Bad Excuses Good Leaders Use to do “Nothing”

My husband and I went this past weekend to watch the latest Julia Roberts’ movie Mirror Mirror. In this story Julia Roberts played the role of an evil queen who was out to steal the throne from her stepdaughter. When the evil queen looked into the mirror and recited the famous line “mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” she saw an idealized version of herself. In her eyes she was the epitome of perfection and excellence. It was the king … the stepdaughter … the prince … and those bandits who were the imperfect ones and the nagging source of her problems.

This story line reminded me of a lot of managers I have known and worked with over the years. They were quick to pass blame and took little (if any) ownership to the dysfunction of their team.

A couple days ago at a training event, a manager at my table was complaining about her team and how they drained her mental energy and kept her from doing her work. I asked her what could she do differently to influence a more positive outcome? Her response … “Nothing.”

Here are a few common excuses I’ve heard managers (and non-managers) use to rationalize doing “Nothing.”

    1. I’m too busy
    2. I’ve done everything I can
    3. I’ve tried it before
    4. It won’t work
  1. It’s not my job
  2. It’s their problem
  3. If only I … (fill in the blank)
  4. If only they … (fill in the blank)
  5. My hands are tied
  6. It won’t ever change

While we are all guilty of using some of these excuses at various times, I want to challenge you with this powerful quote …

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become your character. (Or your professional brand!)
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

Now it’s your turn …

  1. Identify a situation in which you have convinced yourself there is nothing you can do.
  2. Describe how you would like this situation to be better. Be specific.
  3. What is the big payoff for you if the situation improves?
  4. What do you need to believe in order to take action today?
  5. What is one thing you can do today to influence a more positive outcome?


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