People have perceptions of organizations. So how do these perceptions get developed? Where do those impressions come from? They are almost entirely formulated from how they are spoken to by the people of that organization. As far as our customers are concerned, the people with whom they interact, usually the fire company, are the organization.
It baffles me that it seems to be such a difficult task for personnel to speak kindly, respectfully, without sarcasm and with a helpful focus. So how can we explain why people get treated in such a negative way? Why would we risk making a bad impression for the organization by choosing the wrong words or by employing the wrong tone?
I have often listened to other fire service colleagues continuously spit out negative verbiage about their fellow brothers and sisters. It goes further to speak negatively about the customers they serve. They even speak badly about the people, the organization and the job! So what is up with this? Do they understand the demising affect they are having?
Individuals are personally accountable for their actions, but the organization plays a role in all this too. As an officer ignoring the issue is ignoring your role as a leader. Many of our people today are making this mistake. It has a detrimental affect on the organization. There are three areas that must be addressed by outstanding organizations if they want to maintain and enhance the public view of them.
1. Set the Standard: Outstanding organizations have standards on how their personnel interact with all customers. This starts internally as managers speak to their staff. The show of respect, kindness to colleagues will carry over to the public. Discourteous, demeaning or dismissive behavior can not be tolerated.
2. Hiring the Right Personnel: We need to stop putting people with poor relationship skills, no manners or total lack of empathy in service positions. Especially if these are individuals whom will be in leadership positions as well. You should recruit, educate and train individuals who make people they come in contact with feel like they are different.
3. Training and Coaching Properly: Speaking to people in the right way is a skill that can be learned. We need to take every teachable moment and capitalize on them.
Now matter how we see ourselves as an organization it is how others see us that really matters. How we speak to them is what tells them whether or not they are important. It further states whether we are outstanding or not. Your words may have a much larger impact than you think.
Here is they challenge...make sure your speak well of the organization, the job and the personnel. Make sure we speak well to all of our customers and make the right impression. Officers this is part of what you should be doing every day!