Fire Service Leadership - Micro Managing

Micro Managing

The dictionary defines Micro Managing as- "To direct or control in a detailed, often meddlesome manner". To me that pretty well sums it up but lets break it down. Being detail oriented is usually not a bad thing as attention to detail sometimes makes a difference between a mediocre situation to an excellent one. Where is the line that denotes how far is too far? Have you ever driven an officer that is constantly telling you "Go left", "Slow down", "speed up", or "Go this way"? What about as a firefighter and you were told how and when to do everything? If you have, then you know where this is going. I have seen so much of this behavior in the fire service it is disheartening.
I have witnessed firefighters not wanting to work with certain officers because of this topic, to the point of asking for a transfer or even using sick leave not to have to deal with it.

What is the answer? What Departments have policies on this subject? None that I know of. How can this be controlled especially if the commanding officer is in complete denial or feels they are doing the job right? Trust me I have been on the receiving end and lost a lot of morale at the time. It is my opinion to have complete trust in my subordinates to the point of letting them do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Of course as officers we are here to do a job and make sure our subordinates do theirs. If one of your crew has a deficiency in an area then work with them on it but don't badger them to death. My personal theory and what I tell my crew is that our job can be stressful enough at times as it is and unneeded stress caused by these issues can sometimes cause them to be so nervous that job performance can be compromised.

If you are in a situation like this maybe a change is needed. Undue stress in our profession is not needed. I feel if I let my Driver do his job he is more focused on the tasks at hand when we pull up on scene. I take a quote from one of the greatest drivers on the job that told his Captain, "Your job doesn't start until you hear the air brakes".
As for the quote, which was said in good humor- Remember, you cant always be too serious.
Stay Safe

Capt. Mike Walker
Little Rock Fire Dept.
Engine 14

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Comment by Rick on October 28, 2009 at 12:30am
Rusty,
I agree that Art's posts are usually on time and accurate but lets expand on this some. The (as I like to call it) post 911 "Fire Service" has alot to do with micro-managing. Organizations and institutions such as the NFA and FDIC etc. have Ideal goals and mottos but generally prove to be networking outlets for current fire service leaders and wanna be fire service leaders. Real quick ask yourself what does it take to be a good fireman, officer or manager? Here is my answer to those questions, a good fireman has balls and common sense, a good officer has balls, common sense and experience and a good manager has balls, common sense, experience and education. If you have the time in , I think its safe to say that pre 911 most of your Chiefs were older with a ton of experience , ran good fire grounds, and had high expectations of the people that worked under them. The post 911 fire service will write off experience for education and youth, education without experience equals an idiot, youth equals a yes man because they cant retire, want to promote up, generally lack experience and have to implement whatever policies the Fire Chief wants to implement without debate, being it right or wrong. Both of the aforementioned will make believable excuses for their departments failures on the nightly news concerning fire fatalities and property loss. I have had the pleasure of meeting 35 year old Fire Chiefs on the rent a chief circut that boast about being on their 5th jurisdiction and while at the NFA for other reasons got to read an EFO book, both experiences made me throw up in my mouth. Based on Art's reply I would have to tell you that the "Fire Service" has entirely to many unqualified managers and to few leaders. Unfortunately the Fire Service isn't looking for leaders based on the way Ray McCormack was treated after the 2009 FDIC conference, managers obviously cant handle the truth. Good luck with your delima. Less fires, the same number of firefighter fatalities, property damage in $ amounts soar and were being led by some of the self proclaimed smartest managers available...just ask them. Welcome to the new fire service....just smile and make your customers happy.

