When our youngest was seven years old we gave him a police siren for his bicycle for Christmas. For two days he chased every visitor that came down the road on the way to our house, even pulling one of them over and suggesting that only a smuggled piece of Mom’s mince pie would stave off a speeding ticket. That, as it turned out, was the beginning of a career.
Early in his real law enforcement career I used to ride patrol shifts with him. To be truthful, when he decided that being a policeman was his career choice his Mother and I were not all that excited. Proud, yes. Excited, no. But when I rode that first shift with him I understood the attraction and recognized that his career and mine have much in common. Both are service oriented, require application of a wide range of skillsets, and are focused on people.
At its heart FM is about providing excellent customer service that allows our organizations to perform their best. In doing so, we interact with all sorts of people and provide a wide variety of services. One of the risks we face is complacency. Sometimes it can seem as if there is nothing new to get the juices stirring. When that happens watch out. We do well to adopt a favored law enforcement mantra, “there is no such thing as a routine call.” Being alert for the unexpected and attuned to customer needs, perspectives, and agendas positions us for fast and appropriate action.
One of the advantages of observing my son at work has been watching the multiple facets of his character come to the fore as each situation requires. I’ve seen him in very tender moments helping people in distress, calming a parent with a lost child, or administering aid to an accident victim. I’ve also seen him take control of chaotic situations by quiet projection of presence and purpose. Doesn’t that remind you of FM? We never know where the next phone call or project will take us, but we can be sure it will challenge us and require us to be nimble of mind. Understanding which stance to take and which tool to use for each situation is key to successful delivery of our services.
One incident I observed illustrated an important crisis management principle. It was in the wee hours of the morning and it had been a slow night. We were enjoying the conversation but it had been really quiet for hours. Then the radio beeped and in seconds we went from near boredom to a high speed code response…to a bar fight. A biker bar fight, no less. As the first arriving unit he could have waited for back up to arrive. Instead he stood in the doorway and conducted a very fast data scan, singled out the guy doing the most damage, and charged in to take him down. Pretty much like you and I do when faced with a serious issue, right? We pivot quickly, gather intelligence without wasting opportunity, develop action plans, and then we act – quickly, intelligently, and with focus and energy.
As FM’s we should be in the business of helping lead our organizations forward. We do this not by being only reactive to business conditions, but by anticipating them. One of FM’s greatest contributions is thought leadership: Understanding the nuances of the enterprise, being aware of emerging threats and opportunities, and developing or suggesting strategies and actions that protect and serve the enterprise. In my son’s business he is often called upon to develop tactics and lead teams in high threat situations. Our leadership challenges may not be so physically dangerous but they are no less important to the organizations and people we serve.
I no longer get to go on the ride-along shifts as he is now a SWAT team leader, but I remember the time I told him that our jobs were essentially the same. After all, we both rely on real time data, think strategically, manage crises, and exercise insight and wisdom in high stress conditions. He looked at me and chuckled, nodding his assent before letting go a soft “mmm hmmm.”
I am sure he meant it kindly.