Excuses or Reasons? Two practices to help you listen

My words started the conversation “Did somebody feed the dog yet?”

The response started with the words “Well, she did not do what I asked her and . . . . . “.

It was the language of an excuse.

The thing that stuck in my mind was I will accept reasons, but please don’t give me excuses.  As I watch leaders and teams work through things, I have seen how excuses create lines for battle.  He said . . . .   She said . . . . They said . . . .   It gets messy really fast.  When emotions are raised by assigning blame first, it is hard for most people to step back and talk through it.  Excuses generally point outward at the environment or actions of others, and lead to blame and away from solutions.

When we focus on getting some reasons out on the table, it requires us to ask a few more questions to establish what assumptions or knowledge are being brought into the conversation.  Establishing this allows ownership to emerge.  The focus can then be on a decision they made that got in the way of something getting done or getting fixed, and what the action plan looks like.

Two great practices this week are to listen:

  1. When something happens or your outcomes are questioned, do you give an excuse or ask a few questions and focus on reasons something happened or did not happen?  How does it effect the conversation?
  2. As you interact with your team, what do you hear more of – excuses or reasons?  What is the impact of sharing excuses vs reasons?

 

I am holding out hope that some day my simple question gets answered with something like:

I am watching my favorite episode ever of Dog with a Blog and thought I would finish it before I fed our hungry dog.  That was probably not a good decision, because the next episode was my second favorite ever, so let me shut off the TV and take care of it.

 

I could be waiting a while, but I know the expectations I need to share and the questions I need to ask in the future.