The Organizational Missionary: Planting the Seeds of Change

This week it is my plan to create a ripple in the waters of the American Fire Service. Let me explain the nature of the stone that I am tossing into our collective pond.

Unfortunately it does not always happen this way. In far too many instances, the leader simply sits down and thinks. The leader then works to create their vision for the future of the organization: theirs and theirs alone. That is all well and good, as far as it goes. Unfortunately, far too many fire chiefs (and some pastors I am sure) stop right there.

Our leaders fail to seek input from the people who will be tasked with doing all of the dirty work required to fulfill the mission of the organization. They adopt the age-old posture which uses the motto made famous by a 1950's television show: "Father Knows Best." My friends, this just does not work any more (if it ever did). We need to actively solicit a by-in from the members of our team, be it a fire department or a faith-based organization.

These people claim they want their people to think, however they lack the ability to trust these people enough to allow them to think. Rather than turning their people loose, they put them in a box and require them to do just exactly what they are told.

It is my feeling that it would be far better for these leaders to involve their folks in the process of planning and vision and then seek their input. In this way they will be allowed to develop a spirit of buy-in to the new vision which needs to be developed in many parts of our nation.

This approach will allow you to create an organization with a shared vision and shared values. In organizations like this people will work hard to get the job done so that they do not disappoint their fellow travelers. This tactic will allow you to develop an organization where hard work and dedication are the rule rather than the exception. It will be this way because you have allowed them to create an environment wherein these attributes are encouraged and expected.

It is the diligent farmer who seeks to grow their crop well. They become devoted to tilling the soil and harvesting the crops. In the case described here it may well be that you have to fertilize the soil with the power of dedication, love, honesty, and patience (mostly patience). In a selfish world, these attributes are little known and not often used. However their effect remains as it always has. You will also have to be mentally tough and morally strong, for your loving actions will almost certainly be met by cynicism and distain. You may end up getting your hands dirty planting the seeds of organizational improvement. So be it.

Do not worry. You are battling for a better fire service. I have been assured that the Lord is on the side of the right. I believe that with all of my heart and soul.