Categories AdviceCommunication

Ridding Excuses Through Open Communication

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.

I forgot.

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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Dennis Yu :Dennis Yu is the CEO of Blitzmetrics. He is an internationally recognized lecturer in Facebook marketing, having been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News, and CBS Evening News. He is also a regular contributor for Adweek's SocialTimes column. Dennis has held leadership positions at Yahoo! and American Airlines. He studied Finance and Economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics. Besides being a Facebook data and ad geek, you can find him eating chicken wings or playing Ultimate Frisbee in a city near you. You can contact him at dennis@blitzmetrics, his blog, or on Facebook.

View Comments (5)

  • Making an excuse is a form of quitting. My old wrestling coach used to say this all the time when people would miss tournaments to go to parties, or hang out with girls - whatever was motivating high school boys to ditch at the time. To be fair, most people would rather be having fun as opposed to sweating with a bunch of guys in a 90 degree dutch oven. The point is that those guys would go on to take the same attitude to their work in the future. When the going gets tough the tough get going right? There are countless sayings about the truth behind this article. Making an excuse is a form of rationalizing quitting and is different from *having* an excuse. We had guys with broken legs that would sit in the room and help coach us...they were still contributing and helping despite a very REAL obstacle that prevented them from participating, but they still found a way to contribute. Great article...

    • Wise words, Alex! Behind the excuse is a lack of intent. People who really want it, but have obstacles, will still have the intent show through.

  • Excuses congest productivity and diminish your overall brand. Just get a task accomplished and leave the excuses behind.

  • It truly is incredible how easy it should be to avoid making excuses that hinder the progression of a project. I saw a quote once (I had to look up by who -- it was John Powell) that said "Communication works for those who work at it." This is such an accurate statement and I believe highly applicable in this context. If you can practice and work at improving your communication skills through some of the tactics listed above (DDD and CID) you can create the habit which makes the next project that much more efficient. Work at your communication or your communication will never work. This begins by deleting many of the excuses we make every day. When you hear the excuse come into your mind, train yourself to think about how you can curve that excuse and continue to push each project forward. "I don't have time" turns to "I don't have time, so (insert name here), could you take this task."

    I like what Alex shared -- the intent behind your why or behind your excuse will determine how you carry yourself from one period of your life to the next. Train your intent and your communication to help the progression of projects and personal growth and the next time you have excuses come up it will be that much easier to use the communication you've been practicing to halt that excuse from becoming a hindering factor.

    • Amen, Nick. The more responsibility people take, the more their personal power grows. And the more excuses they make, the less control they have over their lives.