It is great to be back after a fairly lengthy hiatus due to the need to focus on the organization I serve Horry County Fire Rescue. Since coming to Horry County Fire Rescue I have had the opportunity to serve with a very dedicated caring group of people who have to overcome a lot of adversity everyday. These great men and women who serve tirelessly everyday serving the over 300,000 citizens and 15million visitors to the Grand Strand each year. With adversities like understaffing, aging apparatus, increased response volume and no pay increase comes the opportunity for individuals to become very negative and even disgruntled. I am sure this was the case with some but the majority always kept that competing edge of a positive attitude even when they were faced with issues. The Attitude is Everything series will embark on a journey looking into the components of just how Attitude impacts organizations and especially leaders. TheCompanyOfficer.com will explore further the concept of Attitude is Everything especially in servant leadership. Stay tuned to as we embark on a journey at one of the paramount times in the year for the fire service as we come together next week in Indianapolis for the 2013 FDIC Conference. I would like to invite you to come to my program Training Today’s Fire Service Wednesday afternoon April 24, 2013 at 3:30 in the Walbash 2 Room at the convention center. I hope to see you there!
Across the world I bet if you sat around the table on the tailboard of an apparatus or at any conference you would hear some folks that are talking about how “Boogered up” their department is. So what do you do when your department is “Boogered up”? The important component is to look in the mirror first and see if you are part of the problem. That’s right; I put the blame on you. Why? Well you are part of the department and most often we have a contribution to everything that occurs in the department at some level. So are you contributing to the “Boogering up” of the department? Well let’s look and see if you are part of the problem or part of the solution.
Let the Department Clarify Our Motive
Let each individual in the department examine themselves thoroughly and know their hearts. With that we mean are we following the mission of the department or are we working to meet your personal mission. Remember there is no “I” in team, so if you are more focused on your own mission than the department’s, then you are making a major contribution to the “Boogering up” of the department. With this we also need to look at this from both sides especially if you are an officer. I question you folks to look and see if you are servicing both customers; the public and the troops. Often you will see individuals who make the officer level forget where they came from. It is important that you serve both sets of customers. So bottom line is if we get in tune with what the mission of the department and the strategic plan of the Fire Chief then everyone will have ample opportunity to most often meet both the mission of the department and their own mission. This is possible because most times these have many similar aspirations if you just really look at them.
Purify Our Thinking
In getting focused on the mission of the department you will see that the “Boogering” will just blow away. To do this the department needs to have pure thinking for the department and not the individuals in the department. By focusing on the good of the community we will again go back to focus on the mission. This is something that leaders must do every day. As we talk the talk we must also walk the walk. The troops can see past the transparent membranes we try to hide behind as officers. If we focus on being pure of heart we will see the focus from the troops will come in line. Community relations are a big job, too big for a single person to handle. It will require the efforts of every member of your team to make this a successful venture. Of course it starts with you as the leader. As the leader you must sell this concept to the group of people who deal with the community on a daily basis, the emergency responders. During their work delivering emergency services they must execute the plan. I know you are asking what plan. The plan is what you want to accomplish in gaining community support. One of the more common theories that I heard recently at a conference made perfect sense. As an emergency services department you must make yourself so desirable that it would be political suicide for the governing agency not to give you what you want because the community would be upset. For this concept to work each individual of the department must buy into this concept of community support.
To think correctly as an officer you have to have to be honest with yourself and everyone else involved.
Reveal the Department’s Problems
I have always heard that everything in the department is g-14 classified and if administration told you they would have to kill you. Well where that anomaly came from…I don’t know. I have been in administration for several years now and it seem to me that if you want to know something you need to go to the troops as they seem to have some major inside connection that tells them everything…even some things that really never could be possible or true. As a leader you need to be open and up front with your folks. I have a hard time seeing where anything we do other than personnel issues and business deals is such a big secret. Here are some ideas:
1. Make your budget proposal available for your personnel to see.
2. Have input from others on the budget.
3. Have a web site section or a book for department communications.
4. Strategic plans should be shared and reviewed by others.
5. Conduct a Post Incident Analysis on responses
6. Have personnel situations where there is tension have to address the issue head to head.
These are just a few ideas that can open up the department’s ability to identify issues and make improvements with buy in from all levels.
Replace Old Thoughts with Modern Truths
I know everyone has heard or said the following statement, “That is the way we have always done it.” If you are not in one of these categories you have either just got into the fire service about 10 minutes ago of you are in complete denial. These words have been spoken more times than we care to think. The problem is we never seem to move on from what we have always done.
As times change so do the situations that we are confronted with. Responses are much different than they were 20 years ago. Firefighters whom have entered the fire service over the last 7-10 years have strong computer and technology skills. Fires are fueled with different materials. Building construction has drastically changed. However we are still in some cases deploying the same old tactics that were taught 20+ years ago. The two do not match up. The contents of our homes and businesses emit gases more quickly during fires and laden the smoke with more volatility than did the smoke witnessed by experienced fire officers from previous decades. To make matters worse, we are responding to fewer fires which significantly decreases our experience. As a result, we are seeing an increase in the number of firefighter injuries and deaths from flashover and other hostile fire events. It is time to take the no changes mentality off the back-burner and update it to the challenges of today.
We are finding that current research shows what we have done for years is not the best tactics. If you are not reviewing the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Underwrites Laboratories (UL) research you need to begin. The information presented is astounding and will make you begin really analyzing what you do every day on the job.
