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You have heard them all. Maybe you have even said some of these things. I am talking about fire service staples like the following:

  • “Don’t worry, this is just a routine fire.”
  • “All you have to do is put the wet stuff on the red stuff.”
  • “Stay in until you can’t stay in anymore.”
  • “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
  • “Keep your mouth shut, Probie.”
  • “Books don’t put fires out. Why are you wasting your time reading that?”

     I was speaking to a group of sales professionals about leadership when one sales manager put his head in his hands and said, “I just realized what a lousy trainer I’ve been.” His comment surprised me because he was the top trainer in the room. He went on to say, “Every time a new sales rep asked me what he should do, I replied, ‘Make your numbers.’ That was the dumbest thing I could have said.”

     Most of the others in the room were confused. His answer to the new sales rep’s question was not an unusual one; they had all said it before. However, the man was right. New salespeople are well aware that they have a quota, and their compensation is tied to that quota. They do not need someone to state the obvious. “Making your number” has likely been the only thing on their minds since the moment they took the job. What they were asking was, “What actions should I take in order to reach my quota?”

     Now imagine the new firefighter who is sitting at the table with a bunch of experienced firefighters, you being one of them, and the advice people are giving is, “All you have to do is put the wet stuff on the red stuff.” The young firefighter is well aware of the fact that water puts fire out, but giving such poor advice will do nothing other than weaken your team. You have a clean slate to work with. Do not dumb down this person with overused, and often incorrect, one-liners. Spend time with them. Educate them. Train them. Make sure they learn the right way and the wrong way. The person you give advice to today may be the one you have to rely on to save your life tomorrow.

Step Up and Lead!

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Comment by Frank Ricci on November 28, 2014 at 12:06pm

Words matter, Great Post!

Comment by Skip Coleman on November 26, 2014 at 5:25pm
Excellent Frank. Keep it up.

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