The Executive Leader Who Hated Excuses


The Executive Leader Who Hated Excuses

It is not that she was the classic hard-charger or even what we might think of as a “Type A” personality. She was, as we were to discover at our Denver, VIM Executive Coaching office, every bit a buttoned-down, “I’s” dotted, “T’s” crossed personality. Under most situations her managers might have described her as pleasant to work with and even fun to be with at company events. And she might have been the perfect person to work with were it not for one nagging personality flaw. She was absolutely closed off from hearing any excuse, any deviation or roadblock that she perceived was slowing a project, presentation or directive. It was a maddening habit with a much larger, underlying problem.

My Way is the Only Way

While she never implied it, the executive practiced a trait wherein there was only one way to solve a problem, and it was her way. When a project went well, she was the first in line to pat herself on the back. When it was delayed for any reason, she was the first to point an accusatory finger at whomever she perceived to be the culprit. It should come as no surprise that in her sparsely appointed office she had a brass wall plaque that said (in fancy script): “No Excuses.” More than once, there was talk within the ranks of tossing the plaque in the recycle bin!

In taking the view that there was only one way in which to solve a problem, and in refusing to allow there were contingencies that might have affected the outcome of the task, the executive essentially closed off her group from contributing to the outcome. Or worse, that they outcome was largely pre-determined because they understood would be intractable to any other outcome other than the one, she favored.

Her attitude was not lost on upper management – as long as she got results. However, when key people (good, promotable people) started to leave her division, it prompted her boss to have some serious conversations with her. 

The Deeper Issue

The deeper issue behind her difficulty in managing people was that every situation in her domain was one that was reactive and not responsive. She saw, even in the most complex of situations, only one outcome or only one way to reach an outcome. While such straight-line thinking might be fine during most military maneuvers, it does not serve when dealing with most other issues.

Therefore, when a manager might have come to her explaining about exigencies outside of the proposed action plan, instead of her fully understanding that sometimes the plan must allow for response, she vetoed it. In not allowing for response, she closed off her division from solving problems or considering even better alternatives.

We have seen many leaders who have led by reaction rather than response, and generally speaking the results have not been favorable.

It is why VIM Executive Coaching is so dedicated to the concept of mindfulness, and having executives be more mindful of what is in front of them rather than fighting against the possibility that there are other ways.

Life and business must allow for detours and when detours present themselves, we need to be cognizant that sometimes it is our response to those detours that may yield our finest moments.

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