Help Each Individuals Identify Their Own Short Comings
A skills gap analysis is undertaken to identify the skills that an employee needs, but may not have, to carry out his or her job or to perform certain tasks effectively. The skills gap concept is used in areas such as businesses and educational institutes. The fire service falls under both of these areas. The first step in performing an analysis is to identify all the skills required by an individual to carry out his or her work. It should then be possible to identify the critical and noncritical skills that are needed to carry out a role effectively.
A critical skill is one that is required to complete a task successfully. Noncritical skills enable a task to be completed more quickly or efficiently, or at less cost than would otherwise be the case. There is a relatively simple method for determining whether a skill is critical or noncritical. Quite simply, if an employee lacks a skill but completes a task satisfactorily, the skill is noncritical. Conversely, if a person completes a task but the outcome is unsatisfactory, the missing skill is critical.
By applying skills gap analysis across fire companies it is possible to find out which skill and knowledge shortfalls there are in an organization. It is then possible to target training resources on those necessary skills that require the most attention. This should result in the optimal use of resources in terms of improving the overall performance of the individuals thus impacting the organizational performance. For individuals, skills gap analysis can be used to produce personal development and training plans. It can also be used to bolster morale by showing how they have progressed over time.
For a department, skills gap analysis can be used to identify which staff members have most knowledge of particular aspects of the profession as well as those with skill gaps. Furthermore, it can aid recruitment by identifying the candidate whose skills best match those needed to function effectively in leadership roles. For example, in an application of skills gap analysis to the role of a firefighter, the essential skills considered were: critical thinking, oral communication, and the ability to work with others. Analysis also allows benchmarking and encourages tutoring and mentoring within teams.
Skills gap analysis can be undertaken using paper-based assessments, evaluations, assessments and supporting interviews. However, if an analysis is to be performed across a large number of employees, it can create a huge management and administrative burden. Many departments therefore use skill management software.
Analysis can be applied on a continuing basis or as a one-off exercise. Specialized software can generate a skills gap analysis report with a few clicks of the mouse. Paper-based reports take somewhat longer, depending on how many questions there are to answer.
• A skills gap analysis can provide a critical overview of a company, allowing management to determine if staff has the necessary skills to meet department objectives or achieve a change in strategy.
• It provides an analysis of skill gaps in an organization, department, or individual role.
• Analysis helps departments to prioritize their training plans and resources.
• Analysis can help with recruitment and training, and it gives management a basis for deciding which staff should be retained and which are expendable.
• Conducting a skills gap analysis can be costly in terms of the required investment in paper-based assessments or software, as well as the time required from staff to participate and for management to evaluate the results.
• It may be simpler and more cost-effective to ask company officers to identify skill gaps in their fire companies, or simply to ask staff in which areas they need additional training.
• The assessment can be subjective and open to distortion if staff do not answer questions correctly or do true assessments.
Dos and Don’ts
• Consider the potential impact of a skills gap analysis on morale. Assessing an employee’s capabilities can create fear and suspicion unless the reason for the analysis is understood and communicated effectively or done without the employee knowing it.
• Don’t assume that you need to create a bespoke (in-house) framework to perform a skills gap analysis. Off-the-shelf frameworks can be suitable when adapted to your department’s needs.
• Don’t focus only on training needs. Skills gap analysis can be used to plan recruitment and redundancy programs, support organizational restructures, build effective teams, and manage business change.
Don’t go around saying something is OK when it isn’t.
I am sure you have been around people who like to bury their heads in the sand. You know the ones who avoid confrontation and have rose colored glasses. It is important to recognize and identify when situations are not OK.
Now that we know that it is not healthy for any organization, group or individual to go around saying it is OK when it isn’t, how do we fix the problem?
• Admit there is /are issue(s).
• Identify what the issue(s) is /are.
• Search for solutions to correct the issue(s).
• Develop a strategy of solution implementation and evaluation.
• Follow through with your efforts.
The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them. Don’t let leadership get “Boogered Up” in your organization.
As one walks up to the door of the Concord High School Fire Academy, you can tell that this is going to be a mind opening experience. The sign on the door speaks volumes; “Through these Doors Walks the Future of the American Fire Service”. Upon your knock, the Watch Commander rises to answer the door. The command “Attention on Deck” is given and the recruits all rise to stand at attention to welcome their visitor. The watch Commander asks for your name and announces your arrival. This is a courtesy extended to all adults that visit this classroom. The Chief walks over and welcomes you to the Concord High School Fire Academy which is one of only three such programs in the state of North Carolina. Turning to the recruits, the Chief says “As you Were” and the recruits default to the parade rest position and remain standing. This program is set up as a direct delivery program through the OSFM that does not involve the NC Community College system. There are two other two programs, one at E. E. Smith High School in Fayetteville, NC and Dixon High School in Onslow County NC. These three programs are part of a three year pilot program. The Concord High School Fire Academy is the youngest of the three.
The idea for high school students to be able to take Firefighter I,II certification classes through the community college system has been around for many years through the dual enrollment process. The idea for High Schools to offer Firefighter Certification classes as part of the Career and Technical Education program however, is a much newer idea. Mr. Jay Brooks, the Assistant Fire Marshal of Rockingham County near Eden, NC proposed the idea to Mr. David Barbour, a Trade and Industrial Consultant for the NC Department of Public Instruction. His idea was based on the fact that many high school students across the state were responding to fire calls and they did not have the necessary training to answer these calls safely. His proposal was to have the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the NC Department of Public Instruction join forces to offer Career and Technical Education classes that would provide these students with the Firefighter I,II certification classes as well as provide them with CTE class credits.
