Leadership canons—I'm not talking about guns here! I'm talking about principles or rules.
Webster’s Dictionary defines cannon as a mounted gun for firing heavy projectiles. I don’t believe that the use of cannons will work very well in solidifying strong labor-management relationships.
Webster’s defines canons as principles or rules, and that's what I want to focus on here.
The Labor-Management Initiative (LMI) is really about developing relationships, and it's pretty difficult to have a strong productive relationship if you don’t know what the rules (canons) are. In order to host an LMI program in your department or region, you first have to prepare a letter that is signed by both labor and management. In the letter, you must agree to enhance and strengthen your labor-management relationship.
If you read the LMI guiding principles (canons) that have been signed by the general president of the IAFF and the president of the IAFC, you'll see they're clearly about relationships. Following are some excerpts from these guiding principles:
- Labor and management have mutual goals.
- Labor and management shall work together.
- Labor and management shall create partnerships.
- Labor and management shall identify problems and craft solutions.
How can you accomplish any of the above if you don't have rules or principles (canons)?
Here's my challenge to everyone reading this article: develop your own canons or principles that work for you. Don’t adopt someone else’s canons; they probably won’t work.
To develop a canon, labor and management should sit down together and identify the problems or things you don’t like. It could be an issue for the group or it may be just a problem for one member, but address it in your canons. There can be several pages of canons; just deal with all of them.
Have one or two members act as a facilitator to help identify the problem and then facilitate the canon. Let me share some examples:
- Issue - Members of the group feel that neither party is ever available to discuss issues.
Canon - We agree to be available and willing to meet and discuss issues when approached or will schedule a meeting at an agreeable time to both parties.
- Issue – Members feel that others are closed-minded and don't pay attention to the others’ point of view.
Canon – We agree to remain open-minded and display mutual empathy with the others point of view.
- Issue – Members feel that some supervisors won't let them do their jobs and micromanage.
Canon – We agree to encourage all members to resolve issues at the lowest possible level through the established chain of command.
- Issue – Members feel that others are undermining them and won't honestly address the issue or their feelings.
Canon – We agree that if we have a problem with another team member, we won't talk negatively about them to anyone else. We'll go to them in private, with respect, and request the desired change.
- Issue – Members feel others are always defensive, won't listen and don’t want to resolve the issue.
Canon – We agree that if we're confronted, we'll listen, won't be defensive and will try to resolve the issue.
- Issue – It's felt that management should set the example on cooperation for the department.
Canon – We agree to establish mutually agreed to, clear policies that encourage and require cooperation at all levels of the organization.
- Issue – Management feels that department members don't act professional.
Canon – We agree to always act in a professional manner.
I think you get the idea; it's not difficult. The important thing is the willingness to identify common behaviors and courtesies and identifying how you want to be treated and how you agree to treat others.
Your leadership canons should have an introduction, such as: “These canons were jointly developed and agreed to by labor and management in the true spirit of cooperation for the betterment of the fire department and the citizens and visitors we serve.”
All groups involved in developing these rules should sign the agreement.
There's no doubt that even in the best of relationships, you'll need to occasionally review the canons and remind each other of the agreement to always treat each other with respect and to follow the canons.
If you're interested in having good labor-management relations and working together to serve your communities, try developing some canons. And make sure you spell it correctly; the use of cannons won’t work!