January 24, 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!

Leadership Coaching Question: Are You a Meddling Leader?

With leadership comes great responsibility: The responsibility for revenues, the responsibility for people, the responsibility for public image, and the list goes on and on. And, it is not uncommon for many leaders to over-manage in an effort to get things done.

If you are someone who has a challenge with over-control, the first question is to look closely at why this is happening. Take this quick quiz, and answer “yes” or “no.”

1) I over-manage, because I am way too busy to communicate with my team.

2) I over-manage, because I am the only one who can get things done the right way.

3) I over-manage, because I am impatient.

4) I over-manage, because I don’t trust other people.

5) I over-manage, because I am a control freak.

6) I over-manage, because I feel guilty about giving people too much work.

7) I over-manage, because my board is breathing down my neck.

8)I over-manage, because I am impatient…I want the job done NOW!

9) I over-manage, because I don’t have the money to pay for great talent.

10) I over- manage, because I am afraid to make a mistake.

It is not uncommon for a meddling leader to have not jut one but several of these challenges. Once you decide which of the above are your big challenges, there are opportunities for coaching on each and every one, and they begin with your own behavior. If any of these challenges resonate with the pains you are feeling as a leader, shoot me an e-mail to bea@edge-book.com. I am happy to meet with you for 15 minutes to talk through your challenges to see what types of solutions may be available..

The Blaming Organization

I was talking with a young woman yesterday who recently left a company after she was written up for “walking too fast”. She told me this, and I thought I had heard her incorrectly. I said “Can you say that again?” She then said “I just left XYZ Company, and a part of their culture is to walk slowly to reduce stress, and I was reprimanded for walking quickly”.

She then proceeded to tell me that she was hired to do a job for which she was highly skilled and then was actually assigned another job (70% of her day) and that the job she was assigned was one of her biggest weaknesses. She was given high marks on the 30% of her job for which she was highly skilled and low marks on the job that was her weakness (duh?). And, supposedly she told them upfront that this particular skill was not her job and, the company did they tell her that “walking slowly” was a part of the culture (this woman is very fast moving and highly energetic, and any person with a brain could see it a mile away).

Why is it that we continue to do this to people in our companies? I hear this constantly, yet many leaders don’t stop to consider the consequences of blindsiding people on the job. Leaders get employees quickly to fill a position, feed them a bunch of bull during the interview and then blame them when things go wrong! Come on! Stop it!

My question for today is “Are you leading in a blaming organization? Or are you working for one?”

If you are, some of the behaviors might include:

1) Shooting the messenger

2) Squelching employee’s opinions

3) Saying one thing and doing another

4) Passing the buck up or down when you encounter a mistake

5) Closed-mindedness to new ideas

6) Poor training (or you are providing training one time a year in a classroom thinking this will do the job)

I believe that we can change this blaming organization to an organization which thrives on responsibility, respect and support. We can all start by implementing these steps:

1) Deploying talent (putting people on the right job where they can thrive and succeed).

2) Shifting our language “he or she did it” to “I take full responsibility for this incident” (if you are a leader or a manager involved in an accident [notice I don’t use the word mistake], then you are ultimately responsible).

3) Listening and appreciating your employees’ opinions by saying “Thank-you for your idea. I will sleep on this.” Then, get back to them on your thoughts around their suggestion.

4) Under-promise and over-deliver. If you tell an employee they are being hired for a certain job, don’t give them another job or make promises you cannot keep.

5) When you get bad news, sit down, take a deep breath and stop talking! Just listen, take it in, step back and calmly thank the person for the news.

6) Start providing on the job training and coaching on a daily basis. The best way to stop the blame game is to train people well on each and every step of the process and then make yourself and them accountable to their success (yes…you are accountable for your followers’ success. If they don’t get it after great ongoing training and coaching, then it’s probably time for them to move on).

We encourage your comments on this subject..