These two organizations collaborated and the first three pilot programs were selected. The 2010-2011 school year marks the second year of the 3 year pilot program. If all goes well and the pilot program is deemed successful, the concept of High School Fire Academies will become part of the NC Standard Course of Study. All that will be needed is to have a strong partner agency for the high school to work with to assist with providing the tools of the trade and additional instructors to assist with the practical skills. The Instructors must be NC Certified Teachers as well as Level II Instructors with the Office of the State Fire Marshal qualified to instruct Firefighter I,II classes.
Welcome to the Concord High School Fire Academy! As the recruits enter the classroom, they pick up their ID tag from a ring on the back of the door and walk across the room and tag in on the Accountability Board. Students must tag in and out each class period. If a student is called to the office or needs to leave the class for any reason, the CHSFA has a “2-In – 2-Out” policy and another recruit must accompany them as their “Battle Buddy”. This is Reality Based Instruction. The class is considered a Battalion and each neat row of 4 desks is a Company. The class has a Battalion Chief and each Company has a company officer who holds the rank of Captain. The officers all sit in the rear seats of the class so they can watch over their companies. When the class attendance is taken it is done so as a PAR by company.
Each class period there are the announcements which are performed much like a face to face shift change with the recruits standing at either attention or at parade rest. Once seated, there is the “Morning Minute” and a Fire service quote or a one-liner from Fire Nuggets.com. Then there is the trademark CHSFA Cheer. Chief “Whooo?” Battalion Drill Commander “Who Are WE?” All Recruits shout “CHS Fire Academy CTE – Sir!”. The CTE has two meanings – Career and Technical Education, and the Fire Academy motto which is “Committed To Excellence”. Posted on the wall next to the accountability tags is a sign that says Don’t Train To Get It Right… Train So That You Can’t Get It Wrong. The Academy Motto is “Honor, Service, Pride, Tradition”.
The classroom has a Memorial Wall with the American Flag and State Flag flanking it. It is a black bulletin board with a red stripe. The NCFFF T-shirt is in a shadow box on the wall along with Stickers from 9-11-01, W6, and the C9. At the top of the wall there is a sign that says… WE WILL NEVER FORGET. There is also a plaque with the names of the Cabarrus County LODD’s and a current count of the LODD’s for the US that is kept updated.
As you entered the CHSFA classroom one cannot help but see the 20 sets of used Turnout Gear hanging at the rear of the room on the gear rack that were donated by local fire departments along with 12 brand new fire helmets and CHS Fire Academy helmet shields. MSA Cairns Helmet division was very good to provide these for the academy as was Shelby Specialty Gloves and Majestic Fire Hoods. One also sees the mats used for PT for the Presidential Physical Fitness Award Program. The academy classroom also has several different brands of SCBA for the recruits to become familiar with.
Wednesday is uniform day. The recruits are required to wear the Fire Academy T-shirt and navy blue BDU’s with a plain black belt and black duty boots or shoes. The Introduction to Public Safety class has a red T-shirt and the Fire Science level I, II, III recruits wear a navy blue T-shirt. The Fire Science students actually wear the Class B uniform (T-shirts) every Monday and the Class A navy blue dress uniform shirt with the CHSFA patches on Wednesday. The Battalion Chiefs and Captains wear white dress uniform shirts. All of these are used shirts that have been donated by the partner agency – Concord Department of Fire and Life Safety. The partner agency has also made Photo ID cards for all of the Fire Academy recruits as well.
Whenever a Battalion goes outside of the classroom to participate in Drill, PT, or to train with the CHSFA Fire Apparatus “The Black Widow”, the Recruit Class Guidon must lead. One recruit is designated to guard the Guidon and a relief is appointed at approximately 5 minute intervals. This is another way that accountability is taught and learned through reality based instruction.
The Concord High School Fire Academy has an Honor Guard that presents the colors for many different events including Home Football games, Honor Society Inductions, Graduation, and this fall the Honor Guard was called upon to serve at a military funeral procession. The Honor Guard teamed up with the Police Explorers Honor Guard to begin the Holiday season this year by Presenting the Colors at the Concord Tree Lighting ceremony the night before the CHSFA marched in the Concord Christmas Parade. Early in December the CHSFA also participated in the Kannapolis, NC “Christmas Parade of Lights” night parade.
At this time, the Fire Science – Level I recruits are taking the Fire Prevention Education and Cause class and are working on Fire Safety messages as well as acting out a number of children’s fire safety story books with homemade and commercially available Puppets. Hopefully these will be successful and deliver the messages needed to make many young persons of all ages more fire safe.
The CHS Fire Academy has grown from 20 students in late January of 2010 to the current roster of 110 students during the 2010-2011 school year. Performance has been very satisfactory with the administration of 295 Certification Exams during the first semester along with the completion of the Practical Skills assessments. The pass rate during the first semester was 98 percent. To date, during the second semester the rate has been only slightly lower.
The Firefighter I,II certification classes are instructed over 3 semesters.
