Well Excuuuuse Me!
Excuse-making is a failure pretending to succeed.
No one gets it right all the time. The issue is response.
Excuses are the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.
A member of the team where I lead asked, “Why do I have to ask you for this every week?” I thought of several reasons, none of them good. Rather than offer an excuse, I apologized.
Don’t validate failure with an excuse.
Top 10 excuses:
Excuses are downward pivot points that limit potential.
- I forgot.
- I was busy.
- It’s not my job.
- I intended to….
- I didn’t mean to.
- I didn’t know how to.
- You didn’t tell me to ….
- I tried and it didn’t work.
- They didn’t do their part so I couldn’t do mine.
- I was waiting. (If I never hear, “I was waiting for …,” again, it will be too soon!)
Excuse-makers are unreliable.
“People who fail in life are people who make excuses.” Ben Carson
12 ways to stop making excuses:
- Value yourself enough to care about your reputation.
- Think “promise,” when you take on a task. “I just made a promise.”
- Stay in your sweetspot as much as possible.
- Realize your failure frustrates others.
- Tell trusted friends what you’re doing to improve. Be specific. “I’m trying to get ‘better’,” is an excuse waiting to happen.
- Apologize when you screw up, without making excuses. If the screw up is about results, say, “I apologize.” If the screw up is a personal offense, say, “Please forgive me.”
- Say, “Next time I’ll ….”
- Believe you have more in you.
- Say no. Don’t say yes when you can’t deliver.
- Understand that small matters. Most of life is a series of small choices.
- Define success clearly.
- Clarify expectations and deadlines.
Bonus: Write it down.
Leaders don’t make excuses they take responsibility.
What are some of your “favorite” excuses?
Which is your favorite way to stop making excuses? Additions to the list?
I’d add a clever excuse here but I’m too busy doing other high priority stuff you already assigned me.
Thanks James. 🙂 I like the word clever… Smart people are better at giving excuses than dumb.
Dan, If we address the issue when it occurs than we don’t need to make excuses. I have found when we delay things, put them of for whatever reason, we tend to sway toward poor judgement, thus the excuses flow, taking over the path of least resistance compared to getting things done when they occur. Sometimes delegating plays a role as well, “passing the buck” so to speak, and letting someone else responsible for actions we could have or should taken.
Thanks Tim. You nailed a big one. — Do it now! Get it done! Thanks.
I think #6 is an important distinction which will help restore trust (unless there is no change in behavior). Thank you.
Thanks Beth. I think the three hardest words to say are “please forgive me.” I find, “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” much easier. But, in the case of personal offense, nothings better. 🙂
As a college basketball coach, the toughest thing to do is to get players to honestly evaluate themselves–look in the mirror-I screwed up-and stop making excuses.
Thanks Brad. Just think how things open up when we learn this tough lesson.
I intended to…eat yogurt and granola for breakfast but that sausage is making me hungry! Seriously – I seem to use #4 too often because I don’t give good time estimates for deliverables. I tend to cut myself short. — did I just make an excuse for making an excuse?
Thanks Amy. Love the light-hearted feel of your comment. I find that sincere, passionate people may over-commit and end up saying things like, “I intended to….”
If someone tells you “I forgot” I see that as a proper and honest explanation, not an excuse.
This article is a form of socio-fascism couched in over-valuation of extroversion ranked behaviours and consequently deeply one-sided, judgemental and extremist. The phase “when we believe” hits the nail on the head. The effort necessary to possibly, just possibly consider that holding such a set of beliefs as the One and Only set of beliefs to cherish places a focus on mental laziness. Such beliefs are not inclusive and do not lead to adaptation much less examination of the actual truth. The management subtext is about bullying, hierarchical leadership instead of peer-group, at once sub-professional and highly disrespectful.
This ‘clipboard list’ reeks of the soap opera. It indicates that if you do not value what is presented in this context then you are the problem. Subliminally it also de-values anyone who does not hold such values and threatens corrective action in the form of emotional abuse.
What about the truth? IF the truth is provided THEN adaptation may be delivered without the undertone of superior and inferior dichotomy. That is partnership and how one improves performance, builds morale, crafts a sense of team. It is the classic Greek parable of the Sun and the Moon arguing over which is more powerful and deciding to attempt to remove the cloak of the traveller below them. Despite the braggadocio of the blowhard wind it takes the gentle warmth of the sun to remove the protecting cloak. Simple reference to the psychology of transactional analysis will open the door to allow the light in. It has been a long time since I have seen such a lack of emotional intelligence. Real leadership knows about the character being led and does not have to apply the slap of the yardstick.
I am reminded of the pirate’s creed. “Beatings will continue until morale improves.”
