Personal Accountability: What I Learned In the Supermarket Parking Lot

Personal Accountability: What I Learned In the Supermarket Parking Lot
October 4, 2016

I got a real accountability lesson a few months ago.  I was walking to my car from the supermarket on a very hot afternoon when I saw a group of people congregated around a parked car. They seemed upset and I got curious. As I approached the scene, I saw that there was a dog locked in this very hot car. The mini crowd was getting louder and I heard them say “it’s been more than 30 minutes and this dog will soon pass out in this heat” but nobody did anything, including me.  In the next 10 seconds, a young man shattered one of the car’s windows with a trash can and opened the door.  Everything was going to be all right.

Why am I sharing this? Because this story illustrates the concept of taking personal accountability and whenever I share it with others, the point is clear.  Only one person in that parking lot embraced, without hesitation, the concept of personal accountability.

It was a simple act that required little thinking yet no one embraced it. The scene stayed in my mind for months and I knew I had to write about it.

I have been hearing a lot of buzz about accountability in the workplace, in networking groups and in social conversations.  The question that keeps coming up is; do we really want to be held accountable for the consequences of our actions, or inactions?

I don’t know where this young man’s motivation to break the window came from.  I’ve come to the realization that the autopilot for accountability is inaction.  In other words, we go about our day in automatic, unconsciously lacking accountability, I included.

I was reminded of this topic recently after discussing with a client a set of corporate practices that basically encouraged the absence of accountability.  The topic was separation packages.  Here is the scenario; high-ranking employee is not performing as expected and is hurting the business; high-ranking employee receives mentoring from a mentor with no accountability; high-ranking employee gets a juicy separation package that includes a myriad of very costly services to ensure he goes out “quietly.”  It’s not uncommon to meet someone who has made a lucrative career this way.

How about professional athletes? For every Cal Ripken Jr. (the major league baseball player who played 2,632 consecutive games without fail, always played at the top of his game and is admired by his community) there are others who are glad to receive the big paycheck without the effort or expected performance. The reality is the vast majority of these athletes compensation is guaranteed and not tied to performance. There you have it; the perfect formula for lack of accountability.

Regardless of the fact that personal accountability is, in some cases, subliminally encouraged by organizations, I believe that accountability is a personal decision versus an organizational mandate.

Accountability must come from within and leaders have the responsibility of motivating others to act on it.  The best and easy way to infuse accountability in others is by demonstrating it.  You can start right away; at home.

If we really care to do what needs to be done and follow through, possibly others will as well. One thing is for sure, I now know what I’ll do when I see a dog locked in a car on a hot day.

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Posted in Blog, Personal Performance by Mari Pizarro