Saturday, November 28, 2009

Getting on the Wall (Part 2)

Like a vision, a mission statement gives the leader a sense of direction, like a detailed road map. Mission statements have been utilized by corporations for many of years. These corporations use mission statements to give individual direction to the organization with sound purpose for their actions and focus on the issues that make the organization successful.

Fire departments and emergency response agencies are no different than any corporation. We must set a mission to give us that road map that will lead us to success. All too often we see organizations floundering because the leader has lost vision and has strayed away from the mission statement. These two variances lead to demise and destruction of the organization making it that boat just floating aimlessly at sea. For where there is no vision the organization parishes.

As a leader, we must create a vision and work tirelessly to reach that vision. In the fire service the Chief often fails to develop a vision or to keep it going through the officers of the department. Far too often we let visions die between “what” and “how”. This is an agonizing principle. “What" always proceeds “how”. Many visions die because we give up. We convince ourselves we can’t accomplish it. Well as earlier stated, it is much better to aim him and fall short than to aim low and succeed. The outcomes will be much more rewarding and beneficial to the organization. Often the “what” or vision is never defined. Therefore the vision is never organized into a potential format with the end in mind. Even if the “what” or vision is developed it far too often dies in the “how” phase or the work phase. Leaders loose the focus or energy to see the vision through to fruition.

Everyone under a great leader will look for a way to have a hand in the work that will accomplish the vision. This often comes after the leader gives a little push to get them started. As most would agree it is hard to get a large vehicle to move from a standstill, but once the momentum is started it continues to gain speed so long as there are no external forces that impact the event that can’t be overcome. As a leader you must provide the tools and materials (vision and motivation) for any project (goal) to be accomplished. If the leaders will provide the key essentials, then the follows will provide the work. Thus, this large vehicle continues to pick up speed.

There are various leadership styles and management philosophies to choose from when working with people. No matter which one you choose, you must have a plan or a road map on how to run the course of the vision. This road map or mission statement moves the vision from just that, a vision, to reality. Along the way it is critical to remember as a leader you must give authority for the journey. Simply stated you must let the followers know it is OK for us to go down this path realizing that it is not a smooth road and bumps will be encountered along the way. As with any trip you must have the needed resources to arrive at your destination (vision). You as a leader are responsible for providing these resources. Followers (workers) are not able to function without them. Without the followers doing the work along the way the destination will never be reached. This pathway to accomplishing the vision has many cross roads that you will come to. Remember, as the leader, you must stay focused and be willing to prioritize life, being dedicated to the vision.

Not every road must be traveled and often what appears to be a short cut will take you way out of the way. By prioritizing life we must be willing to eliminate things along the way. Not everything we thought will be required to achieve the vision. We must learn to delegate responsibilities. By delegating we now begin to allow the followers to have a sense of ownership of the vision, seeing where they have impacted the whole. I have never been one who likes to procrastinate throughout life. However, in working with organizations to accomplish visions, it is often necessary to wait or postpone portions of the journey.

As hard as this may seem to be fitting into this full energy drive on visions and leadership, I have learned from wise leaders that it is imperative to attack certain portions of the road to accomplishing the vision at just the right time. Often this is necessary to have the talent of the followers to that level that will be required to travel that portion of the road in the vision. I saw this even more as a fire chief moving the department forward. Often times their skills are not present to function at a certain level. This can be equated to responding to hazardous materials incidents. I am surely not going to send a firefighter into a situation of controlling a leak of ethylene dibromide with just an awareness level. However, after the proper training, education and experience, I can utilize that talent in a much more effective and efficient manner.

While sitting at the Kitchen table, talk about experiences. Remember don’t Train till you get it right…Train till you can’t get it wrong!
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