May: Love Made Visible and Achieving the Impossible

The Lebanese poet, Kalil Kibran said that "work is love made visible."

If ever there were a physical manifestation of these words in action, it is firefighting: the entire brother and sisterhood of our profession. The work we do reveals the humanity and love that drives us to perform those actions that many in our society call "noble" deeds.

Love is a strange animal. It propels us to do things we think we might not be able to do. How many people do you know who have the privilege to do what we do every day?  What does this mean for motivating people to achieve organizational excellence, innovation and change? It means that, as firefighters, we first seek to make our own individual values synonymous with those of the organization. Think about that for a minute. It is a major commitment if you really believe it. How much are you really willing to give of yourself to your department, and the entire fire service, to achieve its mission of protecting lives and property?

How much are you willing to do to be the role model you can be for your department, your community and your family? 

This job is 24/7. We are not like other professions. We are closer to those we serve every day and every hour than any profession in our society -- just down the street, among the families in our communities. We are first on the scene and last to leave it. That means that we make a major contribution to our society. And we do it through our organizations, our own fire departments.

As members of our department we need to make things happen, to innovate because the needs of our citizens are changing as rapidly as their demographics 

It is virtually impossible to motivate another person to do something. Motivation comes from within each of us - from the love of the profession.  It comes from loving something so very much that you never give up on driving forward to make the organization the best it can be in achieving its mission.

What do I mean by mission? Simon Sinek has written a wonderful book called: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action. This book should be on the desk of every fire officer and in the locker of every firefighter. It is simply written and explains how organizational innovation and change come from within each individual in the organization. The "why" is the mission.  It is the reason deep in the gut that outlines the actions we will perform to achieve it. That "why" starts with our chief officers: our organizational leadership. The "what" derives from the mission.

Our officers are engaged in the "what."  They determine what resources and actions we need to take to achieve  the "why"  Then, we come to the place where the "rubber meets the road." This is the "how."  These are the actions that bring the mission to life. We can only do this as firefighters. This is when we approach the high ground of organizational excellence. This is where the love of the profession  connects with the love of our family, community and department.  And if you don't love your department now, then work to make it one that you do love. Be a leader of one.

Make that love "visible." Your department will benefit from it, the community will benefit and so will your family. Mostly, you will benefit because you will know in your heart that your love for the profession is so deep that you will not give up until you have achieved the excellence you knew you could. You did not become a firefighter by accident. You earned it. Now go do it!