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What became of Fire Service leaders who were innovative problem solvers? Their big coat pockets were full of common sense and they pulled the trigger on problems. Isn’t that what we came here to do?

Large leaders are out there, probably closer than we know. Look for them; look at them, look like them. Don’t fall into the morale trap.

So many times in my career I was given verbal directions or a document with a hand written note saying “Please handle.” I wasn’t told how to handle the issue or the problem; I was trusted to handle it correctly. This took place when I was a Fireman, Lieutenant, Captain or as a Chief Officer. It happened in routine administrative matters, at complicated rescues and at many fires.

That TRUST thing, it’s amazing what it produces.

Problem solving is usually quite simple. Identify the issue, find a solution that is good for the service, take actions to fix the issue, don’t plow the same ground twice, move on and forget about it.

In a previous IN THESE BOOTS post entitled “Walk by 9”, I discussed organizational morale and the best ways to destroy a fire department. I am encouraged today by the number of young guns who wish to take their departments back, from the ground up.

 Like ladders, morale allows us to go up or down. I encourage everyone to keep climbing and reaching for greater heights. The Fire Service and the people we serve deserve nothing less.

Too often today I see people who occupy leadership positions who create more problems than they solve by being stuck on small. Their skill set includes the blame game; their inherited problems and their well practiced excuses and double speak. They have no understanding of morale, trust, the power of the team and they lack the ability to understand that everyone can see through their charade except them.

Dried mud on the tailboard of a pig is not transparency.

Stuck on small thinking leads to small actions, small morale and small results.

Staggering Line of Duty Death numbers, transitional fire attack studies, UL flow path studies and the like seem to me much more important than demanding that Firefighter Jane wear her hair like Firefighter John, or that a cold natured Firefighter must wear a short sleeve tee shirt because everyone else is warm natured, or the earth shattering news that for some reason a fire truck was parked in a fire lane at a grocery store. Heaven forbid that a crew who ran all night was unable to keep up with driving snow that accumulated on the ramp while they responded to six calls for service after midnight.

We hear very little from the departments who enjoy large leadership and who refuse to be stuck on small. They are rarely in the headlines and they go about their work in a quiet effective way. I call their   quiet, positive, effective leaders Giants in Sock Feet. (See previous IN THESE BOOTS story)

I have had more positive events in my nearly forty year career than I can recall. Near the top of my list has been watching young people grow to a point where they understood morale, trust, transparency and I could ask them to “Please Handle.”

Hang out with problem solvers.

I have enough problems, bring me solutions.

What’s in your coat pockets? Fill them with solutions, problems take up too much space.

Teach “please handle.”

Trust yourself to grow and to be trusted. We all stand on the shoulders of Giants in Sock Feet.


I appreciate the speaking and teaching requests I am receiving. I do not teach small.

Thanks for reading and sharing.

Have a great day – it’s a GREAT day for it.

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Comment by Danny Owens on February 7, 2014 at 2:22pm
You hit the nail on the head once again Chief. Thanks for your guidance and wisdom as always!!! Glad to tell people that I worked for you.

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