Rick
Comment by Rusty Mancini on October 5, 2009 at 1:39am
Art, I believe your comment was what I was trying to say. Only if I had your knowledge of commenting the correct way ! That's why I love to read your comments.
Comment by Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich on October 4, 2009 at 7:44pm
Officers should understand that leaders can manage, but managers can't lead.
If officers are in their positions for their managerial skills, then expect nothing more than chaos, low morale and behavior bordering on rebellion.
Leaders dispense their orders and allow their people to execute them. Managers issue position papers and then attempts to control every step of an operation.
The manager's head will eventually explode, but the leader will move a department forward and beyond.
Comment by Rusty Mancini on October 3, 2009 at 2:59pm
Mike. I guess what I was trying to say is, you will get a chief or chief officer that really doesn't know what he's doing because he's so wrapped up in trying to change a policy/sog because he has a better idea, or he's one that manages on fear, and then that policy is so far fetch because everyone else knows better and it surly wasn't the right change, then the Indians get frustrated time and time again. That's where the stress factor and job insecurity comes in. Everyone is afraid there going to do something wrong, or to say there walking on egg shells. So that creates a turn over rate in personnel at a fast rate. Morale is at a low , team work is out the window, and on down the line. That's when someone needs to step up to the plate, and advise his supervisor, did you ever wonder why everyone is leaving at a fast pace? I know of a county right now that their EMS is having this same exact problem. So what has happen, they will hire some folks and those folks will let that county pay for all their training while they are employed there, and once their done they go somewhere else to find a job that the supervisor is not micro-managing. Working at EMS can be stressful enough, much less having a manager that has them under the scope constantly !
Comment by Mike Walker on October 3, 2009 at 10:56am
Absolutely right Rusty, which brings up another issue in the broader spectrum. I see that scenario more than not. It seems the type of promotional exams I have seen and been through only give us books to study, a written exam, and an assessment center/evaluation. With that being said if you are a good test taker and you could be coached to do well on an assessment, which almost anyone can, "Bam" your an officer. My question and concern has always been where and at what point do we start trying to promote leaders? Or where is the the leadership/Officer training. When I went through rookie school and as I started on company, the old heads would always say "This job is 75% getting along and the rest is our job". If you think about that maybe its true, 75% of the time we probably are living, eating, sleeping etc. at the firehouse together and the rest of the time is our runs, training an so forth. If that is true why do we always train on the 25% of our job and never on the 75?
Comment by Rusty Mancini on October 3, 2009 at 2:55am
Whats really irritating is a micro-manager that never payed his dues. Promoted either by the good ole boy system or in desperate need of a instant manager in a can.( you know add water and stir, poof here's your manager) Doesn't even know the job so to speak. What happens after being under the scope constantly, you start having a turnover rate of personnel before you even remembering all their names.
Comment by Mike Walker on October 2, 2009 at 3:12pm
Thanks for your comments. I found a place to vent my frustration about issues I feel are present but not usually taken care of by some administrations. My example of the driver is just that, an example of an issue that has a broader spectrum. Of course we as company officers are responsible for the actions of our crew including our drivers on our responses. Currently I have a driver who is an exceptional wheelman and I never have to give orders to him, but as in my example and what I was trying to portray was even if you were the best driver/operator as well as the safest certain company officers still feel the need to constantly bark orders. I hope that clears that issue.
Comment by WestPhilly on October 2, 2009 at 3:05pm
Mike,

I agree with your point that micro-managing can be a problem, but your example focused entirely on driving. An officer is in a very difficult position with respect to driving. He, along with the driver, has the responsibility for an efficient and safe response, but no steering wheel, no gas pedal and no brake pedal to go with it. And telling a driver to "slow down" is almost never miro-managing.

As for the quote; If one of my men (Driver, Tip Man, Pak Man - whoever) ever told me when my job started, well, he would regret it - profoundly.
Comment by Douglas Crowell, Jr. on October 2, 2009 at 2:06pm
I am a career as well as a volly. What suprises me is that I see micromanaging more at my paid dept than at the volunteer depart.

The officers at my paid department are very competent in tactics, but don't seem to trust the firefighter whom they have trained the way they like to operate.

You are right, I have never seen anything in writing concerning this problem and I am not sure how to go about it.

If you find something on it, please post it for us to see.

P.S.- I love the quote!

Doug

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