Have you heard “I can’t, because…” from your employees lately?

Have you heard “I can’t, because…” from your employees lately?

Reasons, justifications, and excuses are around us every day, all the time.

After reading this article, you’ll become more conscious of it and you’ll start to notice it more and more. It’s like once you’ve checked out a brand new car that you’ve not noticed before and suddenly you start noticing them on the road everywhere you go!

One of the most common times I’ve heard “I can’t, because…” is when an employee misses a deadline, or arrived late for work. Sometimes, it’ll be when I’ve given them a new task and they reply with, “I can’t because I don’t have time”.

Even though many leaders perceive themselves to be accountable, I’ve worked with Leaders that practically live in “I can’t, because..”. Even I was guilty of this sentence sometimes (prior to NLP).

There was a Leader I worked with recently that said, “I can’t be honest with my employee because I don’t want them to leave.” Well, it’s safe to say we got him through that self limiting sentence and the situation was resolved with ease.

In fact, I’m going to be a little controversial and say there’s no such thing as “I can’t, because..”.

In most cases, you absolutely can do something if you want it badly enough. If you wanted it so much you had an unbending intention, instead of considering if you can or can’t, you’d only be focusing on the HOW.

Many people limit themselves with thoughts like this. As I confessed earlier, I’ve been guilty of it myself prior to my NLP journey.

When I became a Master Practitioner of NLP, I started to connect with an internal power which enabled me to realise that I’ve been allowing circumstance to control me rather than taking charge of circumstance.

The more you tell yourself you can’t do something, the more you won’t be able to do it. The words you say have power, even the ones you say to yourself. Use them wisely.

Two employees talking and explaining their views in a relaxed way

You always have a choice

At any given moment you have a choice. You’ll frequently arrive at junctions which can send you in a limiting direction, or an empowering one. In other words, the direction of excuses, or accountability.

The fact is, there’s no such thing as can’t. When you say, “I can’t” it means you’re not prepared to do whatever it takes to get the desired result.

Instead, choose the route to empowerment, even when the path looks a bit rocky. Look at how you can achieve something, rather than if you can or can’t.

Embracing this ethos and living with 100% accountability takes courage, but if you want your employees to do the same it starts at the top.

You need to set the example.

If your employee comes to you asking for a pay rise and you say “I can’t because I haven’t got the budget”, all they’re going to hear is “I don’t want to give you a pay rise”.

In fact, it’s worse. They’ll feel like it’s a complete cop out!

It would be better to avoid excuses and say, “That’s not something I’m happy to do at the moment. However, I’m grateful you’ve approached me with this so let’s have a chat about what you need and see how we can create a plan for you for the future”.

Then you can weigh up what possibilities you want to create for them, potential job roles that may arise, and how they can improve their value to the company and become more of an investment.

When you start living in a world of no excuses, you can lead your team to follow this path and take 100% responsibility for their intention and choices. Internal changes lead to external ones around you, so when you want your team to improve, look internally to find what you can do differently to achieve your desired outcome.

Two employees talking about work in the hallway

Language to use with your team to encourage them to eliminate excuses

When your team come to you with a barrage of excuses of “I can’ts”, use some of the following questions to encourage them to expand their thinking.

“If you could make it possible, what would be your best route to achieving it?”

“Thank-you for sharing with me why you think you can’t. Now, let’s consider how you can. What would be required to make it possible?”

“Because you know the reason why you can’t, you’re closer to eliminating that barrier. What needs to happen to remove the problem?”

“If you had to find a way forward to make it achievable, what would that way forward look like?”

There needs to be an incentive to be accountable

I’ve been speaking at a Leadership event today on this topic and one of the lessons of the day was to understand what’s important to your employees about their career.

When you know how to fire their ‘hot buttons’, you know exactly how to motivate them to think differently. The reality is, to do something different and out of their comfort zone, there has to be something in it for them.

We have another article of this subject which will provide you with a technique to elicit your employee values and ask great questions.

Use feedback

Ask your employees for feedback on a regular basis. When you do, you’ll show them that you’re accountable for how well you’re doing as a leader.

When they see you being accountable and thinking differently, you open the door to being able to provide great feedback for them. They’re likely to be significantly more receptive when you practise what you preach.

Employees chatting about work at their desk

Find the ‘I’

Instead of defaulting to the habit of ‘the employee needs to change’, create a habit to look inwardly.

This is the big difference between allowing circumstances to control you or taking control yourself. You need to find the ‘I’ in every situation.

By this, I mean the ‘I can do this differently by…’, or, ‘I can get a different outcome if I…’, or, ‘What is there for me to learn from this situation?’.

If you choose to implement some of these ideas and mind-set changes, you’ll drastically reduce the amount of times you hear the doom and gloom phrase of, “I can’t, because…”.

If you want to create a better culture in your business, we have an eBook on business superpowers that are quick and easy to use which you can download for free below!

1 Comment
  1. Great article! It’s incredible how many times this is heard on a day to day basis or ‘it’s not my job!’……

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