Forced Accountability

This weekend I was down in Ft Myers, FL teaching a seminar with my good friends at New World Defense and Fitness. On the way home I boarded my flight which happened to be in the emergency exit row. I have sat there numerous times over the years. As usual, they ask everyone if they are willing to help and make you give a verbal “yes” to the attendant.

But this time was actually different.

The agent approached the rows and began her talk, but she made everyone in the rows physically retrieve the safety card. She then made everyone read it. Asked questions about what we were reading. Had us open the pamphlet to the images on the inside showing how exactly to remove the door when needed.

She didn’t stop there…. she then visually pointed to the doors, mimicked removing the cover, pulling down on the handle. Then she showed with her arms how you’d twist the door to make it fit through the opening. She repeated this visual demonstration on both sides of the plane.

She then made it very clear that our position was to be responsible for all the lives on the plane. Her words went along these lines:

“You are accepting that you will take this position seriously and that you will not only open the door, but assist everyone through the opening and down the slide. This means that you will be the very last person to leave the plane, including our staff.”

Only after all of this, did she make direct eye contact with everyone and request a verbal “yes.”

Brilliant.

The reality is, thousands upon thousands of people have sat in that row simply because they wanted more leg room. But what is the cost of that legroom? With it comes the responsibility of saving lives in the event you need to quickly evacuate the aircraft.

Is it unlikely? Sure. But it is in fact possible… and plausible.

Yet, rarely do the people in those seats take that responsibility seriously. They don’t open the card to see the images. They don’t take the time to imagine having to do that and what that means. They don’t take time to visualize pulling the cover, pulling down the handle, opening the door, pushing it through etc..

They certainly don’t consider that when they get through that door it is their job to help everyone else before going down the slide.

I have never seen a flight attendant do this, but every single one of them should.

Because the reality is, as humans, we take things for granted. We don’t like to be accountable and we hate responsibility. So those in leadership positions have to accept that they might have to FORCE accountability in those under them.

The old adage “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink” is mostly true, very wise, and in many cases applicable.

But lest we forget that if needed we can in fact pin that bastard down and force water into the system if we have to. Or just stick it with an IV and hydrate it that way if needed.

Parents to kids. Business owners to managers. Flight attendants to passengers.

Whatever the relationship. Turning your head blindly and assuming things will get done or people will do what you would do is negligence.

True leaders know that letting people figure things out for themselves is very important, but they also know that sometimes, you have to hold their hand and spell it out for them. Force them to take the steps needed to improve or to take their position seriously.

Be good, train hard, stay safe.

-aaron