No Excuses

When we think of making excuses, our mind usually defaults to the “reasons” we neglect to perform a task or handle an assigned responsibility. It’s not always intentional and can stem from the fact that we’re all so much “busier,” but too many excuses can be dangerous, both professionally and personally.
News stories come out daily where you hear people trying to rationalize or justify something they’ve said or done. When you must explain repeatedly, it just makes it worse.

And, we don’t want to confuse an excuse for an error, at least for the initial “mistake.”

For Example:

You hire an IT person to take on a specific responsibility. You set agreed-upon deadlines, and you outline the specifics of the first crucial task. The two of you discuss how important the timeline is, as others cannot do their part on this project until this stage is complete. The IT person acknowledges understanding and promises to make the company proud.

First Excuse

The first deadline comes and goes, and you ask for a status report. The IT person says, “the time got away from me, and I won’t let it happen again.”

Second Excuse

The second deadline arrives, and when you inquire about the status, the IT person says, “I’ve been swamped, and it’s a lot to get done.” This statement is made with no real explanation, no matter how much you try to get behind the reasoning by asking what is consuming his time away from the project. You revisit the initial conversation to ensure the IT person clearly understands the importance of being on time, and once again, the IT person acknowledges and says he “gets it.” You ask him to let you know if he needs additional guidance or help BEFORE the next deadline so that the team isn’t let down.

Third Excuse

The third deadline is here, and since you haven’t heard anything from the IT person, you have no reason to think it would also be late. But, when you approach him for the status, another flimsy excuse is made, and it doesn’t appear as if he cared about the outcome, and “excuses” were part of his MO. At this point, you need to pull him from the project. And unfortunately, you also realize he is not a good fit for the company.

For positions such as IT, it’s a sticky road as we hire them because they know more than we do, which can be detrimental. It takes a good manager to do that, as exemplary leaders surround themselves with people who know more than they do. The IT person in the example should not take advantage of that fact, and after three stages of excuses, providing you had conversations early on, it should be the equivalent of receiving “three strikes.”

Excuses can quickly become a habit that’s difficult to break. When it becomes second nature, you’ll find that even the little things (mistakes) become just an excuse, which is much easier than acknowledging the error. And even when you begin with good intentions by saying, “I’m so sorry, but I made a mistake,” it’s easy to finish the sentence with “but, this is what happened…”

Instead, try this. “I made a mistake and learned I should have gone about it differently. It won’t happen again as I’ve taken clear notes on the steps I should take in the future to do it correctly.” Not only will you gain respect from others, but you’ll also feel better about yourself. And, if you follow through on the promise not to repeat the same mistake, you’ll be considered trustworthy, and your word will become gold.
Refraining from making excuses may require practice, but it will be worth it. What steps will you take moving forward to be the one who not only “talks the talk, but walks the walk?”