Accountability: Be An Achiever, Not An Alpaca


Every time we visit our friend’s Colorado Alpaca ranch, I note these animals do a lot of standing around, as if they’re waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Look at the photo above that I shot. Don’t you agree they could be thinking, What should we do now?

To me, they appear to be slightly odd, inaction-prone creatures who probably don’t get much done each day.

I suppose that’s fine for an Alpaca herd. We just wouldn’t want it happening—or should I say, not happening—in our organizations.

Can you imagine people getting paid to work X hours but spending some of that paid time asking Incorrect Questions (IQs … quick tutorial) like these?

“When will he give us the vision?”

“Why don’t they tell us what’s going on?”

“When is someone going to clarify my job?”

“Who’s going to give me more training and coaching?”

“When am I going to get the guidance I need to succeed?”

“Who will tell me what to do next?”

Those IQs are serious time wasters!

I’ve discovered there are some phrases in the QBQ! book on PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY that readers like to quote. Here are three:

It’s better to be one who is told to wait than one who waits to be told.

Lack of initiative today may guarantee lack of employment tomorrow.

Taking action may seem risky, but doing nothing is a bigger risk.

If you buy into any of those statements, then ask QBQs (The Question Behind the Question) like these:

“What action can I take today to contribute?”

“How can I help solve the problem?”

“What risk can I engage in that will lead me to personal growth?”

“How can I do my job today in the best possible way?”

And, one of my personal favs—casual but effective:

“What good stuff can I get done … before lunch?!”

Last week, Dave Ramsey’s @EntreLeadership team Tweeted a line from our most recent QBQ! interview:

“There’s nothing magical about what successful achievers do. They simply fall forward.” @QBQGuy FREE podcast:


Decide what to do and get it done—now. If it doesn’t work out perfectly, decide what to do next and get it done—now.

Don't Be Me!
Don’t Be Me!

I may not always do the right thing right—and might even do the wrong thing—but as long as I don’t “wait to be told,” I’ll  never be accused of being an Alpaca.

And that’s a good thing.

Plus, I’ll get a lot more done!

Now, some important questions for comment …

Which IQ will I stop asking?

Which QBQ will I begin asking?

What action will I take today?

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10 Responses

  1. Hi John – had a wonderful customer service experience last night and thought you would enjoy it. I phoned T-Mobile to solve an issue I was having with my phone. A customer service rep by the name of Reggie, when he heard my problem, said “I will own that issue!” Can’t tell you how much I appreciated his solution-accountability-thinking mindset!!

  2. Hi John–My grandmother was famous in our family for her attitude about this. She always said that she might be wrong but she would be wrong with both feet on the wrong side–she wouldn’t be straddling any fences! She was no Alpaca and her attitude has been inherited by most of the women in her family.

  3. Hi John,

    This concept resonates with me since I tend to be an Achiever rather than an Alpaca. I was taught from childhood to not stand by and wait to be told what to do but rather to assess the situation, make a decision, take action, and deal with the result. If it was less than successful then you regroup, learn from it, and move forward.

    This attitude continued into my professional life with some interesting responses from others, especially supervisors and executives. So many still expect people to be Alpacas and will discourage them from becoming Achievers. They [supervisors and executives] may feel threatened, fear change, or need to retain total control but the result is a negative impact on people and the organization. The Achievers will leave that supervisor and organization taking their skills, innovation, and ideas to another organization. Effective leaders and organizations encourage, support, and work to retain Achievers.

  4. John, Thanks for highlighting our herd! Yes, they do spend a lot of time just deciding what bite might be tasty! But “some” do have attitude and speak “their piece! If we could so easily say what our issues are to each other…we would understand each other better!!! Of course there are those who just choose to spit! (ALPACAS I mean!)

  5. Hi John — This is a timely piece for me — I needed to hear this today (and every day!). I very much enjoyed the content of the video, email and comments. Excellent stuff. Keep up the good work!

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