Everyone knows someone who's entered the "Golden Slump". It is the person on your department, or a neighboring department, who has themselves out to the professional pasture. Don't pretend this person doesn't exist, we all know better! The "Golden Slump" usually plagues people who have earned a gold badge but have lost steam when it comes to advancing their careers and the organizations they work for.
Do you seek out new ways to overcome challenges within your organization or simply do the same thing the rest of the departments in your area are doing? What about being visionary? What about starting new traditions? Do you strive to exceed your performance objectives or settle for doing just enough to get by?
While in some instances re-inventing the wheel is not necessary, those who conform to the thought process that "just because my neighbor is doing it I should too" are cheating themselves out of reaching their true potential as creative leaders. Sure by using someone else's ideas you can create a "progressive " department, but that word needs to be thrown out of our vocabulary. Lets talk about being visionaries instead, and about being one of those people in the fire service who truly lead instead of simply follow.
The time we occupy at a senior fire service management level position should be spent applying our knowledge and experience to reorganizing and examining the way we do business. We should be tapping the visionary within us striving for new services and outlets for our specialized resources. After all, doesn't everyone say, "the fire service can't survive off of putting out fires alone?" What if there is still more for us on the horizon other than providing fire suppression, emergency medical services, haz-mat, and technical rescue. If we look back years ago, people could have never imagined our departments would be providing those services. Honestly who would have thought, even five years ago, that we would be practicing the kind of chemical and biological weapons response activities that we are today.
So how did we get to this point? What happened that has sparked every major turning point within the fire service? Vision is what happened. Someone desired to achieve more then what was expected, both in how they view their job and how their role fit within the mission of their organization.
Sometimes as managers we become so absorbed with making goals for others that we can tend to neglect making them for ourselves. This can lead to a motivation spiral where with time you can end up feeling like those around you have direction but you are seemingly unable to gain momentum.
Remaining a proactive member of your department goes back to providing for a simple need. The need for achievement is what seems to diminish when fire service professionals reach the perceived pinnacle of the their fire service careers. They tend to lose sight of the next step or they view their position as the final section on their professional growth chart. Why is it that so many at this place decide to ride out the rest of their days doing little more than counting pay checks?
There are two major roadblocks that are preventing people who have fallen into this rut of inactivity from getting out. 1. Losing the desire/motivation to continue to achieving and 2. The lack of new goals set for oneself that present some level of challenge. The key to getting past this "mid-career crisis" is to find ways to meet your achievement needs. A person who has a strong desire to achieve will search out things like challenging goals, and they will want to preserve competitive work activities instead of settling for remedial tasks. Each of us should want to be seen as a vital and valuable part of our organizations, not as someone who does little or nothing to bring productivity and growth to the department and its programs.
As a starting point to finding your way back from the doldrums of pencil pushing and paper filing, here is a good way to remind yourself what it really is that you are coming to work for everyday. At a minimum of once a year each of us should sit down and write a justification of why our activities, as representative of our job descriptions, go to improve our organization. Let it serve as a reminder that even though professional goals may be achieved there is still room to advance not only yourself, but also the department as a whole.
Use the justification as a professional growth thermometer to rate and manipulate the contributions you make. We are being asked by city managers and tax payers to justify our activities as public service organizations, but before we can successfully do that let's make sure we can justify our own as individuals. Creating a vision, setting goals, and thirsting for the achievement gained by completing them is a sure fire way to keep your career from pre-maturely running out of steam.