Thursday, 26 July 2007

Analogies and parables abound on the topics of life and business. One I have told a number of times over the years is the story about the two fire chiefs. Having worked in public safety it's one I can relate to. It's a paraphrase on other tales, and I have no real idea where it came from. Someone probably told it to me at some point long ago, probably to teach me a well-deserved lesson or two.

There are two kinds of fire chiefs.

The first stands on a hill surrounded by his lieutenants, captains, firefighters and others, overlooking the town his department is responsible for. Fires are popping up everywhere, and the chief orchestrates call after call to put out each fire, emphatically choreographing each move and lecturing to everyone about exactly what's going on and why. He is in control. What the townspeople don't notice or see are the captain, lieutenants and in some cases the chief himself running down the back side of the hill and into the town, occasionally tossing their lit cigarette butts into windows of cars and homes.

The second fire chief stands on the hill, watching for fires. They rarely pop up, but when they do his captains, lieutenants and firefighters follow their safe, practiced, professional training. They quickly and efficiently move to the fire scene, take care of business and then get back to the station to continue to stand watch. No one gets hurt, and the people who work at the department are happy in their profession.

Which chief do you think gets the public's attention, the recognition and the accolades? Which one would you trust with your life on the line? Which one would you trust with your job? How do you think each of these people got to be chief?

Talk is cheap, talk can be dangerous, and talk is not always about communicating. Agendas and drama often overshadow the real heroes in our world - those that lead from behind and instill a sense of worth, value and respect in the people they represent.

And therein lies the difference: As a manager, do your workers represent you, or do you represent them? Your answer carries important philosophical meaning, and coming to an honest conclusion might be difficult. Take time for introspection and you'll be a better person for it. But most importantly be honest with yourself, regardless of the answer. Without that, there is no way you can truly be honest with others. And without honesty there is nothing - Just a bunch of burned, smelly, water soaked buildings. But hey, at least the fire's out, right?



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Thursday, 26 July 2007 12:12:40 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Friday, 29 August 2008 17:02:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Great story Greg - fits right in line with what I'm trying to communicate to my "people."

In incident command school, I was taught that the effective IC will be back in the office mapping out strategy for the future - possibly with his feet up on the desk.

Thanks for sharing this!
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