Today I was having some conversation with a good friend of mine and a fellow company officer. We were exchanging ideas and issues about dealing with people and how to motivate ones that don’t seem to have any motivation. We discussed different techniques, approaches and even the behavior we have to demonstrate as officers to have a positive impact on the individuals that just lack motivation. We further discussed how to make hardheaded individuals see themselves less as individuals and more as part of a team. We tossed around a lot of ideas and we ended up talking about something that is probably not out of the leadership 101 handbook. That is, writing someone off.
In my firehouse I have the responsibility to build a team of firefighters. I have a responsibility to develop them professionally. That is fifteen different mindsets, levels of experience, and different outlooks on the fire service. Many of them share the same ideals and that helps me out a lot. Several of them are self starters, with a few needing a nudge here and there to get moving, but overall I am very lucky to be surrounded by these guys. I realize not everyone has this set-up. Some of you reading this might show up and beat your head against the wall in frustration when trying to make positive change and mentor your fellow firefighters.
So my question is this? Will you write someone off completely? My answer is, yes, if I need to. What is your answer? Let me start by saying this: I will dump everything I have into someone before I do this. They won’t show up in my firehouse and immediately get written off. None of us should be doing business that way. What I am saying is there comes a point where some people just refuse to follow suit. Some people will always just exist to collect a paycheck and will never be motivated by anything other than that horizontal feeling of a long day in the recliner; no matter how much time and effort goes into them. Let’s use my station for example. I have a lot of people that I am focusing on at one time. If I find myself investing a large amount of time into someone who doesn’t care, its decision time. It is time for me to decide if I will continue to work with them, or, spend some time on the ones that are willing to be mentored, willing to develop, and willing to have an impact on the short term and long term success of the department.
This may sound harsh, but I am a firm believer in the fact that you can’t save them all. In a book titled Leadership on the Line the authors say, “There will be casualties”. Meaning, there will always be that few who choose to not progress and choose to be a drain on you and the system; they will never buy into the mission. So if you find yourself in the same situation where you are trying over and over again with someone who is not willing to move forward and remain de-motivated, its decision time for you. Will you continue to work on them, or, will you focus your time on the ones that lack motivation and effort but can still be turned around? Will you focus your attention on those who want to buy into the mission and remain passionate?