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Morning Coffee

“Mama wanted me to be a preacher. I told her coachin’ and preachin’ were a lot alike. Paul “Bear” Bryant. (I would add leadin’ too.)

Every morning as I step outside and enjoy my first cup of fire house coffee at 5 AM, I give thanks for another day and for the good grace that has allowed us all to go home safely to our families. I have done my one and only job for one more day – sending the people – who serve the people – home safely. We shouldn’t ever take the importance of that lightly.

 Giving thanks adds so much to the taste of the morning coffee.

Shortly, I will hear the distant train horn welcoming the day and signaling that it is time to get up and live. The city will move from darkness into light. The traffic flow will increase and accidents will occur at the usual places and I’ll ponder to myself what will happen someday when a car driven by someone who is lost keeps circling in a round-a-bout and why so many accidents occur at four way stop intersections. Why can’t talking transit buses and talking fire apparatus tell someone that they can’t make good time or get around in the round-a-bouts? Your politically correct, European, traffic calming devices are getting in the way of my American fire fight – and I don’t like that.

Why don’t police officers issue citations, while I have my coffee, to anyone who causes an accident while texting and driving or talking on a cell phone while driving, unless they were calling 9-1-1 to report an emergency? I guess it’s the same explanation of how a motorcycle officer can issue you a ticket for no seat belt. Who, by the way, are you calling or texting that really cares about the fact that you are driving to work? 

As I take a sip, I wonder how do the chronically homeless by choice afford a car to drive into an area and then walk to their panhandling station and sit on a Lowe’s bucket while talking on their cell phone or using a laptop? I wonder who they talk to on the phone and why that person doesn’t help them find a house. I don’t think homeless should be a lifelong ambition or a lasting occupation. I sometimes wonder what tax bracket they are in and how long it will be before they accept credit or debit cards, and why they look at me like I’m stuck on stupid when I offer to buy them food. It really frosted my under carriage when a homeless person called the Police on me for “taking his money” while I collected for MDA in front of the fire house. There seems to be something missing in the anatomy of people who talk about transparency, while managing to overlook the Lowe’s bucket as they restrict the boot.

I wonder if we can discuss whether we should wear shorts during the high heat and humidity months. I have not seen a public uproar or declining performance in the communities where shorts are allowed. Maybe we are losing our collective way when we issue body armor but we can’t allow shorts as a part of the rehab process of keeping our people fresh throughout a twenty-four hour tour. History tells us that great soldiers win great battles against great odds when they are prepared for the elements, well trained, well equipped, well supplied and well led. I like that.

Maybe I have too much caffeine in my coffee or my deep devotion to the Fire Service that I love is just over the top.

Maybe I’ll become a consultant soon or hire on with a department that is seeking answers to their generational issues and growth pains. I can explain why every department needs a Chief Morale Officer and how to prevent the internal disconnects that divide us. I can give clarity and shine the light on the problems that result from hiring people who lack a giving spirit and identify whether your social media jawbones outnumber the backbones who do the heavy lifting. Part of this analysis is to see if the critics show up with the Brotherhood to build an accessibility ramp for someone in need, or to carry shingles for the roof job for the Brother or Sister who is down on their luck, cutting the elderly neighbor’s grass, or for the benefit golf tournament that is put on by your department or your neighboring department, or if they support the department’s benevolent foundation, the Burn Foundation, the 9-11 Memorial stair climb or MDA efforts. I’ll analyze - you decide - anyone can tote shingles, serve refreshments, grill burgers, hold a boot or just show up.

I can explain why the Fire Chief and the labor boss should not have an adversarial relationship and how both parties work to fix it if it is broken. If labor doesn’t see you abiding by your rules, or they see your policies and processes or their application and implementation as unfair or inconsistent; they are not only right to complain, their complaints are often supported by settled law. The solution here is fairly simple and should have come from your training at home. Surround yourself with the best people available, talk to each other over coffee and meals and realize that neither party is always correct. It’s the marriage counselor concept; why do you and your special someone, who are supposed to be on the same team, have to pay an outsider to listen to you talk to each other?

I will take a look at your methods of communications for effectiveness and fatal flaws. Are you and the workforce well informed and on the same page or does an over reliance on email close doors to effective communications. Do you allow the sometimes spoiled fruit of the grapevine to control the departmental news cycle and, if so, how do you intend to fix that? Does your department deliver what you market and advertise, are your firehouses neighborhood forts or closed fortresses, and do you keep the showroom windows clean? Are your guiding department principles that hang on the firehouse walls seen as reality or as some expensive photography with no meaning in truth?

How does your succession training program and your promotional process stand up to the smell test? Great leaders build great leaders instead of shopping for them at some second hand head hunter site, where pension seekers and often disingenuous people, with no local investment, often show up. Remember, you can’t expect to get new stuff from a salvage store and you can’t breed a j****** and expect a racehorse. If your promotional process does not include merit and fails to consider that past performance is an indicator of future performance, the obvious need is for you to self-assess and to ask yourself – how did my lack of merit, my lack of involvement, my missing pride and ownership, and my poor past performance serve me so well and place me in this leadership role? If your words don’t mirror your deeds, you are attempting a charade, a shell game and leading by sleight of hand.      

Remember that dried mud on a pig’s behind is transparent too.

Put down the mirror and look behind you.

Who created that pile of steaming fertilizer that you deal with daily?

How’s the advice in your joint - from your Joint Chiefs of Staff?

Do you host seminars or travel to them?

Who’s driving your departments Good News Bus?

Good hounds will hunt hard and come home if well cared for.

Are you going in circles or moving forward?

How’s the coffee?

Thanks for reading, caring and sharing.

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

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