The term “Pride and Ownership” isn’t new to the fire service. Hopefully, most ELAFF readers are familiar with it and understand its importance to successful company operations. Chief Rick Lasky runs the most comprehensive program on “P&O”, with a lecture program, a book, a blog, and an internet webcast show. These are all great programs, and you can find more info on them by clicking here. Recently, Rhett Fleitz (The Fire Critic) attended one of Chief Lasky’s seminars, and was spurred to write his own blog series on the topic (link to all posts here). He did a great job of explaining “P&O” as he understands it, and I decided to take the time to write a quick post from my point of view. Maybe other sites will join in and compile a number of posts on the subject, as they did with “Brotherhood”.
I’m going to try to make this one short and sweet. I know that we’ve gained a lot of new followers recently, and they may not be accustomed to my occasional “novel-length” posts, as Captain Chaos would say. I’ll simply break down those two words and their meaning to me.
Pride is a fickle beast. It can obviously be a great tool for company development, or Chief Lasky wouldn’t talk about it, but it can also be the downfall of an individual’s career. It should be noted that we are not really talking about “individual pride” here. Individual pride, or pride in oneself, is fine in limited amounts, but it can be toxic if over-applied. Too much individual pride will eventually cause us to put ourselves ahead of everything else. Ahead of our Brothers. Ahead of our company. Ahead of the civilians we serve. This can be seriously detrimental to the firehouse atmosphere. Be proud of your accomplishments, but never let that pride lead you to abandon your Brothers. So, what type of pride are we looking for?
The pride which “P&O” refers to is bigger than the individual level. We are talking about “company pride”, “departmental pride”, and “fire service pride”. We need to have pride in the bigger picture. If we have pride in our company, then we will be willing to go the extra mile to improve our company (or department). What if your company is the slow, outlying runt of the department? Perfect! What if your department is small, underfunded, and poorly motivated? Perfect! You have the perfect opportunity to display the effects of company pride. Start by leading the example yourself. Take some extra time to do some short drills/P.T., clean and fix up forgotten tools or repair a worn and broken area in the firehouse (every ‘house older than 1 year has SOMETHING broken). If you are a full-timer, do this after normal work hours, while the others are watching t.v. If you are a volunteer, do it on a night when there is no regular training and you aren’t assigned to a duty shift. You may be alone at first. You may attract remarks questioning the purpose of your actions. Hopefully, others will eventually join in. Once you build “company pride”, it becomes a nearly unstoppable force. Each shift wants to contribute more than the others, each company wants to work harder than their neighbor, each department wants to be the best, and we ALL want to make the fire service function better and more efficiently.
Jason Jefferies at Working the Job posted THIS article, which includes an email from a retiring Charlotte (NC) fireman. What is one of the things that stands out to me in this post? He doesn’t just refer to himself as “a fireman”, he repeatedly calls himself a “Charlotte fireman”. He doesn’t just hold pride in our profession; he has pride in his department. Officers and senior firemen, this is for you. Company pride is the key to your crews working harder, training more, and ENJOYING the job at YOUR department. Make sure that your crews aren’t simply “proud to be firefighters”. They should be “proud to be (insert your dept. here) firefighters”. This is huge for retention problems in both the paid AND vollie worlds. If your members are simply “firefighters”, they will have no problem leaving for another department if morale gets bleak in your ‘house. However, if they are proud to be “(insert dept. name) firefighters”, they will be hard pressed to leave under any circumstance. Chiefs and administrators, let your personnel build pride in their department. If they see a need for improving a piece of front-line equipment, let them do it. They know when something isn’t working, they use that equipment…you don’t. Their lives depend on the proper function of that equipment…yours doesn’t. Let them make the department their own. If they want to build tables and other firehouse items, encourage it. If they decide to start an impromptu drill, *GASP*, WITHOUT an officer…let them roll with it. Stop the micro-management, it stunts department growth, quells company pride, and buries morale in a grave of dissolved motivation.
“Ownership” picks up where the “pride” leaves off. Once there is a fair amount of company pride developed, we begin to OWN our company. This means taking everything that happens to the company “to heart”. If something happens to the company, it happens to you. If a tool is dirty or broken, it is YOUR fault because that is YOUR tool. This doesn’t mean that those tools don’t belong to your Brothers, they should feel the same. If something isn’t right, you fix it. Take things personally. Don’t just be a member/employee of your department, make that department YOUR OWN. If every member makes that personal commitment to the company, there will be a dramatic improvement around the ‘house. This all goes back to “company pride”.
With that, I’ll end this post. Feel free to leave a comment, and don’t forget to “share” this post using the buttons below.
We have some big news coming up in the next month or so. Stay tuned and stay safe, “leather-freaks”.