I am not a fan of excuses. Actually, let me refine that statement. I am not a fan of bad excuses (We can't try that because that would never work here). I am OK with legitimate excuses (I can't attend your event because I am in my best friend's wedding that day).
I try hard to challenge bad excuses, I appreciate when others challenge bad excuses, and I think you should challenge them too. Most of us can think of a time or two when we have heard a bad excuse. And sometimes we use bad excuses ourselves.
In my job at the Chamber, I've heard some of the same excuses again and again. Probably the most common excuse I've heard over the last five years is some version of, "We can't do that because we tried that once and it didn't work." Another is, "We can't do it that way because we've never done it that way." Another common comment followed by an excuse is, "I have a great idea for a) my business, b) myself, or c) my community. But I can't make it happen because a) I'm too busy, b) I don't have the funds, or c) its someone else's job." I cringe when I hear these excuses. In fact, just thinking about them as I write this is causing me anxiety.
Do you hear how ridiculous these excuses can sound? For every excuse, there are a variety of ways to try to get around what might be just a temporary road block. If we allow our own or others' excuses to go unchecked, what are we really doing? We are standing in the way of potential progress! I propose that we make this a month of no excuses. But let's take it one step further. Instead of committing to challenge our own bad excuses, let's commit to challenge each other's excuses as well. And then, to take it even further, let's use other's excuses to fuel our success! To me, someone else's excuse screams, "Challenge!," and who doesn't like a good challenge?
I am a bit overzealous when it comes to self evaluation. I reflect regularly on performance and try to work on areas for improvement using whatever resources I can find. There have been plenty of times when I reflected at the end of a day and realized I made a bad excuse and wasn't seeing the whole picture. One of the excuses I noticed I frequently used at work, was, "Although that's a great idea, we don't have staff time to devote to that." Although that may have been true, it was still a bad excuse because there were options to get around it. They were options that would take hard work, were a bit risky, and not easy by any means. When I finally realized it was a common excuse, I started looking at it differently. If there were that many projects that would add value to our members and our community, then I had to find a way to get rid of that as an excuse. I either needed to find a way to hire a new employee, or better prioritize what we do so that we make time for the top ideas and value producing programs and events. After viewing the excuse differently, I am happy to say that we figured out a way to hire a new employee, and we do a better job evaluating our programs, staff time, and resources for continuous improvement.
So you have my proposal. Make it a month of no excuses. Challenge your own excuses. Challenge other's excuses. Allow yourself to be motivated by other's excuses. Find ways to overcome current excuses. Let's go back to the excuses I listed earlier. Let's challenge the, "We tried that before and it didn't work," excuse. Don't settle for that. Ask questions. Dig deeper. What specifically didn't work? Are there any changes you could make to try it again and get it to work? Have circumstances changed over time that might now allow it to work? Is that really what is holding you back from doing it? Is someone else making it work - what can you learn from them? Use the answers to those questions to come up with a way around the road-block and get the excuse out of your way!
This is the month of no excuses. Maybe I am going to be the only one participating (and if I am, I still commit to it!) but I sure hope not. We can do better and help each other do better. Bad excuses are easy. Overcoming road blocks in the form of bad excuses can be hard but incredibly rewarding. Please join me in my no-excuse challenge. If you won't, I'd love to hear your excuse for not participating!
Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesday.