Monday, May 5, 2008

Stop Making Excuses!


"It wasn't my fault! I didn't know that would happen!"


"I can't get anything done! Everyone keeps interrupting me!"


"If these darn kids would just listen, they'd learn something!"


"What do you mean I screwed up? You're the screw up!"


Any of these sound familiar? These are excuses for our behavior, our inability to plan, our inability to communicate, and our inability to admit mistakes.
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When I was a Plebe at the academy, we were only allowed to answer any question from an upperclassman with one of four answers: "Yes, Sir!" "No, Sir!" "No Excuse, Sir!" and "Sir, I do not understand!" What this discipline taught us was that if we were thinking of making some lame excuse for our behavior, forget it! Excuses were quickly relegated to the forbidden zone.
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Instead, we were taught to take responsibility for our actions, regardless of the outcome, regardless of the reasons behind them. This was because we were being trained to lead soldiers. We were going to be entrusted with America's youth and we were not to make excuses. We were to consider all the information at our disposal and make informed, responsible decisions we would have to live with, good or bad.
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How many people do you interact with everyday that always have a reason (excuse) for anything that goes wrong in their areas of responsibility? How many people seek to make sure you always take the lion's share of the blame so they or their cronies do not have to answer for the problems they created? It really is a cancer in some organizations.
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We Pareto (chart problems in terms of frequency of each cause) until the cows come home, yet some people only look at the data when it fits their paradigm. They filter the data so that they only have to hear what they want to.
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Don't like the budget? Okay, boss, we'll change it and call it "task." (we'll still miss the new numbers because the first pass is always the purest, but a least the boss will get to hear what he wants to hear!) Want to know why we failed? Only if we don't blame anyone else or cite an "uncomfortable" reason that causes someone to answer for their failure.
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Listen folks. The maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters! Step up and accept responsibility for your own behavior. It's the only honest thing to do. If you're a political player, you're probably a lost cause. Politics usually leads to "half-truths" and "sugar-coating" the information so you don't look bad. Remember this?: "I did not have sex with that woman!"
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Is that how you want to be remembered?
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Is that how you want your son to see you?
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Step up and stop making excuses.

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