Brotherly Advice for the Soul
So you just took that fire chief job in a new department or maybe you just got promoted and moved across town on a different shift. Maybe you are just a pawn in the reorganization or the victim of a random “job rotation”. Whatever the reason voluntary or going kicking and screaming here you are and you are in charge. What’s your first big move? What is at the top of your agenda? Are you going in to “fix” these guys that don’t have a clue? Are you going in to “save” them after being misled by your predecessor? Whatever it is you have in mind take a moment to think this through.
Fire Chief: So this new department wears a uniform jacket that is not like the one you had at your old department. What do you do? Do you change the patches on your old departments’ jacket or do you wear the jacket of the department you are now with?
Chief Officer: So this new battalion has conducted hands on training together on Saturday’s and in your other battalion you had it set up for Wednesday? Do you change it to Wednesday?
Company Officer: So this new station parks their apparatus in the opposite bays that your old station parked theirs. Do you have them move the apparatus like you like it?
None of these situations are hypothetical, unfortunately I have experienced them all at various departments along my 29 years. The answers to most of us are clear but a few of you out there need a little coaching up. For today’s Hump Day SOS I paraphrased a little passage from The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli:
“It is essential that in entering a new Provence you should gain the good will of its inhabitants.”
Before you go changing up everything to your liking you first need to establish some credibility and trust with your new members (at whatever level you are serving in). If you come in and change things just because it is what you want then you instantly lose credibility and you may never regain it. There are always times in which some immediate change is needed but these immediate changes should be limited to issues that involve unacceptable behavior and unsafe practices. Maybe the way you want things to be are actually better than the current practices. Be patient work towards change slowly by educating and training your members until they themselves recommend the change. Better yet just let the change happen on its own. There doesn’t have to be an implementation date or formal day of reckoning unless of course the change is all about you! If ruling over your members is your method of leading then by all means make those changes and enjoy your moment in charge. Just remember that if that your members are only compliant to your wishes when you are standing there. When you are not there they are defiant and talking about you while using very derogatory language.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t lay out your expectations and explain the way you operate. It just means that you should be competent and secure enough to understand the difference in a needed change for performance or safety reasons and a change that only feeds your very large ego.