January 28, 2022

J Stands for Justification

I just love, love, love the month of February.  Yes…it’s Cupid’s day on February 14, but more importantly…February is the month when my local Girl Scout knocks on my door and delivers not 1 but at least 5 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies, and 3-4 of these boxes are usually green.  Thin Mints!  Ahhh…I honestly cannot think of a better cookie.

So, two nights ago, I proceeded to eat about 6 thin mints.  Then, last night, I think I ate 7.  Of course, I did not eat them all at one time…I kept going back to the frig (Thin Mints are best eaten and drooled over when they are just a bit cold…not frozen but cold) about 3 times…thinking…okay…this is my last one…and then, this is my last one.

Now then…I am not really someone who diets or who really needs to diet, but I really don’t need to sit and eat 7 Girl Scout thin mint cookies.  I am health conscious, so at the end of the next two weeks, after my husband Mike and I have devoured the third box, I will have consumed an additional 1500-2000 calories of chocolate.  And…I have no intentions of resisting my desire to finish off the cookies.

But, as always, last night, after eating my 7th cookie, I started justifying eating the cookie with these thoughts:

1.  I didn’t go back for seconds at dinner, so I can afford the calories.

2. I have had a long day, and I deserve these.

3. Girl Scout cookies are only available one time a year, so it’s okay for now (of course Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies are available year round…another one of my favorites).

So, this morning, I woke up early and thought….”Hmmm…why did I justify eating those cookies?”

Because I felt guilty!

I have not met a human to this day who does not try to justify their behaviors.  We have all watched as Presidents tried to justify extra marital affairs, illegal taping and making bad, bad decisions.  We have all sat by and watched financial leaders justify ponzy schemes and why they need gigantic bonuses and luxurious trips.  And, at the end of the day, we have all justified some action in our lives that was not in our best interest or was hurtful to others.

As a leadership coach, I conduct multiple 360 degree feedback reviews every year with executives from multiple industries.  When they get their results back, the excuses, rationalizations and justifications start flying:

“Well…I do that because…”

“I only did that one time, and I did it in order to….”

“That’s just who I am…I can’t change who I am”

And so forth.

So, today, I want to leave you with a few ideas on what triggers justification.  And, as we all know, justification is our ability to show a satisfactory reason or excuse for something done.  Sometimes, we do need to show a reason why a decision was made to clear things up.  Today’s post is about using justification to defend negative behaviors, and when you justify, you are just basically making excuses…which can greatly undermine your creativity.

So, here are some of the situations which can trigger justification:

1. Complexity. It is not uncommon for leaders and decision makers to use very complex approaches when there is a much simpler means to an end.  Then, when the project fails or they are way over budget, a leader or project leader will start making excuses for making something simple complex.  It most always has to do with a lack of communication or a drive for perfectionism.

Solution: Get input from your team on how to make your processes as simple as possible without causing the quality of the finished product to suffer.

2. Destructive conduct. Unless you are dealing with someone who is a sociopath, the majority of people know when they are getting ready to make a decision that can hurt their credibility, other people or the organization.  Destructive conduct can be something as small as playing favorites or being late to an appointment all the way up to lying, stealing and cheating.

Solution: Think through the decision and play the worst case scenario game.  If you make this decision, what could happen?  Talk through your situation with a trusted confidant, and just stop the behavior…don’t make a bad move simply because you think “I am only going to do this one time”…that one time will turn into multiple times.  Just ask Bernie Madoff.

3. Unwillingness to let go of history. I see this one all the time.  I did it x way, because this is the way we did it 5, 7, or 10 years ago.  More often than not, this is the lazy way through making a decision, and you can justify away on this one.  At the end of the day, your followers will view you as “stuck in the past” and not forward in your thinking.

Solution: Let go of the past by pulling together a team of people with fresh ideas, and implement some new ideas…and give yourself the permission to fail.  Start thinking forward, and use history as an opportunity to learn and to add to new ideas…don’t let history continually drive your decision making.  It will bite you in the rear every time.  While I agree that we need to look at history to pull up information that can be helpful, if we are unwilling to shift into new ways of thinking, we won’t make it in the future.

4. Dropping the ball.  People drop the ball every day, and they usually justify this by saying “I just did not have time” or “My son was sick” or “My boss was on my case about something, and it was more urgent.”  At the end of the day, hey…you dropped the ball!  You probably said “yes” when you should have said “no” or you made a decision to do something for yourself rather than addressing what needed to be addressed.

Solution: Don’t bite off more than you can chew, and just start admitting that you dropped the ball by saying “Hey…I dropped the ball.  There is no excuse…I just dropped the ball, and I want to apologize.  What can I do to make this right?”  With this response, you will rebuild trust…it may take some time, but you will start to rebuild the credibility you need to get your followers to listen to you and trust you.  AND….make sure to start being fully committed to follow through.   If you keep dropping the ball,  continuing to admit your shortcoming and apologizing just won’t work any longer.  You will be perceived as someone who cannot be counted on.

So, today…start taking responsibility and drop the justifications!  Your leadership depends on it!

And…tonight, I will eat Girl Scout Cookies, because I want to…no other excuses on that one!

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