Arnold Schwarzenegger may not be your go-to person for business advice, but he has, arguably (and possibly inadvertently), offered some pearls of wisdom over the years – “I’ll be back” is a good example. But today we want to focus on another gem from The Governator, who once said: “You can have results or excuses. Not both.”
Excuses are part of our everyday lives. No one wants to be blamed for failure, and it’s only human to look for a way to justify a situation that hasn’t gone as planned, or try to shift the focus to the “silver lining”.
However, being able to reasonably assess what has gone wrong – and being willing to see your part in that – is actually a big part of growing in business.
Reason vs excuse
This generally comes down to accepting responsibility. When someone makes an excuse, it’s fairly recognisable because an outside something or someone is always to blame: “I wasn’t given enough time” or “I didn’t have enough resources”.
In contrast, a reason usually considers a person’s own behaviour: “I didn’t make this a priority and ran out of time” or “I didn’t plan for the absence of people involved in the project”.
Failure is fine – as long as you learn from it. If we readily make or accept excuses, no one learns a thing and we’re likely to meet the same problems again in the future.
Ensuring everyone understands why an issue arose gives people the opportunity to learn from a mistake and puts us in a stronger position going forward.
As Arnie made clear, if you want results don’t make excuses.
One way to stop making excuses is to first look in the mirror.
Even if there were contributing outside factors – and there almost always will be – be honest with yourself and figure out what you could have done differently to create a better outcome.
Managers can help prevent a culture of excuses by creating an environment in which people don’t fear owning up to a mistake. It’s more important for people to understand where they went wrong and have support to find alternatives for future projects.
With a little bit of discipline – and Arnie inspiration – you can say “hasta la vista” to knee-jerk excuses and start focusing on getting better results.