I find this article very interesting, and very applicable to the fire service today. Particularly in the parallels between Goldman Sachs lack of customer/client priority, and the fire departments (some, not all) lack of placing community needs first.
"...the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money."
It seems that of late, our citizens, and communities are being sidelined in the way that fire department and union officials approach contract negotiations, and pay scales (nobody should have gotten into public service to get rich), and in the way that municipal and department policies are written with more emphasis on protecting the organization than on providing service (which without people desiring the service there would be no need for the department or the policy).
I was attracted to the fire service, because of its role in serving the community, and for what it stands for. We should be proud every morning to put on our badge and fulfill the tenets that it stands for: loyalty, piety, frankness, bravery, honor, contempt of death, assistance to the weak, and respect. Failing to uphold any of these values, is failure to do the job that we are hired to do (paid or volunteer).
"The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing."
Leadership speaker and author, John Maxwell, says that everything rises and falls on leadership. The truth of this statement is nowhere more evident than in the fire service. A chief that is focused on serving the community creates lietenants, and firefighters that are focused on community service. A chief focused on personal power and authority, revenues, and acquiescing to municpal leaders (town managers, mayors, or county commisioners) breeds more of the same in his officers and firefighters. In many departments the "good old boy" system is alive and well. However, this system does not produce the best leaders for the department, or the best representation for the community. Leaders should be promoted through observation of those that demonstrate setting a good example, doing the right thing, pouring into the lives of other employees, and generally excelling at being a public servant.
"...not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients."
When was the last time anyone at your department asked, "what's best for the community and our citizens"? How does this contract or policy implementation benefit those that we have vowed to serve? Many of the decisions that we have to make(that often get us into a snowball of problems) would solve themselves, if we framed them all in the context of the question, "In this instance what is best for the community and our citizens?"
"If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you."
Communities are beginning to lose faith and trust in the fire department, as they increasingly feel, a decline in level of service provided. As this level of service continues to decrease community support will cease, and the citizens will turn to alternate sources for fire services. They start seeking out privatization of EMS, outsourcing of Fire-Rescue services, and merging fire inspection responsibilities with building departments. If your community is currently seeking one of these alternatives, you should be asking "why?". What can these other options offer that we can not? What needs to be done for us to offer this service and prevent outsourcing/mergers/privatization? Sometimes, the best answer for the community might be one of these other options (privatization/outsourcing/merging).
I close this call to take up the role of public servant with the closing paragraph of Mr. Smith's resignation letter.
"I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer."