This edition of responder values won’t take very long at all, because accountability is really, pretty simple.
We are accountable or we are not.
On or off.
Do or do not.
Accept that we have an obligation to show up in the world around us, or, quite simply, don’t. So be advised, this is what our work is about. If you decide to not show up or you decide you’re not willing to contribute to others; there really is no place for you in first response. Sorry, not sorry.
I did say that accountability is simple, not easy.
So, what is accountability?
Let’s start with a quick project:
Imagine arriving to your shift and when you pass through the station, you notice the ambulance, the fire engine, the police cruiser that you are taking over for the day is a total mess. The shift crew before you left a dirty, unstocked and unprepared unit.
Or, maybe imagine this, it is finally your day off, and you arrive home, pass through the kitchen and you are greeted by a sink full of dirty dishes, not a single one of them is yours.
Ok, even better, imagine both of these crappy surprises happen at the same place, within your first hour at work. On a Monday. And then the tones go off.
What you do, in that next moment, speaks to your level of accountability.
Accountability is about ownership of our influence. It is about controlling the thoughts that drive our decisions. It is recognizing that our response, to any event, far outweighs the event itself. It is accepting that everything in our life was either created or allowed - by our own decisions. It is the resolve that all change, starts with us.
“Wherever you go, there you are.” Ever heard the phrase?
As quirky as the sentence is, it is a perfect way to look at accountability.
Wherever we go, our reputation will be measured.
Wherever we go, our character will be called on the carpet.
Wherever we go, we bring our influence.
Wherever we go, we can create change.
If it helps, say the phrase with a little different inflection.
“Wherever you go; there, you are.”
The world where ever we stand, is now our world. The people and situations around us in that moment are now linked directly to us. At the grocery store, on the fire ground, at our kid’s school or on the side of a dark highway; the way that we decide to interact and affect those people and situations, reveals our accountability.
For a practical visual, draw a dot on a piece of paper, then draw a large circle around that dot.
Wherever we go, we will have a circle around us. (Last week we discussed awareness - here it is again.)
The people, places and events that pass through our circle, every day, are affected by our actions or in-actions. We need to be aware that they are there. We need to be aware that we influence them.
Because, fairly or unfairly, that circle will reflect on us as we decide to make an impact or to simply look away and walk past those things in our circle.
Accountability as a first responder, as a better person, begins with acknowledging this circle of influence and then choosing to leave things better than the way we found them.
“What we are not changing, we are choosing.”
Listen, some really difficult things are going to pass through our circles in this career. That is why they’re called emergencies. We don’t get to choose the time, the place or the reason we are needed. Accountability is seeing that, all this aside, we have a duty to act because we have the ability to influence change.
As first responders, our circles have been stretched magnitudes larger than their normal size, by simply the needs of the job. We will meet some truly incredible people experiencing some incredibly bad situations within our circles.
These situations are not our fault. But they are our responsibility.
Dirty dishes, unstocked ambulances, leftover paperwork from the shift crew, candy wrappers on the public sidewalk - all our responsibility. Own them and improve them.
An injured person in a motor vehicle crash, an elderly victim of neglect, a fellow responder that is struggling with the stress of the work - all our responsibility. Own them and improve them.
“The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
- Anne Frank
As first responders, our individual influence on another’s’ life is so much larger than most other people ever get to experience in their work. This is part of the ‘calling.’ It’s what makes first response so intimidating and special all at the same time.
We are inserted into scenarios at the edge of control.
When we can’t control what’s happening, in anything, we need to challenge ourselves to control the way we are responding to what’s happening. That is accountability. That is where our power in life exists.
Today, at some point, remember, “wherever you go, there you are.”
Be accountable for your circle of influence and do what it takes to leave that place better than you found it.