Semester I topics include: Orientation and Safety, PPE, Fire Behavior, Portable Fire Extinguishers, Alarms and Communications, Fire Prevention, Education, and Fire Cause Determination, and Fire Hose, Streams, and Appliances.
Semester II topics include: Ropes, Ladders, Forcible Entry, Ventilation, The Art of Reading Smoke, Water Supply, Sprinklers, and Foam Fire Streams.
Semester III topics include: Salvage, Overhaul, Emergency Medical Care, Rescue, Building Construction, and Fire Control – Except for the Live Burn. The Live Burn can be completed after age 18 and after graduation.
The only other class for Firefighter I,II that is not completed in the Fire Academy is Haz Mat Awareness, Operations, and Terrorism. The number of hours required for this class keeps it from being completed along with the rest of the Semester III topics. Recruits can take and complete this class with Dual Enrollment or at another time.
There has been a strong interest in the Skills USA Firefighter Competition Team that has been started this year. Currently there are 14 students that hold practice every Wednesday afternoon. Events that are practiced include: Turnout Gear Racing, Ladder Raise, Forcible Entry, Advancing charged and uncharged Hose Lines, Knots, Obstacle courses with backboards and Stokes Baskets and more… Each Competition Team member has a Resume, practices Interview Skills, and studies extra topics and detail in Fire Science. Two officers from the academy attended the Camp Dixie Fall Leadership Conference at the beginning of the school year so that they could lead and train the Skills USA Firefighter Competition Team. The State competition this year was held in late March and three of our recruits competed and did well. Captain Brandon Blackwelder placed 2nd, Battalion Chief Taylor Beverly placed 6th, and Captain Kyle Franklin placed 7th. Just recently we have learned that Captain Blackwelder will be representing North Carolina at the National Skills USA competition in Kansas City, Kansas in mid June.
The CHS Fire Academy Honor Guard and Officers attended the NC Association of Fire Chief’s Midwinter Conference February 2-6, 2011 that was held at the Embassy Suites Conference Center and Hotel in Concord, NC. The recruits were present as Chief Barlow presented a workshop about the program. The recruits manned a table display showcasing the High School Fire Academy Concept. The workshop was well attended. Mr. Steve Sloan of the Office of the State Fire Marshal’s Office announced to the workshop participants that this program is now being recognized as the model program in the state.
On April 12, 2011, Chief Barlow presented an overview of the CHS Fire Academy to the North Carolina Fire and Rescue Commission at their spring meeting. The Fire and Rescue Commission meets quarterly. The reason for the overview and update was to let the Commission know first hand what is happening with the program since there is so much interest statewide and beyond.
Other major events that the CHS Fire Academy has participated in this year include: Cabarrus County Fire and Life Safety Bowl and the Liberty Mutual Drunk Driving Awareness Crash Car event.
Upcoming events include: The 1st Annual CHS Fire Academy Awards Night, The 1st Annual Firemen’s Day & Muster, Honor Guard performances at the National Technical Honor Society Induction, Two different High School Graduation ceremonies, and the presentation of the colors at the International Association of Fire Chief’s Southeastern Conference in Montgomery, Alabama in mid June, and then the Skills USA National Competition. It has been a busy year so far.
As you prepare to leave the Fire Academy, the Battalion Chief asks if you have time to look over their pride and joy – “The Black Widow”? This is their 1973 American LaFrance Fire Apparatus that is named for the school mascot – The Spiders. The truck is on lease from the Concord Department of Fire and Life Safety for the recruits to use and maintain as their Training Truck and is their source of much pride. Since you do not have time to check it out on this visit, maybe you can return soon and really get a more detailed overview of how this equipment fits in to our overall Fire Academy experience.
Chief – Can I get a Hoorah? Recruits – “HooRah!”
Chief “Whooo?” Battalion Drill Commander “Who Are WE?”
Recruits shout “CHS Fire Academy CTE – Sir!”.
Chief David Barlow was hired as the Chief Instructor for this program after a 33 year career as a High School Science Teacher. His last 20 years of teaching was at Mooresville High School where he retired in June of 2008. After retirement, starting inside of Shenandoah National Park he backpacked the entire length of the Original Blue Ridge Parkway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He has come out of retirement to serve as the Chief of the Concord High School Fire Academy. Chief Barlow is an OSFM Level II Instructor, Emergency Medical Technician, Fire Officer Level III, Technical Rescue Specialist, Haz Mat Technician, and a graduate of the NC Association of Fire Chief’s Executive Development Program. He has also attended the NASA DART Advanced Structural Collapse USAR School at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. His current and active career as a volunteer firefighter spans more than 32 years.
From playing many years of sports on both winning and loosing teams I have learned talent is not enough to bring about success to the team. I played on teams that had plenty of talent. We didn’t win a lot though. That used to always bother me and I would say we have all the talent in the world why aren’t we winning. It was not until my senior year when I realized that talent was not enough. There was another component that had to be added in. That component was ATTITUDE. It wasn’t the other teams didn’t have attitude. We had plenty of it…but it was the bad kind. It wasn’t until the positive attitude mixed with talent that we started winning.
Over the years the fire service organizations that I have had the opportunity to be involved with showed me that this concept applied to any organization or team. Various attitudes have the potential to impact a team made up of talented members.
