It was time for my meeting with the Chairman. Every month, each Vice President had to submit their Department’s “To Do” list, which identified their major activities with the date expected to be completed. All activities were tied to agreed upon performance objectives that were aligned with the company’s business objectives. At the end of the month, the Chairman reviewed with the Vice President their department’s performance. A copy of the “To Do” list was provided with completed or not completed by each activity.
My department had completed all of its objectives except one. It had been a tough month for one of my direct reports, who was the lead for this objective. She had spent most of her time with an aging parent who had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. In preparation for the meeting, I had asked her to give me a status update.
My Direct Report: “To be honest, I have not done anything with regard to this activity. I’ve been too busy trying to get my mom settled in her new home, a nursing facility that had an Alzheimer’s wing.”
Me: “When do you think you will be back?” I asked. “
My Direct Report: At this point, I just don’t know.”
Me: After I hung up, I wondered if the Chairman would be understanding when I explained the situation.
Entering the Chairman’s office, I exuded confidence but was a little uncertain about how things were going to go once he knew that all of my objectives were not met. We were movingly along fairly quickly and the Chairman was pleased that it looked like my department was getting things done on time. Then we reached the last objective which was “not completed.” Immediately, I started to explain about my direct report’s mother. Surprisingly, the Chairman interrupted and said, “I don’t need to hear the excuse. It’s not completed.
Just tell me when I can expect it to be completed.” He then put his pen down and looked me straight in the eye and said, “No Excuses.” Your job as leader of the department is to ensure that objective are met and on time. When they aren’t, your job is to have a plan and clarity about when they will be met. The reason doesn’t change the fact that the activity was not completed. In order for the company to meet its business objectives, things must be completed, and on time. Our stockholders are counting on us to deliver on our promises to them. Just make it happen! Do you understand?” My reply was “Yes, and I then provided a specific date when he could expect completion.
“No Excuses” has proven to be an invaluable lesson. I have come to recognize that by not acknowledging an excuse (reason something didn’t happen), I recognize areas needing improvement, maintain focus on solutions and get things done as quickly as possible.