So what's your excuse?

Do you know who you are and what you stand for? In my nearly fifteen years working for the federal government and thirty years in business I observed that certain values where absent from the work force with whom I associated with on a daily basis. I struggled with the number of people who failed to uphold their responsibility in the work place – that ‘buck stops here’ mentality – that assured that decisions were made, projects were completed on time and correctly, and accountability meant something.

It is what we expect from somebody else and what we dread ourselves. It is a quality that most strive to avoid. Those who hold leadership positions in management are expected to take responsibility for the mistakes of their subordinates. I believed that, but in fact, many were searching for scapegoats. A shame – considering in business the most effective managers in the most successful companies do take responsibility for the mistakes of their subordinates and the reputation of the company.

Most people look at a photograph of themselves as young children and try to remember the dreams they had for themselves far into future. The future is now, and somehow, they never achieved the dreams they had and aren’t nearly as successful as they wish they were. Perhaps it was because they made excuses instead of being accountable. Adults, as opposed to children, are distinguished not only by their size but their willingness to put themselves on the line. When was the last time someone said, “you can depend on me,” and they actually followed through with their commitment?

I have always been taught that one should accept the responsibility and consequences of one’s actions. My father drilled into me the concept of ‘safety first’ and the importance of thinking ahead for any possibilities for danger – he was an avid hunter and hiker. There was never any room for error in the wilderness. You were responsible for getting yourself in and out of bad situations. One error could cost you your life. In business, error can lead to loss of investment, loss of a client, and loss of your integrity and reputation, or loss of the company. Excuses are always lurking in the background to avoid responsibility. Besides, nobody really believes your excuses anyway and they are annoying. Lack of accountability can be opportunities for you to stand up and lead.

If we look first within ourselves and how we have contributed to everything that happens to us in life, then we become powerful and can control our destiny. You can blame circumstances and others for where you are today, but you never want those circumstances and others to be an excuse to stay the way you are. There is nothing more pitiful than a victim mentality. Try, instead, remaking yourself into the type of person you would admire.

A business associate told me recently that one of his clients had a heart attack at the age of 52 – a stressful job being the factor. A contributing factor perhaps, but what about his weight, his diet and nutrition, his ability to manage stress at home and at work? Part of a healthy business is taking responsibility for your own well being. This sets a good example for coworkers, family and for children.

If a mistake was unintentional then own up to it. Stepping up to the plate and owning it makes you the better person and deflects damage. Raising the bar on your own standards and values makes for strong character – clearly leadership material. This means being responsible for what you think, feel and how you behave, and ultimately becoming a dependable person.

So, what have you been complaining about lately? What have you been avoiding? Who have you been blaming? Did you prepare your subordinates for the job and train them properly? Have you been feeling lousy as of late? What is your exercise routine and diet like? What kinds of excuses have you been telling yourself and others? Try biting your tongue and the bullet. Get down to work. You have got this!

©Deborah Reynolds, About Face Image Consulting Inc.,