Abilities + Attitudes = Results
Good Talent + Rotten Attitudes = Really Bad Team
Good talent + Bad Attitudes = Bad Team
Good Talent + Average Attitude = Average Team
Good talent + Good Attitude = Good team
Great talent + Great Attitude = Great team
If you are looking for a winning team that performs at an outstanding level you need minimally good talent with good attitudes, preferably great attitudes and great talent!
Most people possess good talent it is usually the attitude that either draws them do to the next level with great/positive attitudes or their demise with a rotten attitude. So knowing this, it is important to choose the right attitude.
Today’s leaders are utilizing contemporary leadership styles. The officer needs to know when to use each of these styles for optimum outcomes within the organization. The four (4) contemporary styles include charismatic, transformational, transactional and symbolic.
Charismatic – Inspires follower loyalty and creates an enthusiastic vision that others work to attain.
Transformational – This style depends on the continuous learning, innovation and change within the organization. True transformational leadership is a rare quality.
Transactional – Involves an exchange between the leader and the followers in which the followers perform tasks effectively in exchange for rewards provided by the leader.
Symbolic – Bases theory on a strong organizational culture that holds common values and beliefs. Leadership starts are the top of the organization and extends downward. Subordinates must have full faith and trust in the leadership of the organization.
To be able to lead a fire department or a company it is paramount that the leader of the group be able to match and effectively utilize any of the various leadership styles based upon the individuals they are leading.
This focuses on truly understanding the organizational theories, interpersonal dynamics and group dynamics of the individuals and groups which make up the organization. We will find that more often than not the leader will be utilizing multiple leadership styles on individuals of the group simultaneously to effectively achieve the desired outcomes. Each of these leadership styles will be a result of the presence of the various leadership traits. It is important for the officer to know the strengths and weaknesses of each theory and style along with being capable of applying the principles that are most appropriate in any given situation.
As we quickly approach a time when much of the fire service leadership will be retiring we are destine to face the loss of great leadership in the fire service. This could prove to be a tragedy for our profession or we can make it a positive bench mark. A lot is going to depend upon several generations working closely together. That is the baby boomers and the generation Y and X coming together and realizing that the future belongs to those who prepare.
For years I would see the slogan, “The Future Belongs to Those Who Prepare For It”, posted on the training class room wall of the Henderson North Carolina Fire Department. Chief Danny Wilkerson several times over used to say these same words to many of the young firefighters and officers that walked into that setting. As an instructor and a part-time member of that department it always struck me as an encouragement to continue to push to make a difference. Often times I personally struggled with just what that slogan really was saying. Well, for the first time as I write this article it has become crystal clear. The entire slogan was driven home with just one email blast from a great fire service colleague…Deputy Chief Billy Goldfeder with a recent secret list publication. Below is a small component of what was contained in that blast I would like to share:
“Sometimes….not everyone goes home.
In the discussions, one of the young firefighters who was involved with the rescue told me that he now HATED the term “everyone goes home” because, obviously, Kevin did not. It made me start to think. Was the slogan a problem?
It has nothing to do with a slogan. The slogan “Everyone Goes Home” is an attitude…an attitude within a fire department that we’ll do all we can to try and bring all of our firefighters home. It was and still is an attitude. Some of the younger firefighters understandably, just didn’t get it at the time.
-It means that if we don’t drive like idiots, we’ll probably make it home.
-It means if we follow standards such as NFPA 1403, firefighter trainees will probably make it home.
-It means if we put our seat belts on and we collide on the way to a fire, we’ll probably make it home.
-It means if we weigh 100 lbs too much, and we eat more salads, we’ll probably make it home.
-It means that if it is obvious the building will collapse and we stay out of the way, we’ll probably make it home.
-It means if we have the right amount of trained staffing and good bosses at a fire, we’ll probably make it home.
…..and it means that if we drill and train on the stuff we need to do regularly, such as the ability to quickly get water on the fire, we’ll probably make it home.”
The above excerpt really drives me to focus on this blog’s topic “Shaping the Future”. We as leaders today will face the end of our careers. Many of my mentors are at that point currently. However, the leadership lessons they can still share are countless. Thank God, that these folks took an interest in us the leaders of the current fire service when we were youthful firefighters. As I look over the fire service today and especially after spending time at the Congressional Fire Service Institute recently, I can see that our fields are full of ripe future leaders just waiting to be harvested. Consequently we often scorn at the work ethic or analytical decision making that these individuals use as they make critical decisions. I can see clearly where my first mentors Jerry Green and Rick Rice, both officers with the department I began my fire service career with in Mullens, West Virginia, could see a ripening prospect as they made extra efforts to shape the future through shaping me for the future. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyo-Qo2Z-mY
As I see it, the old practice of using our youth to accomplish our work is the base preparation needed to make them tomorrow’s leader. So officer’s are you Shaping the Fire Service’s Future?
The 82nd Leadership Conference of the Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs is this week in Louisville, Kentucky. What an outstanding opportunity for fire service leaders to gather and network. The company Officer’s own Christopher Naum is one of the presenters at this conference. I know budgets have everyone pinned down and travel for conferences have been reduced significantly. That leads me to the focus of this piece…”Bridging the gap to Tomorrows Fire Service”. The SEAFC will be streaming several programs live from the conference as we believe that education is paramount in the development of future leaders and our fire service nation.
