The Skin of the Truth


Some college students had a final exam coming up, but the weekend before they took the test was a great weekend to head to the mountains and ski.  “The snow was perfect!” they heard.  After some discussion, they decided that they could do their studying at the lodge in between times on the slopes.  So, they packed up their gear and headed for the mountains.

Sunday evening came, and they decided to blow off the final the next day.  They were having too much fun, and they hadn’t done the studying that they had planned to do.  Two days later, they arrived at their professor’s office with a carefully collaborated story about being stranded in the mountains after blowing a tire.  Things went from bad to worse when a blizzard overtook them, and they had to spend several days in a farmhouse off the road.

The professor was very understanding and allowed that they could make up the final.  He put the students in separate rooms and handed them the test.  The first question for ten points was easy – “What is your name?”

They turned the page and saw that the second question was for the other ninety points – “Which tire?”

I heard an expression once that said an excuse is the skin of the truth stuffed with a lie.  If we’re honest with ourselves, most of our excuses are just that.  We show up late and blame traffic but fail to mention that we were running 20 minutes behind before we got stuck in the backup.  We miss a deadline and blame a co-worker for failing to get us the data on time, but we leave out the part about neglecting to ask him for it with appropriate notice.  We fall short of our goal and excuse it by pointing out the tough market but say nothing of the fact that we expected to fail and only gave 60% effort as a result.

If you want to create accountability on your team, it has to start with you.  That means no more excuses.  If you dropped the ball, own up to your part, and commit to getting a better hold on it next time.  While your team many not enthusiastically join you on the accountability train, your integrity will eventually create an accountability ethos on your team.

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Filed under accountability, blame, character

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