The State Trooper and I
A State Trooper pulled me over for speeding. It feels like yesterday. It was several years ago.
I was on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. My speed was between 25 and 30 mph over the limit. I sounded awesome singing along with John Mellencamp blaring on the radio.
I remember seeing the Police Officer pulling his arm in the window of his car, a black radar gun attached to his hand. I just pulled over and waited. Mellencamp couldn’t help me.
The toughest looking trooper I have ever seen walked up to the passenger window and asked if I was in a hurry to get back to the office. Obviously he saw the company logo on the passenger door.
Without waiting, he asked if I knew how fast I was going.
I replied that I wasn’t sure, but that I knew it was fast. He didn’t ask for the car registration or my license. He simply said, “You better slow down.” Without another word, he turned his intimidating frame and walked away.
Fear turned to jubilation!
After my heart rate slowed, I became teflon™ Dan. “I can’t get a ticket,” I thought. This wasn’t the first time I’d been let off with a verbal warning.
In the next three months, I earned three speeding tickets!
In order to protect my licence, I was “invited” by the Pennsylvania State Police to attend driving school.
5 Lessons from speeding tickets:
- Consequences say decisions matter. Life without consequences – either good or bad – is meaningless.
- Consequences express compassion, when delivered with a person’s best interest in mind.
- Don’t feel responsible to help irresponsibility. Too much help doesn’t help.
- Deal quickly with issues. It’s irresponsible to neglect holding people responsible.
- Create an environment where performance is expected, enjoyed, and honored.
Motivation: Hold people to their decisions, because it’s best for them.
How might leaders hold people accountable in ways that serve them and organizations?
Drive Slowly 😉
Thanks Lukcas. Good point!
Always A Pleasure. Regards
loved this post! too often we do feel responsible to help perpetuate irresponsibility. thank you for the reminder!
Thanks Julie. I see in leaders a desire to be helpful. It can be difficult to see “not helping” as a helpful activity.
Dan, LOL mine was 1975 on the Turnpike similar except the fine was $15.00 back then and the officer pulled 7 of us over in a line and a Merry Christmas to us!
Truly life’s lessons have consequences truth or dare? Sooner or later you will be caught either speeding or taking short cuts in doing ones job.
Thanks Tim. It may hurt, but sometimes it’s the best thing that could happen to us.
“Don’t feel responsible to help irresponsibility. Too much help doesn’t help.”
A good lesson for leaders….and parents. Your trooper story reminded me of a recent incident with my 17 year-old son. He got a little extra attention from local law enforcement for enjoying a beverage that his age does not yet allow. When the police showed up at the party and all of his friends took off running, he followed the officer’s instruction to “stop.” He was the only one. He got in a little trouble with the law, but avoided any serious, long-term repercussions because he took responsibility for the irresponsible decision he had made. I was upset and disappointed with the boy’s decision to drink underage, but I was extremely proud of the young man he is becoming.
Thanks Paula. I’m glad to read your story. I think your candor and transparency create an environment where situations like this can find positive resolution. Love it.
The key, to me, is to Consider situations – good or bad… BUT those considerations are meaningless if you don’t follow through on the outcomes – the changes emerging get from those considerations!!!
Thanks John. You are so right. We can bring up issues, but if we don’t get to the place of what behaviors do we need to see and when, we won’t be effective.
Same thing here, Dan. My one speeding ticket was on a nice, sunny October day. The windows were down, the Beach Boys were on. I wasn’t speeding. OK, I was exceeding the speed limit by 18 but I wasn’t speeding, was I? When wrong, you acknowledge and admit, humbly. It goes much farther than fighting it.
Thanks Andy. They say you have to acknowledge a problem before you can solve it. Frankly, I think I’d blame it on the Beach Boys. 🙂
My grandpa and my dad always said if you own up to what you did you’ll get in less trouble. I passed that wisdom and practice along to my own children as well as my students. It worked like a charm most of the time. The fine line we walk is to determine when to issue a warning and when to deliver more memorable consequences. Everyone deserves a second chance, but as you noted, that verbal warning turned into 3 speeding tickets because the warning unintentionally reinforced the undesirable behavior instead of rectifying it. Would a written warning have been better because there would have been a tangible reminder? I had a similar experience – although my speeding was “only” 10 over 🙂 – and got off with a verbal warning too. Now I just watch a little more closely so I don’t get caught… but was that the lesson I should have learned? Too often it is easier to not hold others (and ourselves) accountable for actions and then we may end up with more trouble down the road. Bad habits are cultivated in the same way we acquire good habits…
Thanks Vicki. I see you are more “righteous” than I. 🙂
Good point on the importance of second chances. When to give a second chance verses bring a consequence? Perhaps leaders can do both at the same time. It might look like calling out something that went wrong and asking, “What will you do differently next time.”
Best wishes for safe driving.
Too often we let lack of commitment or unreliability slide; making excuses for the person; it hurts the team! It hurts relationships! Ownership also means saying I made a mistake I said I would do this and I did’t here is what I am going to do to make it right! Learning from our mistakes. But like the article said if the person does not feel ownership to clean up their mess, they never will!
Thanks Tammy. You are right on the money. We might consider asking, “On a scale of 1-10 how committed are you to do better next time?” Then ask, “What will you do differently next time?”
By the way, the answer to “What will you do differently next time,” ISN’T, “I’ll do better.”
Finally back in the blogging game and I have to admit I have missed your encouraging and empowering posts so incredibly much! Thank you for the daily inspirations!
Thanks Shopgirl. Welcome back.
Thank you Dan! This post is SO timely. We just had a very “energetic” discussion in our manager’s meeting about the messy dishes left in the office sink. There has been too much silence and enabling for far too long. Some of the people leaving the dishes do not feel compelled to clean up after themselves. I have just shared your post with my teammates. Hopefully, we can establish some consequences for those that do not do their part. And those that are left to clean up after them will no longer have to do so! Here’s hoping!!!!
