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MARKET LIFE: Don’t Make Excuses


By Dr. Don Capener

Do you want to become a great leader? Then don’t make excuses.

My goal in writing today’s article is to inspire you to become a truly great leader in 2019, and the first thing great leaders must learn is not to make excuses. Accept responsibility, even when results are dismal.

I’ve had a fair share of dismal results over the years. It is difficult not to make excuses when results are mixed or complicated by a lackluster team effort. But when results and metrics miss the mark, I no longer make excuses for my team’s performance.Maybe you’re building a team right now. In the Davis College of Business, we have a small team of nine professional administrators and support staff, along with 45 full-time faculty members. It is my goal every day to learn from our team’s mistakes and grow into a stronger, farther-reaching business school.

The competition in today’s corporate environments to provide real-world management education is intense. Methods for helping business students succeed—and succeed in new ways—evolve constantly. U.S. News & World Report ranked Florida as a top-tier higher education system. Land-grant universities, regional institutions, private universities, and community colleges across the U.S. are doing a fine job educating students while also employing some of the finest researchers in the country. In addition, many of the top 20 business schools nationally offer online graduate programs to increase enrollment. The bottom line: competition has never been so intense, and the need for cultivating strong leadership in the wake of these upward trends is imperative.

Leadership Success 101

Brian Zoya, a 2014 Jacksonville University (JU) MBA graduate, exemplifies someone who faced opposition and adversity to become a much stronger leader. In his role as Senior Vice President of Product Management at One Call Care Management, Brian represents the aspiration to be 100 percent responsible for a team and to top management.

What is the biggest impediment to success as a leader?

There are several traps to avoid. The biggest is pointing fingers when results don’t measure up. Another is demanding accountability from your team but not of yourself. There are so many excuses we use, as teammates or managers, when we don’t reach our goals.

Below is a list of the most common excuses that prevent 100 percent accountability:

1. Blaming someone else for failing or causing a failure.
2. Justifying one’s actions because of extenuating circumstances.
3. Minimizing a mistake or failure.
4. Hiding from those in authority.
5. Covering up the problem.
6. Abandoning the responsibility.
7. Lying about the problem.
8. Focusing on the faults or past failures of your leader or supervisor.

The Opposite of Responsibility

The opposite action of responsibility is excuse making. The one I hear most often involves the phrase, “That’s not in my job description.” For that reason, I ask team members to learn all of their colleague’s tasks and responsibilities, so we can be interchangeable. As a leader, I need to be willing and able to jump in and perform a task or responsibility when someone else can’t or when someone simply drops the ball.

“It is self-defeating to blame others, make excuses, or justify mistakes—even when you’re right.”

What our team learned in 2018 about accountability is key. When I or another staff member blamed others for failure or miscommunication, we abdicated responsibility, and let the team down. Our experience is that excuses keep us from taking control of our own destiny.

Lynn Robbins, Co-Founder of Franklin Covey once said, “It is self-defeating to blame others, make excuses, or justify mistakes—even when you’re right. The moment you take any of these actions, you lose control over a positive outcome”.

Jacksonville University Davis College of Business

Let’s commit in 2019 to be more like Brian Zoya and less like excuse-makers as we strive for 100 percent responsibility and accountability.

MARKET LIFE is a recurring feature in WAVE, a dedicated news source at Jacksonville University. E-mail commentary and questions about market and money matters to Dr. Don Capener, Dean of the Davis College of Business at Jacksonville University, at dcapene@ju.edu. Or read the latest from Dean Capener’s desk on LinkedIn.