Can you imagine trying to undertake this in the context of plurality and valuing others for who they are, not what they might be? For cultivating capacity not badgering it? Try that with your children and you will meet with obstinate resistance. Right back to transactional analysis and meeting adult to adult, not parent to child. Most of the problems I see in the workplace is emotionally bereft managers treating staff like children because that is how they were treated and that is how managers value other managers and the viscious circle repeats. The publication “Snakes in Suits” comes to mind.
Thanks Craig. I must confess I feel a little abused myself. 🙂 Cheers
Show me a perfect manager and I will show you someone who has to make excuses for being a narcissist.
If it were not for our very human ability to make mistakes and not “deliver” we would not learn anything.
Thomas Edison tried to make a light bulb. He failed 99 times goes the common wisdom. Whether he made excuses or not on the journey is beside the point, he was looking for a solution and found it, by failing and trying again and again. That is the point of finding out what does not work.
Labelling someone as an ‘excuser’ might make sense one time out of a hundred but the deeper lesson here is that of labelling, fixating on a perceived ‘fault’ like excuse-making, and using that to belittle others. It is a form of entertaining the problem rather than a form of solving the problem. The overall tone of the article is pejorative and judgemental. The abiltiy to make fault clipboards and then use them to batter others is based on the shallow logic of abuse behaviours.
So horribly one-sided and mono-dimensional.
It only points to a lack of self-awareness…
The logic of humans is moving, progressing toward realization of interdependence and reliance on the group to work as a team. While there will always be gold plated bricks they can be isolated and encouraged to perform, not as scapegoats but recognized for their own worth. Encouragement is the way to en-courage. That is the real purpose, a form of gift-giving I have seen the best leaders deliver.
The blather of this article focusses on the negative while trying to solve the problem at the level of the problem. There is nothing transformational about it. This is the form of the dialectic argument model. It provides what might be commonly referred to as counter-measures, or the structure of battle tactics. There is no battle being fought unless it is with personal ignorance. YOUR STAFF AND YOUR CO-WORKERS ARE NOT YOUR ENEMIES UNLESS YOU HOLD THAT IN YOU.
Did Craig and I read the same article?
It should be noted that when we believe someone has offered an “excuse” this is always a pejorative or negative evaluation. An explanation is not necessarily an excuse. Sometimes the expectations of others are simply unreasonable. It is only an excuse if you had the knowledge, resources, and authority to act but 1) you engaged in subterfuge to not act or, 2) you willfully did something else or 3) you are illegitimately seeking to shift responsibility or, 4) you failed and are attempting to protect yourself or others from potential negative consequences.
Anger comes when expectations are unrealized. The reasonableness of those expectations should be evaluated when we believe we are being offered excuses.
Thanks Ed. I appreciate your distinction between excuse and explanation. Thanks for extending the topic.
When a problem arises I frequently hear that it is someone else’s fault because they blah blah and more blah. I constantly remind staff that I don’t care who caused the problem, when it started etc. all I care about is how we are going to fix it. It has taken some time to get people used to the don’t blame game but I am getting there. Unfortunately many businesses and government agencies thrive on putting the blame elsewhere. I have more respect for the person who “owns up” to their mistake than the one trying to cross and point.
but sometimes ther is an excuse for people of they make clear they are not the cause. In many companies it is a culture to punish the one who causes a problem with nasty consequences. If you do not shift the blame to the real source, you get ‘damaged’.
Here is a sickness in the company that has to be cured first, before you can ask people to change their behaviour.
Thanks Julie. I couldn’t agree more. Finger-pointing is, for the most part, a distraction. Let’s just figure out how to make things better.
People who validate failure with excuse generally fail in their lives. It is very true. It is very natural as well to attribute failure to some other reasons. I also feel, even successful people make excuses sometimes. However, it needs maturity and wisdom to accept our failure. Accepting failure is the sign of courage. Some of my favorite excuses are- I will do not later. And when I will do, that I do not know. Secondly, I also feel that making excuses is weakness. We need to overcome it. In my case, I generally overestimate my potential and underestimate the problem. This is not healthy symptom of healthy mind.
And favorite way to stop making excuse is to plan and act. We need to draw clear direction for day to day activity. It is important to pay lot of introspection, analysis and evaluation before drawing a future path. But once it is drawn, it is utmost important to strictly adhere to it. Action, direction and perseverance is the key to stop making excuses.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. Your first sentences reminded me that we tend to take more credit than we should, when things go well, and we tend to cast more blame on others when things go badly.
Your three part suggestion – take action with direction and perseverance is a great alternative to excuse-making.
Yes, to so much. At the same time, I am fortunate to have several people on my team who hold me accountable for deadlines and follow thru. That has helped me to finish an important projedt that means a great deal to me.