Thanks Cheryl. Your story is where the rubber hits the road. How do we take responsibility? How do we hold each other responsible? What will we do, when standards are violated?
Reproduced here (couldn’t reblog straight off)
Holding people accountable to what they said they will do or must do is a critical leadership skill. I love the words “It’s irresponsible to neglect holding people responsible”. Our team doesn’t need us to parent, shelter or protect them. They need us to help grow them.
Personally, every time someone lets me skate on an issue it only tells me it’s okay to keep doing what I’m down. Slow down? Why? What are the consequences? None! If anything, you’ve reinforced I should keep speeding because it’s kind of a thrill to be pulled over and not get a ticket!
Hold me accountable … and I will hold you in high regard.
Thanks Alf. Powerful!
I love, “Our team doesn’t need us to parent, shelter or protect them. They need us to help grow them.” We shouldn’t complain if we encourage helplessness and then people act like they are helpless.
So many people get horribly upset about the consequences they bring into their own life, and I understand (tickets certainly aren’t fun), but at least you know you earned it.
I like to think of them as life lessons that I paid to learn, and I’ve found it’s great way to look at life. You can’t be too upset, because you know you messed up, and it automatically clicks that it’s an opportunity to grow.
Thanks Nicole. Yes, life lessons we paid to learn. Love that. You forward-facing orientation is important. We might think consequences are retribution. It’s better to think of them as growth opportunities. (Sometimes easier said than done.)
Thank you, and I couldn’t agree more. Anything we can do to improve our mindsets and increase our growth is time well spent. Life is too short to be a victim:)
Your description of driving and signing to John Mellencamp brought me back to the same feeling of driving music blaring and signing away myself. The freedom of that feeling is incredible.
The 5 lessons here are so true. Without boundaries and consequences for violating them, we can’t become our best selves or help others reach their highest and best performance. While in the short term getting let off the hook feels like a relief and gift, long term it leads to low accountability for ourselves, our decisions and actions. Great post Dan.
Thanks Jenn. Let me add, thank you for the social media support. I see your tweets.
You addition of becoming our best selves elevates this topic to the level it should be. The people who expect a lot from us, help us get further. That includes consequences when we don’t follow through.
I’m all to happy to support spreading great work out into the world through social media. Thanks for writing such thought provoking ideas on leadership!
Dan, Dan, Dan;
Oh Danny-Boy, my friend, & ‘Used to be Hero’. For shame Pastor! “I hope your proud of yourself!”
Don’t tell anyone, but your circumstances sounds strikingly famiar to my father-in-law.
I do however hope that as a ‘Man of the cloth’, you were forthrite with Mrs. Rockwell and, “as we say behind the Razor-Wire”, FALL ON THE SWORD & spilled your gut’s to the ‘lil’-Mrs… I know you have, but apparently, my father-in-law lacks your commitment to honesty, ‘OR’ he apparently wears the (Bloomer’s) in the family. “Out of absdolute F E A R ! ! ! ”
NO.# 5 strikes a nerve with me Dan. As willing as I am to be an employee of value for my organization, Nepotism cares very little about performance, job expectation, or, way to often, weather an individual is qualified to do the job or not.
Thanks Steve. You cracked me up. “The Mrs.” is a CPA/accountant. She runs the finances. I must say that she knew all about it. Actually, it all began when I bragged about not getting the ticket.
Well, ya know Dan, “they say all simpleton ‘Chuckle-Heads’ think alike!” 🙂
I always like to say that there are no rules if there are no consequences. Sometimes we find this out the hard way.
Thanks Eric. Good one.
Love that “consequences” can be good or bad. The word has a bad rap. A consequence to behavior can be favorable or undesirable – so you “experience” a consequence versus always “suffering” a consequence.
Thanks Lisa. The use of “experience” is helpful. Much appreciated.
Leadership Freaky Fast! Thanks, Dan, for your transparency and allowing us to learn valuable life lessons from your, ummm, accountability events.
In policing, we call striking a balance between justice and mercy “enforcing the spirit of the law” as opposed to “the letter of the law.” Without discretion, officers’ days would be long indeed. Indiscriminately issuing costly citations to every violator without regard for the time, place and circumstances is also a good way to alienate the community. As a leader in a policing organization, I tried to similarly strike a balance between justice and mercy in administrative matters. Punitive disciplinary action was reserved for willful misconduct. Performance improvement measures were indicated for errors of good intent. Lessons 1 – 5 are all gold, and need to be internalized by anyone who is “responsible for holding others responsible.”
Thanks Jim. Powerful insights. I’m with you. There is a tension between justice and mercy.
Great topic Dan! In terms of leadership and dealing with people, I this sequence of events brings forth the question of standards and consistency. As leaders we must be aware of how we go about our daily duties and interaction. Our attitudes and actions can establish either a sound platform or a a wobbly dock for those around us to stand on. In the case of your Trooper, Dan, he provided a false sense of security which in the end caused you more problems as you later realized. Leaders need to be vigilant in setting standards of consistency. I can surmise that most of us are familiar with those “wishy-washy” types that show no form of regularity when it comes to dealing with people or situations.
One of your better ones. Accountability, very diluted in today’s culture. I just sent this to my clients and several business associates…keep up the excellent education!
Road rules are for all of us. No more Mellencamp. Try some Public Broadcasting Radio instead with the short drives. I would have ticketed you…….no warning. The earlier you learn your lesson the better for everyone. Do take care.
These 5 lessons are still one of your best postings.
I share with everyone of my clients and I personally have these printed out in my calendar book.