Politics and Tactics with Frank Ricci, Anthony Avillo and Chris Pepler

Politics and Tactics with Frank Ricci, Anthony Avillo and Chris Pepler

Monday, December 10, 2012

Funeral for a friend and questions for you:

From Fire Engineering:
Photo by Pete Santos
Funeral for a friend and questions for you:  

Six to eight firefighters will be chosen to carry the casket of our friend. Any less we would be absurd even in ideal conditions. They will have to bear the weight of the member, endure environmental conditions and possibly negotiate stairs. 

It is likely that the family will select a command officer from your department to oversee the funeral. This solemn responsibility may include choosing the pallbearers.

If told by the grieving widow that she only wanted two pallbearers the department liaison would not hesitate to explain the necessity of a full complement. They would advocate for what is in the best interest of the department and the family.

Incredibly, At this point we are all in agreement. So why would the same command officer fail the living, fail our communities and fail our families without rebuke?

If it takes a minimum of six to carry a casket in ideal conditions, how can our leaders justify a Rapid Intervention Team of two firefighters or only sending one company to the highway. How can they justify responding to a house fire with three floors with less than twenty-four firefighters or responding to a commercial fire with the same response as a house fire?

The fact is they can’t. They have succumbed to social norms placing us all at risk. They use banter at the table and complain about budget cuts, the mayor, policy, damaging equipment, city council or the size of their department. All these arguments fall short.

We all seem to be in agreement that IAFF, Metro Chiefs and the IAFC should continue their work on staffing. However at the same time we handcuff them.  Our efforts on a national level will fail if we don’t demand the proper response at home.

We have determined who the enemy is. It is ourselves! We have done more with less creating a new minimum standard. I have long stated, “There is no Politian on scene that says you can’t call for the help you need to keep your firefighters safe.”

You have the power to pick up the radio and call for resources. You have the power to stand apart and become part of the solution. We all have the training, knowledge and experience to justify our actions. You have the responsibility to lead.

Are you the leader who would have two firefighters carry a coffin that requires six?

Failure to lead is easy to recognize. Take a look at the following eight questions and conduct your own self-evaluation and than try to justify your actions to a widow or the court.

 1.  Will you ensure your RIT is staffed with at least four and replaced them when utilized?
 2.  Will you strike a 2nd based off potential of a commercial structure fire?
 3. Will you request an additional company to assist you in getting a 2 ½ line in place for any commercial structure regardless how light the smoke is?
4.   Will you ask for another company to get your line in place if help is needed?
5. Will you call for mutual aid for a two to three story house if less than twenty-four firefighters are on the assignment?
6. Will you call for an additional piece of apparatus if traffic is moving to protect the scene on the highway?
7.Will you call for a second if all your resources are working and no reserves are on scene?
8.   Would you advocate to a widow that only two or three firefighters should carry the coffin our friend?

A common leadership axiom tells us to “wear your rank” accepting responsibility for your position and your members is the first step. Most of the eight issues can be addressed by a simple request on the radio.

Everyone I know would love to come to your fire. It is who we are and what we do. Every role needs to be filled to guarantee our safety. It is easier to pick up the radio than bear the weight of a friend at a funeral. 

Do not turn your back on your responsibility. To learn more check out the last half of this months radio show

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rumor and insult is the poor mans argument

 Rumor and insult is the poor mans argument

With the close of the election we will get a needed break from the attack adds and half-truths.  Regretfully we will still experience it at a meeting or sitting at the kitchen table listening intently to the latest rumor.

It seems at times there is no way to see through the smoke. Sometimes the    banter is harmless and other times it is meant to demonize an opponent. The most damaging insult or rumor is one that is invoked by an emotional response. We must all guard against this and let cooler heads prevail.

Those in leadership positions or aspiring to leadership must realize that they cannot be part of rumor mill or they will be held accountable for their participation.

As a leader (especially in a political sense) there will come a time when you will have to shine a light on someone’s actions or motives. Always try to attack positions not people. Be mindful that your opponent may be an allay on another issue.    

So why is it so hard for our leaders to stick to motives and the issues? No side holds the moral high ground here. Both sides employ the same tactics. The answer is simple because attacks work. Misinformation and attacks has become as valid as the truth.

Some point to modern day politics, political action committees and the anonyms comments online as the source of contention. Forgetting that pennames and negative pamphlets where common place in our Revolution. The medium may have changed, but the impact is the same.

These attacks are not new. The Coffin Handbills of 1828 represented the start of utilizing surrogates to fund and attack ones opponents. The handbills (political pamphlets) attacked Andrew Jackson for executing deserters in the war of 1812.

Now I feel this is an issue was fair game for a public debate, however John Quincy Adams and his surrogate did not stop there. They followed up with claims about Jackson’s wife and his mother. Going as far as claiming his mother was a prostitute who served British troops.  

Utilizing Political Action Committees and surrogates is necessary to advocate for our service. Our goal should be to stay positive and on message.  We have a responsibility not to betray our service. While the politics of personal destruction continue to dominate the political landscape. We all lose when we stop talking about the issues and continue to talk about each other. 

My father taught me that the worst individual you know would have an average of twenty people attend their funeral. He continued that we must look to find the value in all. Often it comes down to opening yourself up to see a different perspective.  My father is a wise man, but left me to ponder, how do we know they didn’t show up to the funeral just to make sure the bastard was dead?” 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Customer Service Doesn't Matter

Customer Service Doesn’t Matter
By Frank Ricci “Politics & Tactics”

Your fire department is missing the mark. We have failed to understand the game and we have paid a political price for our lack of vision.

Stand back and watch what happens the next time a stranger walks into your firehouse. Chances are the watchmen or firefighter will stay seated and ask how can I help you.

Even if they stand and are helpful we still fail as a service. The customer service era that started in the late 80s focusing on the tangible was the foundation for our current mindset. The meaning was to do the best job possible for our customers, but fell short of exceeding expectations. It was about providing the best service and not providing the best experience.

To be clear your department can provide great customer service and still not deliver on creating a great experience. Experience is based on emotion, etiquette and execution.

Lets go back to our friend (boss, citizen) entering the firehouse. Would the experience of our friend improve if the firefighter walked toward the visitor, made eye contact, introduce him or herself, and shook their hands, all while smiling?

Simon Cooper past CEO of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company mastered providing an experience. He ran a chain where the customers could go down the street and stay for a lower rate with similar amenities. However where the other top hotels fell to the Ritz was by failing to provide consistency with the intangibles. The greetings, attention to detail and the simple smile, ironically these are the things that are not affected by budget cuts and cost nothing.  

As the fire service we need to move from the customer service model and move to a customer engagement model. 

It comes down to the perception of our customers. I tell my members at each alarm we can have a choice to leave the customer with one of three impressions.

1.                     The meeting results in indifference where nothing in gained and only an opportunity is missed.

2.                     The experience is poor and they leave the meeting thinking you are an ass.

3.                     You master customer engagement and provide the best experience possible while making a new friend.

Number three is more than a great introduction. It is about wrapping our friends in cotton. First and last impressions matter to our friends.

Take the time to hold a hand of an elderly customer letting them know that the medic crew is going to take great care of them.

Take the time after the call to answer questions and put the neighborhood kids on the fire engine. Remember you are there on our customer’s worst day. It is up to you to make the difference.

These customers are the friends who will write letters to the editor, attend government meetings and come out to fight the closing of a station.

Engagement is the key to the lasting impression that will ensure and bypass customer service. We can and must do better. Our core values and the work in the late 80s will serve as the foundation, yet we can not rest. Now is the time to build and move our service to the front.