I know my weakness and need people how care about what I am doing (we are doing) as much as I do.
Thanks Toni. Your comment has a feel of team work to it. Isn’t it wonderful to be on a team where everyone spends most of their time living in their sweet spot.
“I tried and it didn’t work” isn’t necessarily an excuse. In many cases, it’s a fact. And often, it’s a warning: don’t try it that way again, you’re just going to be throwing away more time/money/effort.
Often, though, people who don’t understand the problem see it as an excuse: “if you’d tried a bit HARDER it WOULD have worked”. Well maybe you want to try that yourself…
As a leader, my response to “I tried and it didn’t work” is “Why do YOU think it didn’t work, what are YOU going to do next time and what do you need from ME to make it work?”
“I didn’t know how to” is one you should never hear. If there is any truth in it, YOU need to start getting your excuses lined up! If the people you’re responsible for don’t know how, there’s only one person who should be carrying that can!
Thanks Mitch. Your comment fits the stream of comments that supports the idea that an explanation isn’t an excuse.
I’ve heard both excuses you mention and I find them unacceptable. “I tried and it didn’t work,” and then you stopped trying, but didn’t tell anyone. I would rather here, “I’m trying, but it’s not working.” That seems like an explanation.
I’ve also heard, “I didn’t know how to…” when I asked about progress. That’s an excuse. It’s true that managers should know the competencies of their teammates.
Glad you joined the conversation.
There is a great distinction between a “reason” and an “excuse.” Both leaders and staff members know the difference. Leaders who are experienced, reasonable and compassionate will allow “excuses” every once in a while as long as the staff member is not chronic or abusive.
A couple of immediate tell-tale signs of excuse makers are the words “I thought,” and especially the word “BUT.”
For example, when someone is busted for an error, the first thing that comes out of an excuse maker’s mouth is “I thought…this is way you wanted it handled.”
Or, the most flagrant and the most obvious is when someone says, “I knew the protocol was to ask human resources, BUT I saw it done this way before.”
The fact is, life—personally and professionally—is competitive, but it is not a jungle. On one extreme, those who are good at making excuses are seldom good for anything else. On the other extreme, we are all manufacturers–making good, making trouble, or making excuses!
A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, rather a molder of consensus. Each day we must not only rise, but rise and shine. Leaders “stand out” when they help others “fit in.” Dedication is a force drawing us forward; constraint is a force pushing us from behind. Trust begets trust. Faith inspires faith. People give back substantially what we give them.
Thanks Books. “No one gets it right every time.” A leader without compassion ends up with a team of fearful people who play it safe.
Thanks for elaborating on the list of potential excuses. You remind me that delegating effectively helps to eliminate many excuses.
“I didn’t know how to…”
Bingo. I wouldn’t necessarily agree that excuses that limit potential are always intentional. I think it’s worthwhile to consider that there may be gaps in training or competence that are hiding behind those excuses. Some people might be too afraid to admit that they don’t have the knowledge they need. Before we focus on what that person will do better next time, we might want to look at what they might need before “next time” happens. Or maybe they’re just not a good fit for the job.
Thanks Cheryl. You along with several others have expanded the topic. I find your insights helpful.
Our natural inclination is to save face so we try to hide from the reality of our own doing by placing blame and making excuses. I notice at times that I don’t verbalize the excuse but I have an excuse in my mind. I’m sure others can identify with me. A post like this challenges me to take the high road when I’m temped to think like this. Either way, when we blame others in our thought or other ways we’re not taking responsibility for our own actions.
Thanks Calvin. Love how you took this to the heart. As I think about it, I can be angry or bitter at someone who I’m blaming, but haven’t even said anything. Challenging.
When I hear “excuse” I think of “repeat offender” in most instances. If someone came to me and said I tried and it didn’t work, or I couldn’t do it because no one got back with me, etc. if I hear that over and over again from the same person or group, I see it as an excuse. If you have top performers who rarely misstep then it is an explanation. Let’s face it – we have all made a mistake, forgotten something, didn’t get a quote or project from another department in time, etc. It happens – this is real world business. However, it’s when the same person or group or department with the same excuse, that is when action should be taken. Lastly, top performers should/would problem solve – go to plan B – not just give up, give in or point the finger as someone else.
Having someone send me an e-mail, post it notes on computer screens and bathroom mirrors keeps me from having the problem of excuses.
Use a Kanban to organize and prioritize your tasks.
Discipline yourself at making it exhaustive of everything you have to do.
Determine what tasks need to be done and execute them before moving on to something else.
If something is keeping you from completing a task, set it aside until you can get the ball rolling again.
Rince and repeat!
bonus: kanban boards are transparent, no hidden agendas allowed!
Those lists are well said. I shared on LinkedIn and FB