Many people view training from a traditional style of delivery, well those times have changed and our culture demands we find new ways of educating our personnel. Often time’s organizations and individuals are criticized when they try to stand up and do something different or new, often times getting slapped right back down. In outstanding organizations, people try things that have never been tried or done before. These actions are often uncomfortable, may not work or may be the wave of the future. It is important that they engage in these behaviors and do so in an environment that supports their efforts. The organization encourages risk and allows for failure. Conceive, believe, Achieve is the message here.
So SEAFC is no different than any other organization. They are making their first attempt at changing the way we serve the fire service educationally with live feeds for several of the programs at the conference. Below is the schedule and description for use:
Opening ceremonies: Thursday June 24, 2010 4:30pm – 6:00pm
Key Note: Transforming the Culture of Fire Department Organizations
Kelvin Cochran, Fire Chief City of Atlanta, Former United States Fire Administrator
Shreveport, Louisiana native Kelvin J. Cochran, as a five-year-old boy, was spellbound by Shreveport Firefighters fighting a fire across the street from his house and dreamed that one day he would be a firefighter.
A proud student of Caddo Parish Schools, he graduated from Woodlawn High School (1978). Other education includes: the U.S. Fire Administration National Fire Academy, Wiley College, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management (1999). He holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Louisiana Tech University (2004).
His employment with the Shreveport Fire Department began in 1981 as a firefighter. He was then promoted to Fire Training Officer and served in this capacity from 1985 – 1990, when he gained promotion to Assistant Chief Training Officer. His service in this position concluded when he was appointed Fire Chief of the Shreveport Fire Department on August 26, 1999. On January 2, 2008 he was appointed fire chief of the City of Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. On August 17, 2009 he was appointed as the United States Fire Administrator. Effective June 19, 2010 he has been re-appointed as fire chief of the City of Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.
International Association of Fire Chiefs: Former First Vice President-IAFC 2007, Second Vice President-IAFC 2006; Past Chairman of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Section; Southeastern Division IAFC; Safety, Health and Survival Section; Georgia Fire Chiefs Association, Metro Atlanta Fire Chiefs Association; Member of the Board of Visitors, National Fire Academy. Authored two chapters for Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Chief Fire Officers Desk Reference: Chapter 1-Leadership and Management and Chapter 25-The Fire Chief of the Future
Jeff Lindsey: Friday June 25, 2010 2:30pm – 4:00pm
Bridging the Gap: Leading the Generations
The Baby Boomers, Generation X, and now Generation Y. Who are those people? What values do they have? Join Dr. Lindsey as he discusses what makes each generation different. Learn the various values of each of the different generations. Identify what we, as leaders in the safety world have to do to make our work environment adaptable for each of the generations. Before you leave this session see why being a cusp may not be all that bad.
Bio for Jeffrey Lindsey, Ph.D., EMT-P, CHS IV, EFO, CFO
Dr. Lindsey is the Chief Learning Officer for Health Safety Institute. He is also an adjunct Assistant Professor in Emergency Health Services at The George Washington University and St Petersburg College. He retired from the fire service as the Fire Chief for Estero Fire Rescue in Estero, Florida. Additionally, he is an author for Brady Publishing.
He is an experienced leader, educator, lecturer, author, and consultant in emergency services. Dr. Lindsey earned his doctorate and master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from USF. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Fire and Safety Engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and an associate in paramedic from Harrisburg Area Community College. He also has earned his Chief Fire Officer and Executive Fire Officer designation.
Dr. Lindsey has over twenty-nine years of diverse experience in the emergency services industry. He is an associate member of the Prehospital Research Forum. He serves as an Advisory Council member for the National EMS Advisory Council and the past member of the State of Florida EMS Advisory Council, and a representative to the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education EMS degree committee
Richard Gassaway: June 26, 2010 8:00am – 9:30 am
Emergency Scene Situation Awareness and Decision Making
Firefighters can live or die based on the decisions made on emergency scenes. One of the key components of effective decision making is developing and maintaining strong situation awareness in environments that are high-stress, high-risk and high-consequence. The focus of this program is to improve your situation awareness and decision making.
In 2007 and 2008, the National Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System annual report identified situation awareness as the leading factor contributing to firefighter near-miss events. Supporting this finding was a study completed by the International Association of Firefighters on firefighter injuries and fatalities that cited issues with situation awareness is a leading cause. Firefighter fatality reports issued by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health frequently implicate issues with situation awareness to the casualty incident. Ok… we get it! Situation awareness is a big deal. Now that you know it, what can you do to improve it? The focus of this program is to help you become a better decision maker. We will explore and discuss:
This program is based on scientific research conducted by the presenter over a five-year period in the process of completing his doctoral dissertation on the topic of “Fireground Command Decision Making: Understanding the Barriers that Challenge a Commander’s Situation Awareness.” This is not a strategy and tactics class. The findings presented in this program are based on the presenter’s 30 years experience in emergency services, supported by his research involving expert-level incident commanders.
Because this program is the presentation of the findings of original research, the participants are going to receive information they’ve never previously been exposed to about the challenges faced by decision makers at emergency scenes.
Richard B. Gasaway has served as a fire chief for 22 years. He earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Leadership and has authored more than 80 journal articles, books and book chapters on leadership and command topics.
All firefighters realize and understand the importance of time when it comes to responding to an emergency incident. Time is recognized as one limited resource that must be maximized in every aspect. A difference in seconds may mean the difference between a fires being confined to the point of origin verses a fully engulfed room or a person being clinically dead verses biologically dead. Time is critical in every case.
