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Identifying and Curing “Excusitis”

October 8, 2010

Identifying and Curing “Excusitis”

It may not be an official disease but it is a malady that plagues far too many people. I call it “excusitis.” It’s an affliction that holds people back from pursuing their dreams, achieving goals, becoming what they want to be, and living a fulfilling life. It’s also a condition that erodes trust and lets others down. The symptoms are excuses for inaction, not accomplishing something, or not fulfilling a promise or commitment. Other symptoms are chronic blaming and ducking responsibility. Or not being accountable or agreeing to things that can be subject to varying misinterpretations and conveniently weaseled out of.

Given how damaging and uncomplimentary it is, it’s a wonder excusitis is so widespread. Perhaps it is understandable in adolescents and teenagers when they get into trouble or fail to fulfill their responsibilities. Many parents hope they will grow out of it, yet they also make excuses for it, saying something like, “He’s just a kid, what can you expect?” I heard a similar excuse for a seasoned executive, who as a conference speaker, made some insulting comments about some former customers. When I mentioned my concern to several people who heard it too, their response was, “Well, that’s just Paul.” Can we expect them to grow out of it too?

Hmm, I thought. People who like him are making excuses about his behavior simply by implying, “It’s who he is so what can you expect?” Personally, I expect more in a leader. It seems we do the same for kids and others, rather than holding them accountable. In doing so, we enable the poor behavior. Perhaps it’s due to a reluctance to confront, give constructive feedback, and explain that we expect better of people. Perhaps we do not want to jeopardize the relationship and so remain silent, hoping the problem will go away or resolve itself. The unfortunate truth is that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

So what is the cure for excusitis? If you are working on a self-cure:

  • Make a list of the excuses you frequently use, and add new ones as they occur to you
  • Identify the last time you used some of these excuses and what the consequences were in terms of outcomes, impact on others, short and long term gains
  • Hold yourself accountable
  • Do what you like least first, and then when you finish, reward yourself by doing something you do like
  • Break up tasks you tend to put off tackling into bite-size pieces and spread them over the time required for completion. If it will be helpful, create reminders or put them on your calendar.
  • Give yourself a deadline and keep it.

If you are supervising someone else – a child, worker, student, camper, etc.:

  • Set clear expectations
  • Offer incentives for satisfactory completion
  • Establish milestones and check-in points to monitor progress, offer feedback, coach and reinforce desired behaviors
  • Ask for solid commitments without wiggle room. If you cannot get one immediately (for example if the person says, “I don’t know when I can have it done”), ask them when they will know and get a commitment from them to tell you then. Offer only one chance.
  • Hold them accountable. Explain that no excuses will be accepted. Either they have kept their commitment or they have not.

Excusitis is a “disease” that often does not stay in “remission.” It has a habit of creeping back. So stay alert for the symptoms and signs that you or people you are trying to help are on the cusp of relapsing.

The ability to live a meaningful, fulfilling and accountable life hinges on eradicating excusitis.

Steve Weitzenkorn

Steve Weitzenkorn, Ph.D., is a learning innovator, organizational advisor, experienced facilitator, and lead author of Find-Fulfill-Flourish: Discover Your Purpose with LifePath GPS – a book, tool kit, and workshop series focused on guiding people toward more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 13, 2012 5:05 am

    Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely believe this amazing site needs much more attention.
    I’ll probably be back again to read through more, thanks for the information!

Trackbacks

  1. Do you have a case of “Delegation Excusititus”? « Leadership Development Services, LLC

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