Are We All on the Same Page?

Just the other day I wrote an in-depth article for Firehouse magazine. The topic of this article involved a common-sense presentation of the findings of my doctoral dissertation. I felt that the academic version should be translated into the language of...

My part appeared to be off by a couple of measures. I ended up with a really exposed tuba solo that just did not seem right. I found myself having to skip measures to keep up with the melody. However, I adjusted to the situation and did not stand out too badly.

During the break between services I asked our band director to take a look at my part and see if something was amiss. As I returned from coffee break she informed me that she had accidentally added two measures to my part. The corrected version was much easier to play and made more sense. Of course the pastor and his associate liked my "solo" during the first service so much that the director added in a few extra bass notes for me to lead the band in at various parts in the music.

The band leader did her job. That is how a leader functions. They lay out their vision for the organization, much like a composer or arranger writes their sheet music. They then pay continual attention to the manner in which their organization is working and keeps an eye (or ear) out for the wrong notes which can stymie the group's progress. Corrections are then made as needed.

This is a critical process for any organization. Let me share a real sad story with you about a situation where it did not happen.

There is a small church near me which recently experienced vision and coordination problems with their new pastor. It seems that one Sunday a member of the congregation stood up during the period when messages from the congregation were traditionally addressed to the members of the congregation, and thanked a number of people for their efforts at a recent church event.

Apparently this did not sit well with the new pastor and she let the congregation know in no uncertain terms that she did not like this. Further she stated that this practice of standing for announcements during "her" service would cease immediately. At the point, as I hear the story from friends, the congregation began to stand up and leave the church. They voiced their displeasure by voting with their feet.

Just the other day I saw a moving van out in front of the church parsonage. The belongings of the pastor were being loaded for her move to a new place. My sources tell me that a new pastor will be in the pulpit come October 1. Is this not a train wreck that could have been prevented by a bit of proactive communications between the pastor and the congregation? I think it is.

How often have you seen leaders who seem to have a path in mind for their organization that is out of step with the direction towards which the group has classically been headed? Are these people so full of themselves that they think their all-knowing powers of omniscience are greater than the collective wisdom of the group? Or are they just stupid?

It is a shame to see such instances of head-body disconnect. Other buddies of mine have labeled this phenomenon rectal-cranial inversion. Perhaps the leader's new direction was a good one, however, sadly, they failed to articulate their vision and act for input from the affected members. This would be like a band leader waving their baton and being met by a round of total silence among the musicians charged with bringing the score to life.

So it is also within our world. Any organizational success which a fire chief might ever hope to achieve must be well-rooted in the soil of the world wherein they operate. They members of the organization make things run and create the successes. Given that many fire departments change their leaders every year or two, this tendency to go off in a new direction can provide the fertilizer for any hidden seeds of discontent that are already planted in your organizational fields.

How hard is it for an individual to call a team meeting? How hard is it to ask for help in charting the future course of any fire department? How hard is it to admit that you do not know it all and that you need help? If experience has taught us anything, it has taught us that people like honesty and that they also like to be asked for their thoughts. Further, people really like to have their opinions weighed in a fair and open manner.