The overwrought alliteration shows my disdain. They are everywhere, but they use code words
to describe themselves. I’m “detail
oriented” they say. Never will one
introduce themselves and say, “hi, I’m a micromanager.” Their involvement in every aspect of
operations is necessary, because no one can live up to their expectations.
One chief who was an administrative nightmare to work for
had many of these characteristics. I
called him a “shotgun manager.” He never
met an idea he didn’t like, so there were a hundred projects all in progress at
the same time. Because of this and the
necessity for his involvement in everything—he couldn’t delegate to save his
life—that meant that nothing ever was completed. Since everything was a priority, nothing
was. Luckily, he wasn’t like this on the
fire ground (fire ground micromanagers are even more scary) , and to this
chief’s credit, he eventually evolved, changed, and improved, but that is the
exception with this type of manager, not the rule.
The data collectors are worse. They never met a metric or measurement they
didn’t like. Just because an activity is
quantifiable doesn’t mean it should be.
The argument is that the “workers” only do well what is checked—so these
guys check everything. When we measure
everything, the same shotgun result occurs.
Since everything is a priority, nothing really is.
My contention has long been there are typically four or five
big important things that make an organization successful. Measure and take good care of those, and
everything else—the details—will take care of themselves. I never thought it was rocket science, but
maybe it is. Einstein said “not
everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be
You are about to take that first
important jump in rank. It might get you
a different color helmet. It definitely
will change other things.
a good firefighter, but you’re young and will be moving up over more
experienced firefighters, some of which are your friends. There are mixed emotions. How you respond to this is a test in your
capacity for greater responsibility. Not
everyone wants promotion, and reaching a level of satisfaction is not a bad
thing. Some of your friends are content
at their present level and job.
important and difficult part of managing your buddies is perspective and
balance. You can’t let them get away
with murder on the one hand, but a domineering heavy hand is no good on the
other. Finding the balance point is
easier said than done, and will take time, trial, and error. Anyone who tells you they know exactly where
that is, well, they’re lying to you. The
good guys under you will want you to succeed.
Those that don’t, and they are out there, will be easily
identified. Even though some will
attempt to undermine your authority, treat them fairly. That doesn’t mean you let them succeed with
their obstructionism, but by not lowering yourself to their level, others will
by example, both in the station and on the fire ground. Show, don’t tell. A good officer doesn’t have to talk a lot to
earn respect and get others to follow.
Treat the firefighters under you the way you wanted officers to treat
every level, somebody moves up, and others do not; it is how it is. By now you’ve seen good, bad, and great
officers. Take the characteristics of those
you like and respect, and emulate them. As
importantly, avoid those of the officers you don’t.
accepting of change, but not unthinkingly.
All change isn’t bad, but it isn’t all good either. The rookies will frustrate you at times. Some may not progress as quickly as you think
they should. Try to learn patience. Everyone learns in different ways and
rates. Mentoring is a long game, and
sometimes goes into overtime.
know already that the right people don’t always get the promotions, and so does
everyone else. Putting on a new helmet
doesn’t make you an officer. Your
actions and attitude do that.
Fire is fire regardless of where you work, and fire
departments are full of folks with unusual personalities. My experiences in fighting fire in a rural
area have given me an appreciation for the unique characteristics of the
country. So, with that in mind, you
might be a redneck firefighter if…….
The soda machine in the station is actually filled with
There is a sign-out sheet in the station to show who
borrowed the engine battery for their tractor.
The tanker port-a-pond doubles as the community pool during
The dirt in front of the station looks like black top….from
The station has the manual from the department's 1958 engine—sold 20 years
ago—and the envelope was never opened.
One of the towns founding families has three roads named
after them—all the same.
Cow versus car is almost as common in the run log book as
car versus deer.
You would need mutual aid from three counties to get a
single engine out for a car fire one day a year—the opening of deer
The helmet you wear is older than half your members.