What does it mean to be “good enough”? Is being good enough sufficient to meet the needs of our customers? Is it good enough to meet safety requirements? Is being “good enough” good enough to keep civilians from being killed, much less firefighters?
When we establish a standard, the document is a minimum definition of what is “good enough”. While standards may prove irksome to people, those standards keep what is featured in the attached picture from being termed a “truck company” in some communities. When we have standards it keeps the old “five bubbas, a pound hound and a pickup truck” example that I like to use from time to time from being called an “urban search and rescue task force”.
As an officer, and more accurately, a leader, what is “good enough” for you to proclaim that title? Is it a minimum standard of education and experience? Or was it that you had the lowest social security number? Or even worse, was it because you are a “nice guy”? That would be the ol’ elected standard, in some places.
In most businesses, unless you are related to the boss by blood or marriage, there are certain standards required for achieving the pinnacle of success in your company. It may very well have been that you were the person who lasted the longest, but chances are that you had some kind of a spark of leadership somewhere if someone decided to put you in charge. Fogging a mirror might not be the only criteria, but if you fogged it the best, maybe that was the deciding factor.
As a leader in emergency services, “good enough” gets personnel injured or killed. “Good enough” costs the public millions of dollars in waste. “Good enough” is the price for an annual fire loss that leads all industrialized nations. So long as we continue to settle for the status quo, “good enough” is good enough.
If you fail to recognize that just being good enough isn’t, take this as a call to achieve more than that. By establishing vision, promoting core values, declaring a mission and goals, and doing something to tie all those things together, you take your team from existing to succeeding. By seeking innovation and more effective practices, we strive for excellence. By observing the mistakes of others and instead of ridiculing those people, learning constructively from their experience, we avoid having to make the hard (and painful) mistakes ourselves.
No one reading this probably feels like “good enough” is the answer to anything; by reading this, it shows you are probably interested in motivating yourself and your team and are looking for answers. If anything, be reassured, “good enough” has killed and injured more of us than any one factor, by way of heart attacks, falls, drownings, vehicle accidents, and any other number of causes of firefighter deaths. It shows itself in complacency and in acceptance that what the current situation is cannot be altered. I challenge you to look into your soul and wonder if by standing around and doing nothing, you were leading, or simply accepting your role in the line.
Be excellent and strive for being the best. It will keep you and your crew alive and it will better serve the public you are charged with protecting.