Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Give Me Reasons Not Excuses

I believe in rules

That sound you just heard was everyone who knows me rolling their eyes as if to say “no kidding!”

I don’t mean “hard-core army drill sergeant” type rules, but gentler “this is what experience tells us is the best way to do something” sort of rules. It’s like my own personal set of “best practices.”  One of those rules is “own up to your mistakes.” We all make them. In fact I believe making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn.

But under no circumstances should you ever shirk your responsibility for the mistakes you’ve made.

Of course there’s a “for instance” here, and it involves a supplier I’ve been using for a while now. I sent them a purchase order well in advance of the time I would need them to come to the job site to begin their work. The week before the job I followed up with the supplier (there are those rules again!) only to discover they had no record of my purchase order.

Fortunately, the material I need was in stock, and there was room in their schedule to complete my job. Still I was concerned. Had I not sent in the purchase order? Had the fax been eaten by the office dog? When I dropped by the suppliers office to return some samples I asked the supplier what had happened. “You never sent in the order” was the reply. I didn’t argue the point. But there, sitting on the desk beside the job folder was the purchase order I had faxed in weeks before.

I wasn’t too concerned because the job was going ahead as planned. Obviously a mistake had been made, and steps had been taken to correct it. But what was to be gained by not owning up to the mistake? If anything, had the supplier admitted to the mistake I would have appreciated the honesty and the effort they made to make it up to me. I’d feel valued. Now I just feel disappointed.

Like my father told me when I was a boy, “If you tell me in advance, it’s a reason. Tell me afterwards and it’s an excuse."


Raina Cox said...

I'm stitching those last two sentences on a pillow.

Arne Salvesen said...

Your comments always make me smile. Make two pillows and I'll take one.

Kelly M said...

It's an insult - a careless one, but an insult.

And when a supplier says this to those of us who are organized and do take responsibility for our own actions, we can never look at that supplier with quite the same favor again.

That's when I start looking for others.

Brenda Lynn said...

Arne, I totally agree with you. This is the third time I have written a response to this post, the first 2 times mu computer ate them. I had very witty remarks in both, now I am just frustrated and can't be witty. I do own up to my mistakes and I expect the people I deal with to do the same, I usually give them the benefit of the doubt the first time, unless it is just glaringly obvious, then they are out after the first one. Thanks for another great post! Hope this comment makes it to you!

Brenda Lynn

Arne Salvesen said...


I don't have a reason to give you for the Google-monster eating your post. I just won't make any excuses.


James Dibben said...

This is the kind of stuff we should all blog more about!

I'm starting a 'Pro Series' on my podcast and I plan on covering this subject in detail.

Thanks for a great example!

Arne Salvesen said...

James, I agree. When it comes to professionalism you can't shut me up!

Corey Klassen AKBD BFA said...

Faxing is so conveniently inconvenient. You're Father, like my Mother, must be cut from the same cloth because that's brilliant.

So hey, let's fax each other all our blob posts from now on? Kay?

Nick @ Cupboards said...

Happens all too often- great post!

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