So, What is Your Excuse?

by Andrea L. Cook

As the doctor or manager in your practice, you’ll realize pretty quickly that excuses are like clockwork. At the very moment when a report, meeting, or assignment is due, they’ll come pouring in: “I didn’t have time,” “I just have too many other things on my plate right now,” “I never learned how to do that,” and the list of excuses goes on.

And while steam practically pours out of your ears at these weak excuses, it’s tricky to know exactly how to react. Between needing to just get the work done as quickly as possible and feeling a twinge of sympathy that maybe your team member really does have too many projects on her plate, you probably respond with some version of, “That’s OK. I’ll just take care of it.”

It is often easier to be a pushover and learn the hard way that when you get in the habit of accepting excuses like this, your employees will be quick to walk all over you and your authority.

Once you’ve sorted through explanations, motivations, and deeper issues, set clear expectations for the future. Whenever an employee comes to you with an excuse, don’t just wave it off and hope that it doesn’t happen again. Ask some key questions to set clear expectations:

  • What is your next step to get it done?

  • When are you going to do it?

  • And last, can I count on you to get it done?

Dig in, ask the tough questions, and show your team that you’re serious about their work and success. Over time, you’ll convey that you won’t settle for anything less than the best—and your employees will realize that there’s no room for excuses.

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