pen is broken.
Let everyone on the project know you’re experiencing equipment issues, how long you estimate it will take to fix it, and delegate accordingly if you’re not able to complete it in a timely manner.
I didn’t feel good.
This one is common. If you’re ill to a point that you’re unable to work until you feel better, let everyone know (communicate!) so they aren’t left in the dark thinking you went AWOL, and delegate your projects.
I don’t know how / I’m afraid I’ll ______ / I got stuck.
Fear and vanity often get in the way of one taking action. Unwilling to show ignorance, they will soldier on blindly hoping the problem will fix itself or go away. Don’t be a deer in headlights! Ask someone for help before the metaphorical car runs you over. Don’t be afraid of failure either, since you won’t ever learn without honest effort. CID helps greatly here, since any issues that come up can be quickly addressed.
This one often comes up as a reaction not from not following DDD, but finding yourself forgetting to follow up or check on a project. There are multiple tools to assist you in combating this. We’re a big fan of Boomerang for Gmail.
My _____ died.
If the project is due during the time of grievance, let everyone know and delegate it to someone who can complete it.
I just didn’t feel like doing it.
That’s fine. No one is holding a gun to your head to do something. Delegate it to someone who wants to take it, and reconsider taking on projects you don’t want to do.
If you are shaking your head and thinking, “It’s as simple as saying something!”, you’d be surprised that lack of effective communication is the most common reason why projects fail.
The excuses above can be simplified into “Have an issue? Let everyone know. If it affects your ability to complete it, assign it to someone else”.
One of our analysts, Michael Dediu-Whealey, had this quote that we should all keep in mind: “Excuses are a reflection of our priorities. Our priorities are a reflection of our values. Our values are a reflection of who we are.”
and it was Aristotle who said “We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act but a habit”. So what does the habit of making excuses say about you?
Next time, instead of reaching for an excuse, try preventing it by encouraging open communication, and utilizing your team.
How has lack of communication hurt your projects? How have you combated it?
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About the Author
You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.
You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.