The other night I was coaching my younger son’s baseball team, and I was reminded of my days running track back in college. Just like 35 years ago, the kids last night had an excuse for everything …
A slow rolling grounder made it through the infield—“My legs hurt.” The base runner dogs it down the base path—“I’m so tired!” A fly ball gets missed—“The lights are in my eyes. I can’t see the ball.” A fly ball gets missed again—“It’s too dark to see the ball.” Everybody had an excuse last night.
In college, our distance track coach had zero tolerance for excuses. Over the years he figured he had heard them all. In fact, Coach had even written them down in a little book that he carried in his back pocket. He called it his “Excuse Book.”
Any time I wasn’t working as hard as Coach thought we should, he’d just grab his book and growl at me- “Violand! Pick a number!” He figured one excuse was as good as another. I quickly learned that any time Coach’s hand moved from his whistle to his back pocket, I had better pick up the pace!
I think the Excuse Book has some real applications in business. In fact, I think every business owner should go out and buy his own Excuse Book. Once you have your blank Excuse Book hand it to your office manger, executive assistant or spouse so he or she can start filling it in on YOU. Think about it …
As business owners and managers, we’re quick to nail the excuses our employees give us. But we frequently overlook the excuses we give for not getting the things done that we’re supposed to. It also seems that the older we get, the more “creative” we get with our excuses and the more people we have to blame them on. For example …
When we were young enough to play little league, most of our excuses revolved around body parts: “My legs hurt”, “My arm hurts”, “I’m too tired”, “I’m not strong enough” and of course the ever reliable blame-the-brain excuse “I forgot.”
Then as college students our excuses matured—even if we didn’t: “I was up too late… (pick one or more: studying, working, partying, etc.)”, “My roommate wouldn’t stop talking”, “My roommate wouldn’t talk to me” and then some things never change so you still had the ever-reliable “I forgot.”
However, as adults, and especially as the owners of businesses, we now have a seemingly unlimited universe of excuses and people to blame! “If my customers would only pay me, I could ______ (fill in the blank)”, “I have too much work to do to…(pick one or more: market, plan, train, focus on my financials, etc.)”, “Because of the recession I can’t _______ . (fill in the blank)” and don’t “forget” the good old “I forgot!”
Here is the bottom line with excuses: NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR THEM! To paraphrase John Maxwell, “We might be able to avoid the decisions but we can’t avoid the consequences.” Simply put, every decision —and every excuse— has a “consequence”.
So, whenever you find yourself failing to deliver on your commitments or making excuses for not getting something done- why not stop and ask yourself:
Would I accept the same excuse from an employee? Is making excuses a pattern I have brought from my childhood? Do I need to reevaluate the commitments I’ve been making in the first place?
Here is a great tip: Ask your secretary, key employee, good friend or spouse (wives are exceptional at this!) to “hold you accountable” every time you fall back into the old “excuse making game”. (Even better, assign ALL of these people to hold you accountable!) Tell them to be unmerciful with you and then accept their straight forward counsel with a painful grimace and a big “thank you”!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to Office Depot to pick up my own personal Excuse Book. I just hope they have a shopping cart big enough to carry it!