Stuff that starts wars

CarolinaFireJournal - Bradley Dean
Bradley Dean
07/25/2010 -

Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to work with some individuals who really understand people and how to motivate them. I have seen others that really knew how to destroy them as well. A dear friend that has experienced a lot over the last 10 years in his life recently sat in my office talking about his shift and how much he cared for them as a supervisor. Given his latest and third round of cancer it was apparent that the personnel on his shift really care for him as well.


Jeff Smith serves as Captain for B-shift with Davidson County Emergency Services and described something one day that triggers fears and defenses more quickly and predictably than anything else. He said that they all begin with “S”: salary, schedule, spouse, sleep, safety, and significance. Jeff said that anytime you meddle with one of those elements, you should expect trouble. I believe he tries to make decisions that are reasonable.

It is a leader’s job to make all kinds of decisions. You can often consult others for input, but sometimes you just can’t. It would be easy to say that your decisions should never affect an “S,” but that would be ridiculous. When you have to make an “S” decision, you have to rely on your most basic tool, which is your genuine respect for your people. Here are the “S” things that start wars, that I believe Jeff strives to understand and take into account aiding in the respect he gives and gets.


Like you, your people prioritize the things that affect them daily based on their financial resources. It is no small matter to them when a leader alters the conditions that directly impact those resources.


People’s lives are much bigger than their jobs. Most people arrange their lives around their workdays (and hours) weeks in advance. Things like childcare, medical appointments, transportation and even soccer games are important to people.


People’s significant others are sacred. That means thoughts off, eyes off and hands off – no exceptions. You probably should never joke or make derogatory comments about a coworker’s spouse or significant other. If you are forced to alter a condition of employment that makes life difficult for significant others, a card or flowers may not be a bad idea.


People need to rest, and for most that means sleeping about one-third of their lives, no matter what your priorities are. If you need to add cover, you need to add cover. That can be tough, but it is why we call this work.


People are valuable.  More than that, they are irreplaceable. Their safety warrants your heartfelt concern 100 percent of the time. If they never have cause to doubt that, your role as a leader will be a ton easier.

Sense of significance

Not many EMS people do what they do for money. That is a good thing, because there is not much, and no amount would compensate them for some of the things they do anyway. What they do need is a thank you once in a while, and occasional reminders that they are valuable. A good EMS leader does that often and naturally, never pretending as in Jeff’s case.

Dean currently works as one of the Assistant Regional Emergency Response and Recovery Coordinator for the Triad Region of North Carolina through Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center Trauma Department.
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