• Acknowledging my shortcomings and taking ownership in results, not blaming others
  • Accepting my responsibility to clients and colleagues and admitting my role in a situation
  • Seeking accountability, focusing on self-improvement, and providing solutions


By my definition, an excuse is a failure to acknowledge personal responsibility, the consequence of a decision, or the role played in a situation. If I offer an excuse, it is an attempt to transfer accountability to another person, circumstance, or thing. When I offer an excuse:

  • I rationalize my own faults, blame others, or otherwise attempt to transfer responsibility away from me.
  • I devalue the needs I have failed to meet.
  • I deny my accountability for my actions (or lack of actions).
  • I shift the focus to me, rather than keeping the focus on the needs I have failed to meet.

Excuses are nasty and counterproductive. They distract energy away from productive solutions. Often times, excuses lead to debates about failures and faults and who is “going to pay for this”. While there is value in understanding faults, and identifying points of failure, these should be offered on-request or as part of a solution to guard against future failures. Any attempt to shift the blame to others for work in which I was involved diminishes the value of other people’s contributions, tears apart the team, looks like “throwing someone under the bus” and rarely fixes the problem.

Rather than offer excuses, it is better that I seek accountability, focus on my own self-improvement and focus on delivering solutions that meet the needs of others. When I acknowledge the role that I have played in a failure and take ownership in the mistakes of which I have been a part, I can begin helping others move past it and help us all get back on the right track.

The next time you are tempted to offer an excuse, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will my excuse help meet the current need? Or will it take away from the problem at hand?
  • Will my excuse provide valuable feedback to guard against future, similar circumstances? Or will it distract from future work?
  • Will my excuse help protect and encourage others? Or will it tear down others?
  • Will my excuse empower others? Or will it just help me not look bad?

Be on the guard this week for excuses that you may offer, and consider whether or not they are solution-minded, or self-centered. And if you hadn’t considered all this before, you no longer have that excuse.


Key Words and Phrases

Take ownership of outcomes; Agree to responsibility; Accept accountability; Provide solutions; Recognize failures; Acknowledge shortcomings; Focus on results, not excuses; Admit mistakes.

Opposite Terms

Rationalize inferior work; Deny or justify a fault; Offer a pretext for failure; Provide self-justification.


GuideMarks – Distinguishing Characteristics of FFL E-rate Guides

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