Hump Day S.O.S.
B y D a v i d R h o d e s I f you are in charge of an organization, or even just a small team, you want team members who are loyal. Loyalty is often brought up in formal communication to the organization or even discussed informally at the kitchen table of the firehouse. The leader always wants loyalty, but not much is ever said about the fact that the team members want and need loyalty also. In today’s management culture, the leaders
of organizations and teams are swapped out or moved
around quite often. Developing long-term relation-
ships between the individuals who make up labor and
management is often difficult if not impossible.
This is frustrating to both sides. Often, the frustration from a manager/leader that he/she does not seem
to be getting loyalty from the staff leads to a very
common mistake. When loyalty does not seem to be
what it should, the leader often demands loyalty from
the staff. When this happens, the leader has completely missed the point and has mistaken an expectation of blind followership or compliance with loyalty.
Individual loyalty to another person is an emotional
connection that comes from the heart. It is impossible to demand loyalty. If you do, there may be some
acting going on to try and appease your demands, but
this only lasts as long as you are standing in the presence of the staff. As soon as you are out of sight, the
team and organization go right back to what and how
they were doing things.
I once witnessed a leader in an organization demand
that a certain section become “paperless.” This
organization had purchased software to help lead the
organization toward the objective. As often happens,
the decision on the software and functionality was
made way up the chain of command with no input
from those doing the work. Many conversations took
place, and the leader basically heard the concerns but
did not understand the work. The leader’s evaluation
depended on this transition to a paperless process, so
there was no room for failure. The leader demanded
that the new software be used without question,
and anyone who didn’t comply would be dealt with
accordingly. The staff saw the handwriting on the wall
and went to work figuring out how get the work done
while giving the leader what he wanted.
The organization had not paid for the new software to be fully functional as designed, so the various
sources of information could not be seen in one place
to complete the work of this team. The team came up
with two options that might work. Option one was to
pull the needed information up on the screen and write
down the information needed on a piece of paper.
This would be repeated with several sources to gather
all the information needed to be entered into the new
software. The team discussed the pros and cons. They
realized the potential for error in hand writing the
information and then manually entering it into the
new system. The second option was to bring in a personal printer not connected to the network and print
the information from the various sources needed and
then enter it into the new system. This eliminated one
step and reduced the chances of errors by 50 percent.
Once the printed copies were entered into the new
system, they could be smuggled out of the office in a
personal bag and the printer could be hidden away in
a locker. By not printing through a network printer, it
would be difficult for anyone to know what they were
doing. They went with option two. Once the needed
information was manually entered into the new system,
it functioned properly and there was no need to print
the work orders. The leader’s success was only measured by looking at the network printer stats and the
purchase orders for paper and printer ink.
The leader, who wasn’t around very much, was
happy and could claim credit for “going paperless.”
The new process was more cumbersome for the staff,
but they would rather pay the cost out of their pocket
for printing supplies than deal with the clueless leader.
Of course, the organization’s top leaders praised the
leader and the staff for their outstanding work on
meeting another green initiative. The reality was that
twice as much paper was being used to accomplish
the work as before, there were more opportunities for
errors, and the staff was frustrated and had to hide
what they were doing just to be able to accomplish
their work. Needless to say, the staff had little respect
for their leader or the other leaders of their organization, but the bosses were happy and they were being
left alone to do their work. It is important to note
that this work involved processes for highly advanced
Creating or Earning Loyalty
What does it take to deserve
real loyalty in the fire service?