“man, people are always putting me down … like when someone says I did a good job at something. I feast on that. It makes me want to do more, like I could live on that attaboy for weeks”.
Something that comes to mind is a teacher I had in third grade. It seemed nothing I ever did was good enough for her. To this day I remember how she used her words to put me down. To basically say if I was struggling with third grade that life, in general, was going to rock me.
Flash forward back to today at the firehouse.
It’s super easy to do. You look over at that recruit and see him doing something wrong. You laugh and make fun with the other guys but do you go over there and correct the action? It’s okay to make jokes. The fire service runs on jokes, but only partly. There has to be a mixture, like an engine, to make this thing run. If you plant seeds of doubt in your men you can’t be surprised when they aren’t confident.
Listen up cause it’s about to get real.
You have to erase that doubt, build confidence, put them back in the zone, let them do it ( even if it’s wrong) and then correct the action as needed.
The same goes for raising up children. It’s sometimes hard to think of the officer as the father of the house because you then naturally equate firemen to children. I’m not saying they are childish, that’s not it at all …It’s about taking the love and attention of a father and bringing it to the firehouse while taking the leadership and responsibility of the officer and bringing it home.
Love and Attention
The fact that “love” makes an appearance in the bible 310 times states it’s importance in our everyday life. We all know it, Christian or not- “for God so loved the world he SENT his only son” but did you know in John 20:21 Jesus says “just as the Father sent me, I send you”. People struggle every day with purpose, there is a multi-million dollar self-help business. WHY AM I HERE. You are here to love. I can go deep into that if you want… real deep.
Your children, your team, and even your chiefs need you to love on them. There are so many outside forces you cannot see acting on them every day, hour, and minute that are steady breaking them down. You don’t have to be one of those forces.
I believe, should you take the time to build them up you will fortify them. You will make in them a hostile ground for seeds of doubt. They will never have a chance to fester or grow because they will know their identity. Just as you learn your identity in Christ let your children, your team, learn their identity in you when you just show them love.
The importance of attention cannot be understated here. I could have used this section to define “Love”, but I think that each situation is going to merit special responses. Keeping yourself alert to the changes in environment, attitude, and actions of your men or your children will dictate the response of a loving father. Think about simply removing them from an overly hostile environment when they might want to stay (fire ran a little too hot?).
Keeping a watchful eye for changes in attitude. Children and Firemen similarly respond to harmful stimuli. They clam up and meet their needs often in harmful ways. Keeping watch over changes in attitude and being present for them to talk it out will be of the most help. This isn’t to say you should force them to talk to you. As an officer your trustworthiness and open door will speak volumes for itself; can we honestly act like it’s any different at home? If you blow up at the drop of a hat or over the small things they will never bring you the big things.
Lastly in regards to love and attention is to their actions. Often times your children will act out (for attention). I’m not here to guilt trip because I am guilty of it myself, but perhaps when you see this it’s a cue to get further involved in the going ons at your house and then check yourself. Are they acting out for me or are they mirroring me? All of these points on love and attention have to be initiated and run concurrently. They all compliment each other and put you at an advantage for building your men or children up so no one stands to break them down.
Leadership and Responsibility.
There is a toxic occurrence at my department. When you achieve the rank of officer you are called into the office, given a gold badge and your new station assignment. This should be the biggest deal. As a leader you are entrusting someone else with your FLOCK. This practice diminishes the importance of that position but at the same time it doesn’t have to define you as a new leader.
When our daughter was born and we left the hospital I kept expecting someone to run out and perhaps check our credentials, or schedule a home visit to make sure we were in fact capable of leading this girl in a life worth living. Nobody had to throw me a party or celebrate my achievements for me to know it was time for me to step up and lead. The well being of your children and crew depend on your willingness to step up. People often act like a leader was just born with that trait, but I believe it is a skill. It has to be learned, practiced, and (if possible) perfected. Much like you aren’t born to be a father you aren’t born to be a captain or a chief. You have a responsibility to grow your skills in leadership and fatherhood and in doing so you will create an environment that produces leaders (and fathers).
With these things in mind I want to remind you that iron sharpens iron. You have a responsibility to build each other up. Breaking someone down serves no purpose. It does not make you look better or affect your skills. For a moment it may diminish how someone sees someone else but in the grand scheme of things it will affect how people see you.
How much more we can do as a service, as a family, if we all just believed we could and believed in each other. As a Father, as an officer, you can create an environment of growth or an environment of destruction. I had it asked to me long ago, are you a thermometer or a thermostat. As someone trusted with leadership, trusted with a flock. You must be a thermostat. Don’t just tell the temperature, SET IT.