Getting Closer to Your Men
The successful fire chief must necessarily be close to his men. This means just what it implies in every sense of the word. He must be in a way a father and counsellor to them, as well as their commander. He must watch their interests with care, and he must, above all, come into intimate contact with them and their aspirations. He must know as nearly as possible their individual problems and difficulties, and he must encourage them to bring their troubles to him for advice and council.
A wise move in the direction of intimate touch was made by Chief Kenlon, of New York City, in meeting with the Uniformed Firemen’s Association. On this occasion the chief prefaced his address on co-operation by quizzing four representatives of the men as to what they would have done were they in the chief’s shoes, and given perfect freedom, to wlvat extent they would have differed from his policy toward them. The replies, it is interesting to note, were uniformly that the chief had done all that could have been done for them and that each was well satisfied with his treatment by his commanding officer.
This method of getting in close touch with his men should appeal strongly to other heads of fire departments. The chief can come very close to his men by such a meeting with them. I ie can get to know their viewpoint and if they have any grievances they can air them on this occasion and a mutual understanding can he arrived at. ()therwise there might remain misunderstanding and smoldering discontent, than which there is no more demo ra I i zi ng i ti thien ce.
Last of all, but not least in importance, by such personal contact the men can come to a more intimate and close knowledge of the man who is their superior. By meeting him thus, by getting his personal viewpoint on all matters of fire department practice and discipline, the men will gain respect and regard for their commanding officer, in a way that otherwise can, especially in a large department like that of New York City, only he accomplished through hearsay, and that distantly and imperfectly.