Performance missteps will happen spite of our best efforts to avoid them. In every case they belong to us. We own them and it’s in our career best interest to admit that.
Excuses cut deep.
We don’t want to goof up at work. It feels bad. When it happens our knee-jerk reaction may be to think, it’s not really my fault:
- It just looks like my fault on the surface.
- It’s the fault of my coworker, company policy, the customer, or the situation.
- I’ll accept it as my fault, but I really don’t think it is.
Looking for a way out of blame is a pretty natural reaction, but routinely making excuses can become a damaging habit that’s hard to break.
I suspect you’ve worked with people who have an excuse for everything they do that doesn’t measure up like:
- That work isn’t in my job description.
- I was never trained for that.
- No one ever explained that policy to me.
- John said he was taking care of that job.
Those excuses get old fast and start to chip away at your regard for those coworkers.
Your integrity and credibility at work are a function of your trustworthiness. The more your colleagues know they can count on you to be honest, even when you were wrong or ineffective, the better their esteem for you.
It takes courage to tell the truth, own up to your faults, and face up to your shortcomings. Most coworkers and bosses find courage admirable.
Listen to the pros.
Professional athletes, as a rule, don’t make excuses when they’ve lost crucial games. What they say about themselves and their opponents demonstrate how not making excuses raises our regard for them.
In his 2013 Wimbledon first round match, fifth ranked Raphael Nadal, lost to Steve Darcis, ranked 135, in a stunning upset. When asked by a reporter whether his once injured knee contributed to his loss, Nadal answered, in an SI.com article, it’s “‘not the day to talk about these kind of things’ and that it would sound like ‘an excuse.’”
In the same article, Nadal owned his defeat when asked what he did well in that match: “Not a lot of things.”
The same no excuses standard was demonstrated by Tim Duncan, champion pro basketball player for the San Antonio Spurs after their 2013 Game 7 loss to the Miami Heat in NBA Finals.
Washington Post writer Michael Lee quotes Duncan after the game:
We didn’t play well. We didn’t shoot well. And I played awfully…Whatever it may be. They responded better than us….They outplayed us.”
As Spurs team captain, Duncan gave voice to the team’s ownership of their loss as well as his own contribution to it.
Both Nadal and Duncan, historically, have shown and articulated respect for their opponents in victory and in defeat.
Gregg (Pop) Popovich, future Hall of Fame coach of the Spurs, sets his own example– one that we would hope our workplace bosses would emulate.
In an article at ESPN.com, Marc Stein quotes Hall of Famer Chris Mullin on Pop:
Pop is incredibly humble. He gives out all the credit for the wins and he takes all the blame for the losses. He’s a prototypical leader.
There’s an old adage that says if you aren’t making mistakes at work, you aren’t doing anything.
In pro athletics, it only takes a few mistakes to lose a game, so when we see them, their impact becomes bigger than life. Fortunately, that’s not so in our jobs.
Stop the festering.
Excuses are obstacles to your growth, your reputation, and your confidence. If you don’t avoid making them, there will be a career price to pay.
Pro athletes know that recovery from poor performance means committing to getting better, not making excuses. That strategy works for us too. When you under-perform, acknowledge it, ask what you need to do to get better, and then work at it.
It’s time to go like a pro.
Photo by Caronine06 via Photoree