The “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives offers Words that Work

It took me over thirty years to understand this but the following chapter finally opened my eyes. When it comes to the use of words, rank has its privileges. I guess this is why I’ll never be asked to join the “Double Secret” Society for bad Executives.

Chapter 11 Powerful Words for Powerful People

As executives, we must be familiar with the true meanings of words and how they might be used to reinforce our power over lowly subordinates. This chapter will serve as a refresher course on the use of two terms that we’re all familiar with: Excuses and Reasons. We hear and use these words all the time but it’s important to use them properly and at the appropriate time and place.

Let’s begin with some dictionary definitions and then parse out the key distinctions

Excuses: explanations offered to justify something and to explain (a fault or an offense) in the hope of being forgiven or understood

Reasons: underlying facts or causes that provide logical sense for a premise or occurrence

Please note the key words and phrases here: In the definition of excuses, we find the words fault, offense and…in the hope of being forgiven or understood… In the definition of reasons, you’ll note …provide logical sense… and occurrence

Get the drift here? Those that offer or are accused of making excuses are at fault. Those that offer reasons are just stating facts.

Reasons are reserved for the powerful. Reasons are logical, intelligent, well thought out – perhaps even brilliant – like us. There’s no need to ask for any forgiveness. Our explanations are FACTUAL. On the other hand, those that offer or are accused of making excuses are doing so out of guilt. They know they’ve done WRONG. They should be begging for forgiveness.

Excuses connote failure. Holding the accountability for failure over the heads of your subordinates is a sure fire way to keep them in line. Their guilt will provoke them to work even harder. Your power to forgive (to be used only to keep certain individuals in your hip pocket) will validate your authority and superiority. Their squirming may even provide you with some well deserved entertainment.

It’s your role to offer reasons for failures or non-conformances. Again, reasons are FACTS. Reasons are explanations about events totally out of your control and tantamount to acts of God. You cannot be held accountable for these occurrences. There’s no guilt to be had.

It’s all so simple and it’s all about power.

Let’s practice some applications of the words excuse or excuses when dealing with subordinates:

You: “Why is production falling again?”
Them: “The equipment keeps breaking down. Because of all of the cost reductions and cutbacks, we’re holding it together with Band-Aids.”
You: “I’m tired of your excuses! You were told to increase production!”
Them: “Sorry, we’ll try harder.”


You: “The financials are late. What’s your excuse this time?”
Them: “They compressed the reporting calendar again and increased the data requirements. We just don’t have the staff to support this.”
You: “That’s no excuse. You’re supposed to make it happen.”
Them: “Sorry, we’ll try harder.”

Fun Eh?

Now let’s practice the use of the words reason and reasons with your peers and superiors:

You: “Exogenous variables in the current market segment are the predominant reasons prohibiting us from increasing sales.”


You: “The reason is simple. Had the macroeconomic climate been more amenable to our strategy, we certainly would have met our metrics.”

Best yet

You: “The reason for our lack of success is the pervasive culture of excuses within the lower levels of our organization. We’re aggressively and continuously assessing our workforce.

You’ll note that we’ve eliminated the need to detail the reaction from “Them” here. These reasons speak for themselves and will dazzle anyone. Notice there is a never is a need to be sorry or apologize. You have nothing to feel guilty about.

So there you have it. Now go forth and use these words that work for you. No excuses!


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