NHL Star Andrew Ference talks about accountability in his debut at the Good Men Project.
During my years playing with the Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League my coach, Daryll Sutter, probably drew hundreds if not thousands of Xs and Os on the whiteboard. Every situation would be covered day in and day out until we didn’t have to think on the ice, we just reacted. I don’t remember a single one.
The thing I do remember, the lesson that took a team of average skill to within a game of winning the Stanley Cup: Be accountable to your teammates and to yourself. It is a pretty simple concept but a much more difficult thing to put into practice.
Nobody wants to think of themselves as a weak link at their job. We all have an inflated view of our importance within a group. This self-confidence can bring you success, but over the long term, I believe it really holds back our true potential. To have the ability to look your coworkers and boss in the eyes and admit your shortcomings and faults is admirable. It is a humbling experience but one that can build trust and strengthen relationships. Just try it with your spouse.
To truly take this lesson to the next level, though, you must be able to be accountable to yourself. Another coach of mine, Brent Peterson, had a simple piece of tape on a vanity mirror in our locker room. It read “Can you be proud of yourself today?” What an amazing question! It did not ask if you had won or lost, whether you scored or not , just simply if you could be proud of what you had done that day.
When there is no one else around to prove anything to, when you strip away the armor that most of us wear outside of our homes, how do you feel about yourself when you look in the mirror? If you are honest and mature enough it can be a practice that can both humble you and make you a great person in all aspects of your life. It has allowed me to regroup after tough losses, it has made me a better father and husband, and most importantly it has made me a more honest person. It is an honorable thing to admit to mistakes and vow to strive for better in the future, it earns respect from others and more importantly yourself.
Accountability is lacking in our world. Just look at nuisance lawsuits, or the finger-pointing of politicians around the globe. I am guilty myself of trying to blame a middle-fingered celebration after a goal in Montreal on a glove malfunction. In round one of the playoffs between two of the fiercest rivals in our sport, I scored a tying goal in the enemy’s building, only to have my fist pump turn into a sign language that crosses all borders. Facing the media and a possible suspension after the fact proved to be too much for my self-accountability. Self-preservation is a powerful thing… it is easier to place blame elsewhere and overlook your own responsibilities.
It is a good feeling to have your friends and family see a solid human when they look at you. Being able to stand up and answer for your words and actions will push you above the average and allow you to answer “Yes!” to the mirror more often.