By: Craig McClure
Outside of a planned training, when was the last time you had all the skilled people you wanted on scene? So, when reality strikes, the leader has to delegate the tasks and spread the skilled people carefully. The pitfalls in this situation are many. Tasks fall through the cracks, critical resources get reassigned, too many gating factors fall to one person, and span of control can get, well, out of control.
How do you solve it? Get very comfortable saying the words, “Who do you work for?” And say them often. It can be a question as well as a statement and it works beautifully both ways.
First, to keep accountability and span of control in check I like to keep clear org charts (I usually sketch one in my notebook) and remind people who they work for. I can’t solve all the problems so I need to empower others to do their job. Give them an achievable objective, the tools to do it, and then let them go. I know who works for me so when someone who doesn’t work directly for me seeks direction I answer with, “Who do you work for?” Let their boss be the boss. If I get in the middle and give direction to someone who doesn’t work directly for me I’ve undermined the people I’m supposed to be empowering. They can’t solve my problems if I do that. Every task has a leader and every leader a boss. So here, “Who do you work for?” is a reminder for everyone to, including me, to stay on task, and in line.
Second, whether I’m an IC or a Safety Officer I like to check how organized and clear our structure is by tapping anyone on the shoulder and asking, “Who do you work for?” They should be able to answer this question quickly and definitively with only one name. If they can’t answer or are unsure, that situation needs immediate clarity and they need to be connected directly to a boss. If they answer with two names correct it immediately. A worker with two bosses is set up for failure. Everyone has a boss and only one boss.
All situations hit snags and nothing ever goes just as planned. So keep your eyes on the whole picture and ask, “Who do you work for?
** Yes, I know that “whom do you work for” is the correct grammar but you just try using “whom” on scene and let me know how that goes!
Founder of Crackerjack Fire Response Specialists