What happens when the kittens escape their box

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This article is a must read for Firefighters and Officers. Just read it and follow the link to the rest of the article. Or follow this link and read the whole thing on the FireRescue.com.

By Chase N. Sargent

Company Officer Development: Kitty Litter

What happens when the kittens escape their box

“Morale is one of the most elusive concepts a leader has to deal with, and it is one that can easily lead a leader astray. It is usually mixed up with the debate as to the better way to run a company … as a ‘taut ship’ or as a ‘happy ship.’ My experience and observation tell me that a taut ship, with high standards, fairly administered, is always the happiest.”
— Louis B. Lundborg

“A commander must train his subordinate commanders, and his own staff, to work on a set of verbal orders. Those who cannot be trusted to act on clear and concise verbal orders, but want everything in writing, are useless.”
— Viscount Montgomery of Alamein

The story you are about to read describes an incident in which company officers from my department failed to “keep the kittens in the box.” What does that mean? Keeping the kittens in the box takes many forms. First, it’s about making sure people understand what’s acceptable and what isn’t acceptable as a supervisor. Second, it’s about understanding, and maybe even agreeing with someone’s position, but being wise enough in the ways and protocols of the organization to stop your subordinates from hurting themselves. Finally, it’s about using a mistake as a learning tool. The company officers involved in this story failed to do these things, and as a result, cost one firefighter his acting assignment, created discontent among members of the organization, raised questions without answers and created a gap between the ranks. There are lots of lessons to learn here, so pay attention, young Jedi.

First, let me acknowledge that I don’t know every detail of the event, because it involved a personnel issue that occurred just as I was retiring. But in talking to many of the parties involved, I’ve pieced together enough information to determine that company officers failed to keep the kittens in the box on more than one occasion — and the cascading effects ultimately cost someone their job. (Note: I’ve changed the names of those involved to protect both the innocent and the guilty.)

Our story begins with the annual EMT recertification process. As the department had done for almost 18 years, it issued notices through the chain of command and directly to individual firefighters about the required EMT two-day refresher course. As fate would have it, five of our intrepid members did not show up for the training. In essence, they were not at their assigned work location when they were supposed to be, and were, for all intents and purposes, absent without leave (AWOL). One of the requirements of the job: Show up at the right place, at the right time, in the right uniform. It’s really not that hard. (Read the rest of the article)

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