Are You Accepting Excuses? What You Permit, You Promote

Accepting excuses as a way of life is often a subtle, yet insidious culture killer. When we do culture assessments, we frequently unearth patterns that point to an excuse mentality that keeps an organization stuck. The insights shed light on the (often subtle) attitudes and beliefs that prevent a team from moving forward or gaining traction on the most important elements of culture, engagement, and patient experience.

Making and Accepting Excuses

Not long ago, I shared our culture assessment with an executive team that was blaming their lousy HCAHPS scores on the patient population they serve. That sentiment started at the top and trickled to the front lines. The executives were more than happy to embrace the positive findings we presented. But, when we shifted to the not-so-good news, they quickly showed signs of denial. Suddenly there was a litany of excuses (or what they called explanations) about why things are in their current state. “You don’t understand what a tough population we serve,” was their overarching sentiment. 

What they failed to realize is that this core belief shaped excuses for not raising the bar. Further, it failed to hold everyone accountable to a standard of behavior.

The thing about excuses is that there’s a fine line between an explanation and an excuse. Here’s what the dictionary says:

Explanation – (noun) the act of explaining; making something plain or intelligible. 

Excuse – (noun) a defense of some offensive behavior, or some failure to keep a promise, etc.

The Continuum of Behavior

In our Change Management workshop, we share a continuum of behavior that ranges from excuse to ownership. On the excuse end, the mindset is steeped in “victim-think,” which perpetuates the myth that, because of the hand you have been dealt, nothing can be done. You are a victim of circumstance. 

In the middle, is a neutral mindset where you wait and hope something will change. 

On the ownership end, the mindset is that of action and initiative to make things better and act on behalf of the organization. 

This continuum has been a game-changer in helping leaders become more aware of where they are blindly accepting excuses and how it is implied throughout the organization and team. Make a conscious effort to identify where you are accepting excuses and how it is impacting your outcomes. 

Florence Nightingale said it best. “I attribute my success to this – I never gave or took any excuse.”

Is your culture too accepting of excuses?

Let Baird Group help you evaluate and intentionally design your company culture. Contact us today to learn how to get started, or schedule a free 30-minute consultation here.

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