No Excuses Leadership

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A message recently appeared from a friend on social media. It simply said “Dear friends, this year instead of Christmas cards I have decided to donate the funds to my school’s toy drive.” This teacher works for a school in which it would be difficult for many students to receive any gifts at all if it weren’t for the generosity, and ingenuity, of their teachers.

This ingenuity seems to be in stark contrast to what I hear from many business executives. Often the reason for not accomplishing something is blamed on a lack of funds, time, or talent and ingenuity doesn’t seem to enter into the picture often enough.

  • “I could make better decisions if I could hire more people to help take some things off my desk”
  • “We could come up with better ideas if I could afford to hire the “right” people instead of the cheapest people
  • “We could attract more people to our industry if we put a greater priority on increasing salaries”
  • “I could spend more time really listening to people and showing that I value them if there were three more hours in a day
  • I would take more risks and be more innovative if I really thought the client would ever buy off on it”
  • “I would include more training and development programs into my business plan if the budget would only allow”

Frequently, it is easier to be caught up in the seemingly endless list of obstacles that stand between us and what we need to do to move from a crummy situation to one that is really great.

The first thing that you can do is realize that for every problem there is a solution, it may not be a perfect solution, but there is a solution. Don’t let yourself get stuck on the negative side of a challenge. If you’re caught in a whirlwind of why you can’t do something and unable to dig yourself out of the hole, consciously stop yourself. Take a walk, talk to someone, do whatever you need to do to gather your own strength and then ask yourself pointedly what you can do and don’t let yourself off the hook until you’ve come up with at least three possible solutions. Don’t bail on yourself.

Here’s some thought starters-

  • Ask yourself why, in a perfect scenario, someone would want to work in your industry, for your organization, or for you and begin today to determine what you need to stop doing and what you need to start doing to become that place and that person who draws in great people. When you’re done with the list, double check to see where you put money. If you’re passionate about your business, it’s probably not at the top of the list. If you’re not passionate about your business, figure out why and think about your own next steps
  • Are you prioritizing properly? Everything is not of equal importance so figure out what only you can do, determine what must really be done today, and delegate the rest either to someone else or to another day. If you don’t have time to make solid decisions, then your first decision needs to be to figure out how to make the time. Otherwise, you’re doomed
  • If you don’t have the right talent, make the tough decisions and get it. Terminate under performers quickly, develop and reward top talent, and stop blaming lack of funds for an undesirable talent pool. Mentoring is free, not settling for mediocrity in output is free, peer support and cross training are free, a culture of passion and innovation is free. Yes, it takes time and some sweat equity but you’ve already prioritized this into your “time budget” because you knew in the long run that strong talent would increase smart ideas and reduce time drains and redundancy
  • Make innovative idea generation an everyday occurrence rather than periodic events and require it of everyone. Find ways to reward even the smallest of good ideas, even if the reward is a hearty round of applause
  • Don’t pin your lack of risk taking or innovation on clients. Moving away from the familiar and comfortable is never an easy sell but it doesn’t mean you stop getting in their and pitching. Maybe your earth shattering idea will only be considered once in a blue moon, but that’s still better odds than never

I would bet that raising enough money to buy Christmas presents for 480 kids isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish but a group of ingenious teachers have already blazed past one toy for each child and are now aiming for the second. Oh, I should mention that their first step in solving this challenge was recognizing that it existed, knowing that it was important, and caring enough to change it for the better.

What can you do today to turn an obstacle into a solution?

Sandi Coryell
Keynote Speaker and Leadership Consultant Sandi Coryell works with leaders who want to bring out the best in their teams and themselves so that they can improve their creativity, teamwork, and bottom line. For Speaking or Consulting inquiries, please contact Sandi at 818-288-3483 or email at

2 Responses

  1. Dave Cooke says:

    Great message, as always! There is opportunity in every challenge. Leadership is defined by what you choose to do, not what you wanted to do!! Lead on!!

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