But how do we, as company officers, view and utilize time between emergencies? It is common that most fire companies spend less than 10% of their time responding to and mitigating emergencies. The remaining 90% should be spent preparing and engaged in accomplishing the department’s mission.
Time management should be a consideration in the life of the fire department company officer. Failure to maximize available time available impacts the overall effectiveness of the company. It is critical that time management be a part of the predicated skills of a company officer. The more efficient your time management is the more you can focus on the effectiveness. It is the goal of this article to give the company officer, a place to start, regardless of the condition of the organization you are involved with. This starting point will give you guidance to implement a plan for yourself and the individuals of your company. This will enable the entire company to become a more effective unit and be utilized to its fullest potential.
There was a time in the history of the fire service that all we did was sit and wait for the alarm to sound and then we would race to the fire. The outcomes of these fires were never questioned. The integrity of the department was unquestionable. Well, times have changed and changed drastically. Citizens expect much more from their fire departments and they should receive it. In the economically challenged times we are faced with today, we are expected to accomplish more than ever before.
The first thing you must do as a company officer, if you are to effectively manage your time and utilize the company effectively, is to look at the framework in which your company operates. Ask yourself “Does the company have goals, objectives and action plans?” When you evaluate your answer ask, “Are these goals, objectives and action plans designed for the companies and personnel assigned to my station?” When you answer both questions, then ask the final question. “Do I have goals, objectives and action plans?” Obviously the key word in all three of these questions is PLAN. Without planning, no fire company will ever be cohesive, well-trained, productive unit we all strive for.
Planning is a continuous function that reaches well into the future. Planning creates the Global Positioning System (GPS) road map for the accomplishment of certain goals within a given time frame.
Back in January I posted an article on The CompanyOfficer.com entitled: Your Capabilities and Future Success. It was about the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. Coach Wooden passed away at the age of 99 on Friday June 4th, but his legacy will extend well beyond. Aside from his extraordinary career accomplishments on the court, he is best known for the simple life lessons he was able to identify with and convey. His “Pyramid of Success” remains a must-read book for all aspiring or current company or command officers.
As I was reading the various media articles this morning that defined a career, a lifetime and the man; a quote stood out that reflects highly on all company and command officers that I considered important enough to share here.
The excerpt goes like this; Even with his staggering accomplishments, he remained humble and gracious. Wooden stated he tried to live by the advice from his father : “Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art drink deeply from good books-especially the Bible, build a shelter for a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.”
John Wooden also expressed the following that I find compelling. It was a simple statement that has the power of wisdom and insight. “Learn as if you were to live forever: Live as if you were to die tomorrow.”
Take the time to learn more about Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success and look to apply these principles in your current or future positions of responsibility within your organization. The principles and methodologies of the Pyramid of Success have direct relationships and applicability to the Fire Service in numerous areas. Take the time to read his 12 Lessons on Leadership.
Two(2) Must have books for your professional Library by John Wooden include: Wooden On Leadership and John Wooden’s The Pyramid of Success
Check out ESPN’s great posts HERE
Power is the ability to command or apply force.
Authority is the right to command and expend resources.
A leader is one who can generate effective individual and group action to accomplish agency goals.
The fire service is a dynamic profession that is richly steeped in tradition, noble in deeds and calling. We know the fire service to be constant – yet ever changing in today’s society. We have built this profession upon man and machinery in opposition with an uncontrolled force known as fire. The last fifteen years has shown a shift from traditional fire service missions to encompass a wide scope of service deliveries that is ever expanding. We are challenged daily on the way we do business.
These changes have affected not only the fire service as a whole but also each level
within. The importance of competencies for fire officers in skills, knowledge and training is of the essence in today’s fire service. Fire officer cultural and attitudinal changes are the crucial links that will ultimately determine the future of our business.
Each year the American fire service experiences an average of over 100 line of duty deaths each year. Further we know that the amount of working fires are down approximately 66% of what they were in the mid 1970’s. So what is the score card saying? Why do we continue to know the causes of line of duty deaths and do nothing to change? Summed up it is nothing more than attitudes. We need to change our attitudes. There is no where in the corporate world that you could come in and give an annual report that stated we had a good year, we only lost 100 employees that you would not be escorted out the door before you could get your personal items in a box. Ron Siarnicki of the national Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation (NFFF) made this statement in one of there program. Guess what…HE IS CORRECT! Why do we as leaders in this business continue to allow these issues to occur? Why do we continue to deem it an honor to die in the line of duty? Why are we so resistant to change? We call it tradition! Well as a fire chief and a fire service member I have to say, “GET OVER OLD and BAD TRADITIONS, START A SAFE NEW ONE!” Ok, if I stepped on some toes here, GOOD, they probably needed it. We cannot afford to continue allowing the same mistakes over and over again to occur. At some point we have to start saying it is not acceptable to have injuries and Line of Duty Deaths (LODD). We must change this culture and the time is now and it starts with YOU!
