This piece was sent to me by Jason Bonds who is a Driver Engineer on our job. What do you think?
Small Town, Small Pay/Big Heart, Big Job
Does the size of a town/organization dictate how an employee accepts pride and ownership of their job? This question has rattled my brain and many others that have worked in a small town/organization. After talking with many Firefighters, Drivers, Lieutenants, Captains and Chiefs I have come to my conclusion that the size of the town or organization does not dictate the employees pride and ownership in their organization. Pride comes from how a person feels he/she is being received, or perceived in some cases, by his/her organization. So, in many cases pride comes from the top down, and in return the pride will work its way back as a circle. It’s a vicious circle but there has to be a starting point or a guide to start the line in drawing this so called circle. I call it the “circle of pride”. If a firefighter has pride in his/her self, it will mirror in their work habits, thus taking care of what we are all here for, to serve the citizens and the community as best as we can. If the community has pride in its firefighters, the chief takes pride in this, because he has done his job to relay his vision, morals, and characteristics of taking pride in yourself and your job. The “circle of pride” starts with the chief and ends with the chief and the chain must stay intact from top to bottom. If you have a leader who is not committed to what he believes and does not follow through with what he preaches or instills in his followers, he will get nowhere and the circle breaks.
You don’t necessarily have to lead your crew by the hand to get them to where they’re going; because it never fails, you will almost always have a member who wants want to pull out of the circle and do something different. Remember, it is like you are raising a family, you point your children in the right direction and teach them the tools to succeed and more pride will have been instilled in your children’s self accomplishment then you will ever know, and even more, giving you the parent that same pride. What a reward!! The circle was made, a task was accomplished, and pride is at its highest point.
I asked a question to all of the people I spoke of earlier, “What do you want to leave behind as your legacy?” I have found that there were two different types of people answering these questions. There were your leaders and your followers, and much to my amusement, the leaders answers were very much alike as were the follower’s answers. The leader’s answers led to wanting to leave a personal legacy to where the follower’s answers wanted to leave a departmental legacy. I think both of them missed the big picture! A legacy should not be on how one was perceived and not how the department was perceived, but by the mark you left on the people behind you and how they are as an employee or person because of what you instilled on them. Remember what I said earlier on raising a child, the circle will make its way back to the starting point, where the legacy started with you. How much more pride could you ask for than that?
So, let’s move on to ownership. How do you convince a person that they have ownership in the company they work for? Do you buy them a big fancy truck or build them a big fancy station? What makes a firefighter feel like he has ownership of his department or even his city? When a person buys a home, what makes him proud of it? It’s not what he paid for it or what’s in it, it’s the name he signed on the paper that gave him the ownership of the house. It’s what he does to the house afterwards; mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, fixing it up, making it his own……..the little things. When you have an employee, you have to remember they are not just a number, they have a name. But you have to remember calling an employee by his name does not necessarily make him feel like he belongs to the organization. Knowing about his family, hobbies, strengths, and weaknesses give him the feeling of his “home” and being a part of something and having that ownership………the little things. The longer he owns his house he is even prouder to have ownership of it. There is history in his house and “the little things” in the house are what makes him remember why he bought it and the memories that were shared there. The same goes for an organization, not just a fire house, when trying to make history for its employees and create a sense of pride to have ownership within the organization. The employees have to be remembered, not only while they are there, but when they are retired as well. As I stated earlier about leaving a legacy to the people behind you, you have to give the employees the history to where they learned the legacy they followed. They need to have that want to be on that retirement wall and remembered by their followers for the legacy they left behind. A retirement wall…., you mean there is more to a retiree than just a watch, a gold plated axe, or a gift certificate. Deep down there is, they want to be remembered, they want to see that they left the organization with ownership in hand and they made their mark, their legacy………the little things. Whether its station logo shirts or pictures on a wall, the imagination can go a long way, each individual is different on how they want to be remembered. It is the duty of the manager, owner, or supervisor to recognize the employee’s niche and run with it. Remember your legacy needs to be on how the employee learned from you and grew from it.
I cannot honestly point out one single thing that will help an organization gain pride and ownership, but what I can say is that a leader leads by example and creates an unknowing legacy to his personnel. It is up to the organization to recognize the niche that is encompassing the employees to make them tick, to give them steam, to keep the wheels turning. The more I study on this, the more I realize it is a never ending battle to keep the coal in the box to make the engine turn from the top down and back up. Whether it is a small city fire department with small pay or a big city department that pays with diamonds, we all do the same job. We all have big hearts to do what we do and in all the citizens eyes we have big jobs. I could go on forever on my opinion on how I could change the world, but one thing keeps coming back to rack my brain…..the little things are what’s most important. Whether it is in a company or a relationship, these are the things we tend not to think about but must remember to keep the engine running. I remember my wife one Christmas saying how happy she was, not for the car that I bought her, but for a small Christmas ornament that had a picture of her and I together in it. History????? Or a little thing????? How about a little of both!