If You Want To Change The World…

United States Naval Admiral, William H. McRaven, delivers sound advice in his commencement speech to the University of Texas Class of 2014. Below are the quick notes on what to do. Listen to the speech to find out why and how to do it.

  • If you want to change the world, start by doing the little things right: make your bed.
  • If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.
  • If you want to change the world, measure people by the size of their heart.
  • If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and move forward.
  • If you want change the world, don’t be afraid of the circus.
  • If you want to change the world, sometimes you have to slide down the obstacles head first.
  • If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.
  • If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest of moments.
  • If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.
  • If you want to change the world, don’t ever ring the bell.

Also, read the workingfirechief’s blog for his thoughts on “Changing the fire service for the positive and keep good traditions alive.”

How will you help change the world?

What’s Working? What’s Not?

Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons

Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons

Start, Stop, Continue is a well-known method for feedback that many organizations and teams use to gauge effectiveness. You simply ask:

  • What can we start doing that will make us more effective?
  • What can we stop doing that makes us less effective?
  • What can we continue to do that’s providing value to us?

Another, less formal feedback technique that is similar is called WWWN. It stands for What’s working? What’s not? It’s a simple, effective communication tool that can illuminate critical issues or operations for improvement while creating a learning culture of openness.

Give them a try. Which one works better for you?

Leadership Doesn’t Come From Behind the Desk

From the movie Beauty and the Boss, 1932.

From the movie Beauty and the Boss, 1932.

Recently, I listened, with great concern, to two different questions about the same subject, a failure to communicate. On one occasion, I was part of a management meeting where the attendees were asking, “Why don’t they understand what we are doing?” Another time, while talking to people I supervise, they asked, “What is going on?” This roadblock, or maybe wall, in communication is a huge problem and affects everything. So what can leaders (even a mid-level leader like me) do to break through this wall? You can increase your “face time” with your people and build trust; to show you care.

Leaders, you need to get out from behind the desk (and get away from the continuous meeting table too; by the way read this book: Read This Before Our Next Meeting) to visit, mentor and socialize with your people. Communicating in person, as opposed to email, memo, and policy has always been and still remains extremely important, even more so in today’s complex and fast-moving world.

Everyone has their idea for a definition of leadership. Books, articles, and seminars tell us that leadership is, “the ability of an individual to influence others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organization.” Here’s my take on leadership, “Leadership is influencing people to act by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while working to accomplish the mission and improving the organization.” That is not done from behind a desk or in a meeting.

Effective personal communication is no small task today, especially in very large organizations. With customer and community expectations increasing, issues with completing training and countless other factors, everyone feels a heavy burden, both physically and mentally, that no one is immune to.

Within our fast-moving culture, we have come to a crossroads with regard to communicating with our people. What happened to the talent of one-on-one, face-to-face mentoring? Email has made the communication process faster, but it’s hindered, to some degree, our willingness to get out from behind the desk and talk. It’s hard to show you care about them and are interested in their problems in an email. Relationships and trust are not created from emails!

I believe we need to put more emphasis on face-time communication. Technology (email, social media, videos, etc.) alone does not create change, relationships with people do (relationships provide purpose, direction, and motivation). Leaders, you must talk, talk, talk! And then listen, listen, listen!

Leadership involvement, getting out there and leading your people from the front will increase awareness and maximize performance. The ongoing demands of today’s world require that leaders communicate well and often. You cannot provide the right kind of leadership needed from behind a desk!

What needs to happen in your organization to improve communication? How can you help make it happen?

Improving the Operational Planning Process

Vintage Firefighters, 1879.

We are entering an era of “do more with less.” Yet, we are expected to remain efficient. Our organizational challenge is to save time, focus on the real issues, and effectively communicate the organization’s vision to our members. Not an easy task, and one that requires everyone to make it happen.

Read more here about how Improving the Operational Planning Process in the Fire Service. This is an article I wrote for Fire Engineering Magazine and was posted on August 1, 2011.