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Leadership Advice: You Can Have Results or Excuses, But Not Both

Leadership Advice: You Can Have Results or Excuses, But Not Both
Posted on Friday, June 22, 2018 by Cy Wakeman

In today’s workplace, everyone is expected to do more with less.

Leadership-adviceThis fact is especially true in HR departments where hiring expectations, benefits management, and employee engagement are all spinning plates needing to be kept in the air simultaneously.

In this tough environment, you don’t have to look far to find leaders who may not have met expectations or have failed to produce results.

Generally speaking, the knee-jerk reaction to failure is to blame shortfalls within the project or restrictions that may have hindered success, which could include: too few resources, talent shortages, increased regulation, declining margins, loss on investments, decreased consumer confidence and demand, and the list could (and sometimes does) go on. All of these hindrances are seemingly true “facts,” but not necessarily the actual cause as to why these leaders didn’t get results.

So how can you succeed when you are up against all the above seemingly unavoidable and potentially success-busting pitfalls?

Circumstances shouldn’t be the reason for failure.

There are generally two distinct camps in the business world today that comprise two different leadership philosophies and management styles.  One camp consists of leaders whose teams have failed to measure up to expectations and who tend to blame their circumstances in the form of reasons, stories, and excuses. The second camp includes leaders and teams that have delivered results in spite of the same or similar circumstances. The difference between the two camps? Not the circumstances of their situations but the path that the leaders chose to take.

Being “right” can close the door to success.

The first path leading to reasons, stories, and excuses begins when a leader decides that they are “right” and/or they know for sure how to tackle a problem. This belief usually arises out of a past experience of success where the leader mistakenly attributes a positive outcome to their own management style, project organization, or strategy rather than more accurately attributing success to the execution and risk mitigation of the entire team. Once a leader becomes convinced they are “right,” or that they have the perfect answer to an issue, their mind closes, they stop learning and they become less flexible and strategic.

At this point, leaders become closed to any new or contradictory information that could help them alter their plan and execute it successfully. For example, an HR leader may have succeeded in implementing and executing annual enrollment with a large, well-funded team. However, with budgets being cut and a few layoffs pending, next year may pose a different kind of problem. This HR leader may try to implement the same strategy despite the changes in personnel and funding which could result in blaming the circumstances, not the strategy for failure. 

Success comes with an open mind.

The path to amazing results in spite of the circumstances at hand begins with a simple commitment – a commitment to determine and execute whatever it takes (legally and ethically) regardless of role, position, or tradition to create the desired results. Such a commitment requires an open mind regarding what’s to come and what will be required – a willingness to be open to and face the unknown, along with a focus on results.

By committing to doing whatever it takes to get the results (with integrity), the leader must also act publicly in a way that clearly reflects that level of willingness and openness. 

Moving to accountability instead of becoming stuck in the muck of circumstance.

As challenges appear, those on the path to results don’t fall into blaming but instead move into “accountability,” having the ability to account for why they didn’t get there. With the ability to account for the choices and actions that are currently leading to the lack of results, each member of the team gains the freedom that comes with the ability to respond differently. Responsibility opens up a grand arsenal of talent, agility, responsiveness, risk-mitigation strategies, and high-end individual contribution. In short, what starts with willingness and is safeguarded by the lack of blaming on this path to results brings out the best in each team member. Suddenly all are operating at their best and highest performance levels and are not only engaged but have bought into the effort to deliver the desired outcome or results. Everyone is able to own their actions and the results.

Successful “Reality-Based Leaders” work with willing team members that have committed to the mission of success and then create an environment free of blame and filled with accountability and agile responses. This path ends with one of two outcomes: 1) the desired results, or 2) a great deal of learning that can be turned into future results. 

How you get there: questions that rise above circumstances.

Want results? Want to succeed in spite of the facts? Here’s a simple question that can help you acknowledge challenging circumstances and redirect energy into results. When a team member comes to you, verbalizing their challenging circumstances, acknowledge it! Say, “Given that, what ideas do you have to succeed anyway?” 

We often can’t change our circumstances or realities, but we can find ways to achieve results in spite of a challenge. Commit wholeheartedly, seek reality, adjust accordingly, and call everyone on your team to greatness.  Great leaders face many of the same challenges, and using different leadership techniques, they earn amazing results.

Want more tips for leading your team beyond excuses? Join me at my exclusive Reality-Based leadership training session at Vision 20/18 in Chicago. Or, listen to my No Ego podcast, Episode #36: No Excuses, on iTunes | Stitcher | Spotify | GooglePlay 



Cy Wakeman, is a dynamic international keynote speaker, business consultant, New York Times bestselling author, and global thought leader with over 25 years experience cultivating a revolutionary new approach to leadership. Grounded in reality, Wakeman’s philosophy has helped organizations and individuals all over the world learn to ditch the drama and turn excuses into results. Cy is the keynote speaker at our upcoming Vision 2018 conference in Chicago.