As some of you may have realized, I was on a vacation. While the first days involved attending to the business of the NFPA Technical Correlating Committee, of which I am a member as a result of my chairmanship of NFPA 1006, the remainder involved a jaunt by RV through some of America’s National Parks and Monuments with my wife, her sister, and my three young children. My wife and “Aunt Patrice” were pretty self-sufficient, as many adults tend to be. The three young ones, however, do require supervision (hopefully you all recognize this as being said tongue-in-cheek, since they are three little girls, ranging from 4 to 9, and each of them is already convinced they know WAY more than Dad).
While the supervision of children isn’t that much of a stretch from my real job (supervising firefighters), it does bear discussion here, since it doesn’t seem that all fire officers have the same understanding. Supervising my children involves primarily looking out for their welfare. It involves insuring they don’t plunge headlong off of one of the many steep overlooks of the Grand Canyon, and that they don’t shove an entire roll of toilet paper into the RV toilet, both of which could result in a disaster requiring lots of paperwork. This actually sounds much like my work at the fire department as well.
Watching children involves logistical functions such as scheduling and insuring they have the right materials for the job, which in my case involves a lot of distraction and could involve duct tape and beer, were it not for the intervention of my wife and Aunt Patrice. Likewise, I could probably fix most of my problems at the fire department with a lot of duct tape and beer, but I know laws prohibit the former and policies prohibit the latter, so I have to actually use the skills of negotiation, coaching, mentoring, and apparently, parenting.
So you see, my job as a father (and sherpa) doesn’t differ really much at all from my job as a Battalion Chief. When you put it in that perspective, seriously, you realize that the people you work with and for require your insight and creative application of problem solving to make the day go safely and effectively. Sun Tzu once said, “Treat your subordinates as you would your beloved children, and they will willingly die for you when you give the order.” While I don’t desire that from either my subordinates or my children, you get the point that if you apply the skills of GOOD parenting to both your children and your charges, they will hopefully respect and obey your orders, and do what is necessary to achieve success.
While my leave was really only marginally scarred by a Philadelphia loss to Chicago (where, coincidentally, Aunt Patrice is from) and the constant updates on the games from she and her friends, I had a great time and actually look forward to singing “Here Come The Hawks” for Fire Daily on the World Wide Web. I got to somewhat enjoy the final game from the comfort of the Maswick Lodge in the beautiful Grand Canyon and when it was all said and done, I said to my children (who Patrice convinced should all be loud, raucous Hawks fans for my benefit) that you know, it’s just a game. When I walked out onto each of those vistas of Zion, Bryce and of course, the Grand Canyon, I realize that ultimately, none of it really matters unless you build something out of all of these experiences, and share them with others. That’s really where leadership falls into the grand scheme of things, and if we can’t enjoy the sunsets and laughing at ourselves from time to time, what good is it all?
I’m glad to be back at work. Enjoy your day with your people as well, and remember, it’s all in how you choose to look at it as to how things will go for you and your team. Maintain a positive perspective and even the big things can be made right again. Be safe.