Results vs. Excuses: Which one would you choose?

Many of today’s business leaders are publishing a long list of reasons, stories and excuses about why they aren’t getting the results they desired or even the results they promised. They don’t even have to be creative or dishonest in their attempts to justify their shortcomings: too few resources, talent shortages, increased regulation, declining margins, losses on investments, decreased consumer confidence and demand – all seemingly true "facts," but not the true cause of why they didn’t get results.  

There are two distinct camps in the business world today – leaders whose teams have failed to measure up and instead work diligently to deliver the "facts" in the form of "reasons, stories and excuses" versus leaders whose teams have delivered results in spite of the same "facts." The difference between the two camps? Not the circumstances of their situations but the path that the leaders chose to take.

The first path leading to reasons, stories and excuses begins when a leader decides that they are "right," that they know the answer, the way, how the world should be or is. This belief usually arises out of a past experience of success where the leader mistakenly attributes the positive outcomes to their own omnipotent powers rather than more accurately attributing success to the execution and risk mitigation of the team or sheer luck of the draw.  

As the world rapidly changes, leaders cannot possibly know the "right" way forward, they can only make decisions and remain extremely open to the feedback from their teams and the marketplace and adjust accordingly. Once a leader becomes convinced they are "right," their mind closes; they stop learning and become "right-eous."  At this point, leaders become closed to any new or contradictory information that could help them alter their plan and execute it successfully.

When a leader or a team decides they are "right," a great deal of energy goes into finding and pointing out who is then "wrong" or who is to blame. To reinforce their positions, more energy and resources are wasted to find others who agree with their position and with whom they can collude, further skewing their own view of reality, and limiting any information that negates their convenient view of the world. Together, all of these like-minded people jointly create a story that paints themselves as innocent or helpless victims – with all others as the villains. Instead of results, the leaders have an arsenal of reasons, stories and excuses about why they didn’t or couldn’t deliver the desired results.  

The actual cause of their shortcomings is a chain reaction that begins with self-motive and closed- mindedness and ends with a painting of oneself as an innocent victim.  

The path to amazing results in spite of the circumstances at hand begins with a simple commitment – a commitment to do 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 to face the unknown. Results begin with a leader who fully commits to achieving results rather than with a leader who seeks to be "right."

When a leader fully commits to willingness, he or she must also commit to living in integrity. By committing to be willing to do whatever it takes to get the results, the leader must also act publicly in a way that clearly role-models that level of willingness and openness.  

As challenges appear, those on the path to results don’t fall into blaming but instead move into "account –ability," having the ability to account for why they didn’t get there. "Accounting for" involves each individual on the team owning their own part in the current lack of results, which begins with statements like, "I chose," "I denied," "I neglected," etc. 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 "respons-ibility" or 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.

The path of commitment, action with integrity, accountability, responsibility, great individual contribution and stakeholdership begins with a leader who is willing to call up the commitment of others – to ask the team members to publicly declare if they are "in" or if they are "out." Great leaders believe their team members when they declare their willingness in deed or action. Reality-Based LeadersTM work with the willing and then create an environment free of blame and filled with accountability and agile responses. This path ends with one of two outcomes: the desired results or a great deal of learning that can be turned into future results.  

On the other hand, the path of righteousness shuts out the input of the world, the customer, the employees and even reality. To remain convinced of one’s superior position as a leader, a great deal of time and energy must be used to recruit like-minded victims who collude together and convince each other of their own innocence and position, which is at the mercy of the circumstances.  

Want results? Want to succeed in spite of the facts? Commit wholeheartedly, seek reality, adjust accordingly, and call everyone on your team to greatness.  

Want reasons, stories and excuses? Close your mind, decide you are right, surround yourself with people who agree with you and are quick to blame others, and collude together as victims.  

Same challenges. Different leadership. Different results. You decide.  

Remember, Cy rocks and you rock!  
Lead on my friend.  

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1 Comments

  • Luis Gurri

    I agree with Cy. A great leader has the ability to provide purpose, direction, and motivation to his/her team to accomplish the mission. S/he must be flexible and is willing to listen to different points of view, concerns, insights, ect and is not fixed on only one way to achieve the results demanded by the customer. A great leader understands that if the results are achieved, the team was responsible for the accomplishment, but if the results are not met, the leader is responsible for the failure, no excuses. Either the mission was accomplished and the goals were achieved or they were not achieved. If they were not achieved, then "account-ability" as Cy writes is an important part of the process to determine why the goals were not met. Not in an accusatory manner, but rather from a lessons learned perspective, maximizing the potential success of the next effort. I believe it is critical for the leader to create a blame free internal environment as well for her/his team, because the alternative is self destructive and creates a sense of a lack of trust from the teams perspective. How can the team possibly maximize their effort when there is a sense of mistrust and/or lack of confidence in them? Placing the blame externally as Cy writes is a wasted effort and nothing but a CYOA drill that accomplishes nothing but creating doubt in your abilities as a leader.