Opposing Forces

A common question that is posed from current and prospective officers along with engaged firefighters is “how do you deal with superior officers or an organization that doesn’t want to move forward?”

First, it’s not always the organization or the superior officers that are the sole problem. I’ve seen good, engaged, enthusiastic  firefighters circumvent the chain of command, rush into projects without regard to organizational needs and just plain and simple ignore the need to be patient and to use some tact. So, if you are one of those guys, you might just need to pace yourself and chill out a bit.  You’ll damage your reputation and become very frustrated in the process.

Now, back to the intent of the original post title.  We all have experienced frustration with our organization or crew because of lack of energy, engagement or the ability to move forward.  We have all dealt with the lazy employees who cannot  believe we take vacation and spend our money to go to conferences like FDIC every year and then try to share what we learned with our department.  We have struggled through situations and crews that don’t share our passion for drilling and training on a regular basis.  And, I’m sure we all have been stuck in a place or with a crew or officer that wanted to do as little as possible  and then go home.

As much as we want to rock the boat and stir the pot, and at times we should, we have to understand the culture and dynamics or our crew, shift and organization and understand that it did’t get the way it is over night  and it isn’t going to change to way we want it to over night.  We have to be patient, respectful and pick out moments to make changes. If they aren’t accepted because of our approach or bad timing, we are just wasting our time.  It doesn’t mean you give up and throw your hands in the air, it means you need to be a bit strategic in how you approach things.

I like to run and I run on the road.  Many of the roads I run on are without shoulders or sidewalks and I have to be very aware of vehicles. I always run against traffic so I can see what’s coming at me, allowing me time to hit the ditch if needed.  Now, we know that pedestrians are supposed to have the right of way, but we also know that that is rarely the case and we would be foolish to challenge that vehicle to ownership of the road; we would LOSE!

That car or truck is traveling fast and is heavy and the force of getting struck would kill or severely injure us, and for what?  Pride over who has the right of way?  Um, not for me.  I jump into the ditch or the side of the road and let the vehicle pass.  Sometimes I step into cold water, thorn bushes, large mud holes and even once on a snake. But, hey, I just jump back on the road and keep moving forward.

Did the vehicle win?  I don’t know, but I am still around to see another day and to get back out on the road tomorrow.  Yep, and I might have to get back in the ditch again.  But, for as many times as I have had to give way to a car or truck, there are many more who are sympathetic to my slow pace and will give me plenty of room, and for those I am appreciative and I give them a friendly wave. Some will give me the whole lane and other just a few feet, either way I give them all the same friendly smile and wave.

The point here is that jumping in the ditch is not losing and I’m still able to get back on the road and achieve my distance goal of the day.  If I am stubborn and too prideful I will end up in the hospital or worse and my days of walking and running could be over.  A wise man once told me that any forward movement is a pace, no matter how fast or slow.

When trying to make change in the firehouse understand that those opposing forces aren’t going to be easy to deal with and you may have to be patient and jump in the ditch sometimes to keep going.  It’s a long-term project, not a sprint. Listen to those that have been trying longer than you and be respectful of those that don’t see it the way you do. Don’t give up the fight, just don’t jump in front of the passing car.

1 Comment

  • edward says:

    Great read, and spot on for many who read it. Many times our organizations are not ready for right now, let alone for the future. But sometimes standing out front all alone isn’t that. Its just going for a walk by yourself

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