As a leader, have you requested to be served a portion of “straight talk” from someone and been surprised when you are served an “excusage” instead?
“What is an excusage,” you might ask.
Think of this: An excuse-filled-sausage. It is usually a tightly wrapped bundle of “stuff” all loaded up and packaged to be a culinary delight. They are like a real sausage in many ways:
- They can come in many sizes, shapes, and flavors
- They can be served hot or cold, depending on the type
- They can cause real problems if you try to digest them raw
If you understand what goes into making a real sausage, then I am sure that you can imagine what goes into constructing an “excusage.”
When a leader is served one, sometimes they are required to peel back the skin on the “excusage” to get to the real meat within. Lots of times issues can be cloaked with all kinds of spices, fillers, and fat; just like real sausage. The discerning leader can detect when they are being served an “excusage” and can drill down to get to the heart of the matter. Well, what does a leader do when served some of this oh-so-common staple of modern day life? What tools do you need to tackle this beast?
One of the tools that has worked for me in the past is the “5 Layers of Why.”
Here is how it works: When you think someone is trying to serve you up a big plate of “excusages,” just ask them this question: “Why is that”? When they answer, hit it again with another “Why is that?” Do this again and again until you run the issue to ground. You will inevitably get past all the packaging and get down to the core reason of their explanation.
I remember vividly a key lesson taught to me by a Marine Major when I was a young 2nd Lieutenant. He taught me the difference between giving an excuse and giving a reason. “Excuses” are what are offered up by those who do not have the intelligence, character, or substance to stand and be accountable for something they did or didn’t do. “Reasons” are the core facts that those who are accountable stand on when challenged.
So – what kind of leader are you?
Do you spend your day cooking up your own “excusages” for others to consume? Do you find yourself trying to digest “excusages” from others?
If so, take a look at where you are dining on a regular basis. You may want to start consuming your leadership lunches elsewhere. You may want to step out of the frying pan and into the fire where true leaders want to be. A place where character is king and people have an environment where they can feel comfortable to serve up “straight talk” rather than “excusages.”