Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Give Your Department Tools, Not Slogans

I was in Vermont over the past weekend at the Franklin-Lamoille Regional Fire School. What an awesome educational opportunity for the fire service in that area of Vermont. As I walked around the Campus of an elementary school I was constantly face to face with a picture hanging on a wall which had a slogan on it. You know the type; Think outside the box, Your actions speak louder than words, attitude is everything...This is not unusual by any means. Just walk into many offices and businesses and you will see the same type of venue. I have been guilty of even doing the same thing in fire stations. Since I was teaching two days worth of officer development and leadership I decided to do a little experiment. I ask several of the attendees who had passed by these Pictures with Slogans several times at least first if they had noticed them and secondly could they tell me what they said. Out of 20 students I polled only 6 stated they had noticed them and only 2 could tell me what was even written on one of them. This set me to really thinking. Just how effective are these wall hanging picture/slogans. Obviously they were not jumping out and inspiring people like we would hope they would be doing. It is obvious that these were not producing any lasting value.

Slogans may sound great, but in order for them to be effective these concepts have to be read, contemplated on and action taken to make them effective. Most times we never get past the reading portion. If you want success you have to chose the right setting for these where individuals are looking specifically for these motivational slogans.

Slogans may sound great, but in order to take the organization to the higher levels, people don't need these platitudes, they need tools. So what are these tools?


The first is the environment that is conducive for growth. This means having the right atmosphere, opportunities and mind set that is fostered from the top down. We have to make sure that we are setting an environment for individuals who make up the organization to be able to perform at their peak performance.

What we can do:
1. Create a workplace that provides meaning and purpose for our employees. A place where they feel they are making a difference.

2. Show and tell your staff they are appreciated. Go out of your way to say thank you and show your appreciation when staff members go above and beyond. Awards, banners, recognition and appreciation events and just a simple thank you

3. Encourage your staff to find and utilize their talents. This includes talking to your employees, especially those who are not performing to your expectations. Maybe they are bored or unchallenged in their position. Sometimes moving them to a different position in the organization that is of more interest to them or that utilizes their skills and personality better will be just what the doctor ordered. Guess what, everyone will most likely be happier.

Maybe it's time to recommend to the employee that its time to make a company change. Offer to provide them a transition time, and maybe assist them with the search to find a position that will make them happy. Explain to them that there is nothing wrong with admitting that your organization or position is not right for them personally. Encourage the employee to do what is best for them, and most likely your practice will benefit from this decision as well.

4. Spend money on the work environment-it is a wise investment. Little things can go along way in improving the work environment.


1. Knowledge - Knowledge is power. It can help you and your personnel reach goals. That’s why it’s important to become a well informed person both professionally and personally. Attend and provide opportunities for personnel to attend professional seminars, training programs, allow and encourage networking, provide and read technical / business journals. Become and allow others to become someone who is in the know. Stay up to date on what’s happening in your industry and discipline. Read industry publications. Get to know the issues facing your department, your company and your industry. Learn and understand the competitive environment of your organization. Develop the technical skills you need to do your job well. Keep them up to date. Take classes – on line, at a local adult education center, a community college – anyplace that helps you keep your skills up. Find yourself a great mentor and be a great mentor to someone. Remember to always pay your knowledge forward.

2. The "Right" Equipment - As we expect and demand higher level of performance from our most valuable resource (personnel) it is critical that we give then the tools and resources they need to adequately and safely do their jobs. Anything we can do to enhance their performance we need to explore and ultimately provide. many people may argue this one but technology is critical. We must focus on has technology provided us a better way or avenue in which to complete the task. Updating older equipment is critical in the performance measuring components.

We intuitively know that people need to believe they can do the job. The problem is leaders are often tempted to attempt raising peoples performance through so nicely word-smithed slogan. At any given time a strong inspirational slogan is good to hear, however when the rubber meets the road, the workers need more. Only when leaders provide them with the right tools will they be able to meet their peak performance. So just a little thought here...What are your people missing that would make their performance increase?

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