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I’m not big on meetings. I especially dislike meetings that accomplish nothing.

Maybe, just maybe, somewhere along the way I got hung up on the belief that the Fire Service was a problem solving organization made up of talented and trustworthy crews instead of a new initiative testing ground.

 I realized, very early on, that some measure of common sense and balance is required, during a twenty-four hour tour, in order to assure that we perform as well at the emergency that occurs toward the end of the tour as we did at the beginning. With this realization, is it not also reasonable to frequently analyze and assess everything that we do during the tour to make sure that we are telling the truth when we say that our people are our most important and valuable resource?

Do the crews suffer from new initiative fatigue due to a lack of understanding and appreciation by the boss for everything that they do? Did the boss really forget or did they skip over that leadership class? Do we send our crews home to their families as zombies, and if so, does that failure on our part contribute to family issues, substance abuse, divorce, child neglect, spousal neglect, PTSD and suicide?

Is our transparency transparent or do our crews just simply see through it? There is a difference.

I remember a meeting in the office of my boss one morning where he said “tell me about the snow at 23.” I asked him what he wanted to know about the snow and he replied “you know, tell me about the snow.” Finally, frustrated by the game, I replied “OK Chief the snow at 23 is cold, white and wet.” From that he asked if the ramps and walk ways at 23 were cleared. I responded that when I arrived at the firehouse at 5:30 a.m. I walked from my car to the rear entrance door in street shoes and did not get my feet wet. I then left his office, shaking my head, to return into my district and to get on with important things such as taking care of the crews who were taking care of the public and therefore taking care of securing the jobs of people who had so little to do that they waste my time with silly administrative snow ball fights.

After making all of my firehouse rounds and returning to 23 for a Tony Bullock lunch, my boss was there. He gave me the come here finger, which I don’t particularly care for either, and he pointed to an area near the front entrance door that had not been shoveled the night before. He asked me why the sidewalk had not been cleared. My Irish came out, I couldn’t help it, and I walked into the watch desk area and I came back with the day sheet from the previous tour. Here is my reply to him as I recall it:

“This morning at 5:30 I relieved the most senior Battalion Chief in the department. He entered the department in the fifties and has served almost fifty years. Last night was not his first snowfall. The crew in 23 yesterday included a senior Lieutenant and three veteran Firemen. The snow did not begin last evening until 11 p.m. and was still falling when I arrived for work. Here is the day sheet from yesterday and it shows that the crew responded to twelve calls during the tour, six of which occurred in the snow after 11 p.m. On all six of the calls received after 11 p.m., 23 was the first arriving and reporting company. That means that the Lieutenant did six reports between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The ramps here at 23 are expansive and probably add up to one quarter of an acre or more. Assuming that the Officer was busy and did not shovel, is it realistic to expect that the three Firemen, who had pulled a tour and responded to twelve calls, including six calls while it was still snowing, would be able to maintain the quarter acre of ramps and sidewalks in a clear condition while the snow continued to fall?”

The response that I received was that rules were rules, to which I responded “yes and the area that you are so concerned about is a part of the lawn and there is no sidewalk beneath the snow. So, if rules are indeed rules, you may need to rewrite the snow removal rule to state that crews citywide will not only clear ramps and walkways, but also clear the lawn during future snow events. I am certain that you can continue this discussion with the senior Battalion Chief tomorrow, after I brief him, and that he will enjoy his discussion with you, on this critical event, even more than I have. I am going to eat my cold lunch.”

Has new initiative overload and new initiative fatigue caused us to half a** everything that we do?

Do we thoroughly serve and respect our public, or the crews, when we overload the crews with purposeless make work that brings about negative creeping gradualism and overall mission poor performance syndrome? Is death by email symptomatic of larger leadership issues that result when bosses lose touch and surround themselves with bobble heads that never were in touch?

Did you forget that sidewalks are pathways and so are face to face communications and frequently assessing each initiative for effectiveness and impact? Are the numbers of actual customer contacts and actual service rendered to the customer important or even considered in the numbers game or are Michelin and Good Year the only true benefactors of our travels?  

I think that for each new rule we should throw out two. The same applies to assessing initiatives. Don’t get your feelings hurt when a rule or an initiative have lived out their worthwhile life span and need to be discarded. It is like the time I went to watch the rookie class cutting cars and the cars they were cutting were just like the one I was still driving. Buy a snowplow or two, or contract them and get over it. After all, twenty-four hours is still only twenty-four hours.

Do some bosses sit too much and suffer aggressive brain fall to the point they end up sitting not only their brain but also on training, history, tradition, morale, common sense, initiative and preparedness, while doing great physical and mental damage to the crews?

What are we really good at?

My crew is high morale, well trained, motivated, and well fed, trusted and packing light with essentials only. They are proud and highly regarded by the public. I’ll be waiting to introduce them to yours when you finally reach and crawl to the finish line.

Take care of the crews who take care of you.

Stop being stuck on small.

Don’t walk around in public with your micro management sticking out.

Is your leadership shovel half empty or half full?

Clear those ramps so you get to the covered streets quicker? Duh.

Go home and shovel your lawn – we have this.

Thanks for reading, sharing and caring.

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

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