Do You Suffer from 'Thumbprint Management?'

It is only the leader's thumb pressing down firmly upon your head which counts for anything in their book.


As is often my way, this visit with you was created to provide a number of positive hints and clues which can assist you in becoming a better fire officer and leader. This commentary was created in order to offer you some survival skills. These skills are the hard-earned, battle-scared remnants which are the product of what I now believe to be a misspent adulthood.

There are situations and circumstances where it is possible that you may end up laboring on behalf of a person who does not possess a clue about people and how to interact successfully with them. These folks tend to operate from an inward focus and only dwell on those things that are of importance to themselves. Your job satisfaction, your family life or your enjoyment of life in general is of absolutely no consequence to them. They operate under the following three operational criteria:

  1. They want!!!
  2. They want!!!
  3. They want!!!

Please note that nothing about you appears here. You are not a part of the equation.  It is only their thumb pressing down firmly upon your head which counts for anything in their book.  Hence it is my conscious decision to name this column “Thumbprint Management.”  Sometimes things are so bad that if people look closely, they can actually see the imprint of the thumb on the top of your head.  These are the extreme cases, but they do happen.  Trust me when I suggest that I have been there and done that when dealing with folks like this.

If this form of leadership seems a bit one way to you, then you are beginning to awaken to the point of this premise. The real problem here is quite simple.  It is probable that many of you cannot simply say, “Stick all of this in your ear,” and walk away.  You have to take what is dished out, because the alternative is either:

  1. Unemployment, if you are a career fire person like me, or
  2. Banishment from something that is a great part of your life should you be a volunteer.

It is crucial for me to stress to you that in my personal experience the fire service is probably the best job/hobby/vocation/avocation in the world, outside of being a ware-tester in an ice cream factory, or a piano player in a brothel.  I am here to tell you that you must never let someone else who has a jaundiced view of the fire service world have their way and ruin it for you. 

Sadly I have seen folks who took great delight in simply creating havoc in other people's lives. It is time to ask you to be tough my friends. I want you to remember that if you quit these people win. That is bad for the good people who are looking to you for help in time of crisis. You must be strong for the people you are charged with protecting; be they fire fighting people, EMS troops, or the citizens of you fair town.

At this point it is critical for you to understand that parts of what follow are for information and edification; other parts are designed to cause you to chuckle as you deal with the nuisances of daily life.  You need not keep the information separate from the humor.

Just do not use the wrong information in the wrong spot. But remember, smile a lot.  Sometimes a smile can really confuse people.  Use your smiles and your praise as the situation dictates.  Remember, however, there are times when an error, such as your smile at the wrong time, can cause the other side to really stick the square peg of life into the round hole of your existence.

Let me now move to what I believe are the survival skills necessary for situations such as these.  The first step is to discover just what it is that the boss wants you to do.  Sometimes it is obvious. They yell at you.  They tell you to jump three feet off the floor.  Your task here is obvious.  Give that person the requisite three feet of elevation

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