Reread: From Buddy To Boss

I’m rereading one of the fire service’s dynamic and in your face leaders and authors, Chase Sargent. His book, From Buddy To Boss, is full of real-life truths and nuggets to guide the new officer (company or chief) and remind and reset the old ones. His live presentations were delivered at street level, making his points understandable to those of us on the front lines trying to make good sense of something at 0200 in the morning. Here’s a short piece of Sargent’s wit and wisdom:

From “Methods to Expand Your Influence”

Committee. Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you live in a country run by a committee, you had better be on the committee.” If you want to influence the kind of breathing apparatus or PPE you purchase, then find a way to get on the committee that does the research and makes the final recommendation. There is an old saying: “Those who show up and speak up have a say, and those that show up and don’t speak up have no say, those that don’t show up have to live with it!”

From Buddy To Boss is on our 3rd Battalion Reading Challenge List. You should read it too. More snippets to come.

If leadership is about influence, where do you stand?

Our Mission Statement in 4 Short Sentences

Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons

Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons

Like most fire departments, we have a kind of sterile mission statement that’s enclosed in a picture frame or found at the bottom of our letterhead. In short, it focuses on these five areas: employee health and safety, customer relations, quality, efficiency, and recently we added fiscal sustainability (not a bad idea in today’s crazy economic world).

I believe in our mission, but also think it’s too long and doesn’t carry a punch. So, for better clarity, and a little more impact, here’s what I preach to the troops, in 4 short sentences:

Be safe. Be a master at what you do. Be professional. And, be nice.

Here’s a little more detail on each one:

  • Be Safe. Respond safely, work safely, and train safely. Follow your policies and standard operating procedures, and execute them safely and effectively. Stay aware of everything. Watch over your brothers and sisters and have their back. Speak up when you need to, and say it right. Continue to maintain the readiness of your safety equipment, and use it properly when you’re supposed to. Practice personnel accountability, all the time; and know where you are at all times.
  • Be a master a what you do. Don’t just settle for competence, be a master at what you do. You have to, because people are counting on you. Stay physically fit, because your work involves great physical exertion. Stay mentally fit. Be a continuous learner; read books, go to conferences, and get a college education. Cultivate your powers of observation and have inquiring minds. Know WHY and HOW to do things, not just what to do. Communicate effectively and often. Have the initiative and will to keep going. Be disciplined and follow orders. Constantly train for readiness and improvement. Arrive on scene ready and prepared to help. Always look back at what you did and ask, HOW can I do it better next time?
  • Be Professional. Be courageous, but calm. Be patient, because it can be difficult dealing with people who are in a state of considerable stress (sometimes, including your brothers and sisters). Practice a positive image everywhere, all the time. Consider every person a customer, especially the other members of your Department, the support people, and the administrative staff. Maintain your fire house, your truck, and your equipment in a constant state of readiness; and do it with pride in appearance. Maintain pride in your appearance and wear your uniform proudly. Get involved and provide ideas to make the job easier, safer, and more enjoyable for all of us.
  • And last, but most important, be nice. You’re in the people business, so be nice to everyone you encounter. Behave and work with your peers, not against them. Be a servant to others, because it’s the true calling of the fire service. Practice compassion and consideration for everyone, including customers, bystanders, family members, and fire department members; show that you care. Treat each other and the public with respect. Help people and do a little more.

These are my four simple suggestions for a mission. If each of us makes an effort to follow these, we will have a safe and rewarding career.

What’s your simple mission?

Service. Bravery. Safety. Honor. Dedication. Preparedness.

Service. Bravery. Safety. Honor. Dedication. Preparedness. FDNY’s mission when 343 brother firefighters gave their all to save others. Our thoughts and prayers are always with them.


Trickle-Down Customer Service

Customer service trickles down from leadership, through members, to customers. Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons.

Customer service trickles down from leadership, through members, to customers. Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons.

Every organization serves customers. Retail stores, governments, hospitals and restaurants they all serve customers, both internally and externally. So, shouldn’t meeting the needs of all of their customers be a top priority? Trickle-down service may be the most effective way to serve everyone.

Fire departments, like other organizations,  are trying to make their way through tough economical times while maintaining, or improving, their customer service. But operational decisions made while weathering a storm must not ignore your organization’s first customers, your members. Making drastic changes, even if needed, must be done with care in order to meet the service needs of your members first. Take care of your members first, and, as a result, they will feel better about what they do. Your members deal directly with the community, so customer service is a key part of their responsibilities. Here are some ways to trickle customer service down through your organization:

  • Customer service trickles down from leadership, through members, to customers. Bypassing your members will not improve your customer service. Your members are the people on the front lines with your customers. You have to go through your members first.
  • Happy members make customers and the organization’s leaders happy. When your members experience good customer service they are happy. When your members are happy they serve their customers better. When your members and their customers are happy, well then, your organization’s leaders have no choice but to be happy. Everyone is happy!
  • Happy members help the organization work better. Unhappy members do not make extra effort to help, and sometimes make things worse causing more financial problems and less efficiency. Whereas, happy members contribute and take responsibility to make their organization better. They take initiative and go the extra mile. To improve your organization, keep your members happy!

How is the customer service at your organization? How have you tried to increase it through your members? Are your members happy?