I recently had a friend send me the following quote:
“Where the heart is willing it will find a thousand ways, but where it is unwilling it will find a thousand excuses.”
In a game of failure, like baseball, the tendency to use excuses is not only a crutch, it can develop into a lifestyle. The players that get it right, usually have one thing in common. They are accountable.
This word, "accountable" can be taken a couple different ways, but I believe that both are needed for a team to not fall into the trap of using excuses. The first definition of accountability is used in reference to "one's own actions." All players (and all people) are going to make mistakes, and the great teammates are quick to jump at the opportunity to own up to the fact that they made a mistake. Whether it is a physical mistake, a mental mistake, or something that they did to embarrass the team, the accountable player will quickly own up to his error and then figure out a way for it not to happen again. Respect is most often the result, if the words are sincere and the forward actions mirror the words.
The second use of the word accountability is used in reference to "each other." Every once in a while, you find a group of guys that realize that they will be better personally, and collectively, if they will hold each other accountable. The key to this happening is being vulnerable. This may be one of the most difficult things to ask any man to do, but the rewards are incredible for those who are willing. The player that allows his fellow teammates to openly critique his work habits, effort and attitude will increase his odds of doing it right more often. A sense of not wanting to let my team mates down can drive even the most self-motivated player to do more than they usually do. This has to be a 2-way street and a large amount of trust must be built and maintained, so feelings are not hurt, and relationships are damaged. The key is knowing, without a doubt, that everyone is looking out for the good of everyone, without a hidden agenda, or selfish motive.
This concept is hard to pull off, but possible. A culture of accountability isn't for everyone, but the truly great ones are usually accountable to someone, and they use those tough conversations to elevate their game and it keeps them from falling into the dead end trap of using excuses.
"Excuses are the nails used to build the house of failure."