A few years ago I was shuttled to the airport following the New York Chief’s Conference in Lake George, New York. I was able to spend that time talking with a Bulgarian student who was asking many questions about the culture of the fire service. I asked me how many people get hurt or are killed doing this job as he had seen T-Shirts this week about this. I was ashamed to say we kill usually more than 100 firefighters a year. He then asked why. Boy did this hit home! We know why and how firefighters die in the line of duty but what are we doing to prevent them? In 2005we had eighty seven (87)line of duty deaths. My question is just how many of these could have been prevented? One area that we know we can control the environment and have good chances of not having a line of duty death is training. But in 2005 we had 10 line of duty deaths in training. This equates to 10% of the total line of duty deaths for that year. Secondly responding to and returning from alarms accounted for 26 line of duty deaths or 59%. Deaths in crashes continue to account for a significant portion of the annual fatalities. How many of these could have been prevented? How many were not wearing their seat belts? How many was speed a contributing factor? To answer the last two questions is far too many. This can be corrected with an attitude adjustment.
Let’s look at how we can reduce these numbers. We need to first address our culture and make attitude changes. These changes need to be at all levels. We can begin this change today without problems by changing the thought process as new firefighters enter the academies across the United States. We can further push with the existing firefighters. We have to hit the dinosaurs hard because they take the new recruits freshly in the field and create dinosaur eggs that then develop into dinosaurs themselves. The year 2009 we saw a reduction in the line of duty deaths to below 100 again. Are we lucky or are we truly focusing on what the issues are. Thus the culture revolves in a vicious cycle. Ok there is the start but what do we do to impact the fire service?
We need to develop and require Comprehensive Health and Wellness Programs. These programs need to include physical conditioning, medical evaluations, and mental conditioning. With more and more firefighters perishing due to heart attacks and strokes (44 in 2005) we need to make sure that we are in the physical condition to do this job. I further think that the statistics are some what skewed. When we see LODDs of fire service personnel 65 years old or older who die after responses who did not engage in suppression activities it is being question as to where or not these individuals would have had a heart attack even if they were not on scene within that 24 hours. How many departments are providing and requiring comprehensive medical evaluations (NFPA 1582) for all of their members? If you are not, you need to look for a way to make this happen. So many times I hear of how certain medical evaluations have found members of the fire service with health issues they never knew existed. These physicals need to be annually. I recently was running a portion of our physical conditioning program which was a job performance physical agility test. I found one of our more experience personnel to be hypertensive (elevated blood pressure). I refused to let him test and sent him for medical evaluation. Guess what…he is alive today and has begun taking on life style changes and has medication to assist in controlling this issue. He had no symptoms of this condition and was at the potential levels for major problems. Simply as your grandmother would say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Further we need to evaluate and support physical conditioning (NFPA 1583). These need to set personal goals as each individual is different, department goals and standards as to show everyone who performs must be able to perform at a set level.
Lastly, we must have qualitative and quantitative testing of physical conditioning. Not as punishment but as a teaching tool. How many of your members can tell you exactly how long an SCBA will last when they are working at full capacity. As command officers this is important information as we work on scenes and strive to complete accountability of our personnel. More importantly it will keep our personnel safer.
We know this is one of the most stressful jobs anywhere you could travel. So just how well do we condition our folks mentally. Have you ever heard “suck it up it’s your job?” Sitting and talking with some professionals from an FDNY Engine Company they talked about and exhibited significant signs of Critical Incident Stress. This, I am sure, is compounded several times over from the events that affect the lives of these firefighters, but hey lets face facts here. These brothers are hurting and hurting bad. But have we addressed any of this, how about there families? I bet they are hurting too! So what do we do to help this problem? We must provide good Critical Incident Stress (CIS) education and coping techniques not only to the firefighters but also for their families. I know that I have done multiple programs on the east coast about this same issue, addressing firefighters and families together both the firehouse family and our true families all at the table together. This program is titled “Hearts and Sirens” and it explores CIS as it affects both the emergency services working and the family we leave at home when duty calls. My wife tells here heart felt stories of the situations she has had to live through and what helped. Basically we provide education, coping techniques and skills to deal with CIS for families. Let’s face it tough guys, even the hard core folks, struggle with all we face in this job at some point. As they face repetitive issues it becomes cumulative and eventually the levels will build up to the eruption point. This can be prevented and enhance our quality of life with just a little education and swallowing of pride on our part. Face it we are not super human, as much as we wish we were.
Training is the paramount. We must continue to enhance our training in every aspect. This includes going back to the basics. We often see in NIOSH reports where basic and routine components of our job are not performed or are contributing factors to LODD and injuries. So why can’t we do the basics? We have the mentality of hey I been there done that, I don’t need to do that anymore, I have got that down. Ok are you sure? If so show me! If you got it should not be hard or lengthy. Next we need to focus on realism. What are we truly going to face. I deal with the mentality of that wouldn’t happen to us or that’s the big city stuff it’s not going to happen here. Well, last time I checked fire did not discriminate. It does matter who you are or where you are from. Reality check… who would have thought that an aircraft with terrorists on board would crash in rural Pennsylvania. That should prove this point with enough said. We must train hard, train realistically and train often. By doing this we stoke our tool boxes with the right tools for the job.
As we train we as leaders and trainers must make every effort to pull out the stops. We must not accept or condone any type of training environment or attitude that compromises the safety of any firefighter. We must cease pushing the envelope with cowboy tactics that only prove that you can show boat. If this is you I have a message…Your Dangerous and you need to change. We do not need to hurt or kill firefighters to have good quality training. In fact good quality training starts with no injuries and especially no deaths. In research of training line of duty deaths almost every incident could have been prevented.
In closing we must have to courage to say NO and the courage to be safe. It often is not a popular personality folks want to see, but again is it worth dieing for…Most times not! Come on folks, let’s face it, we are not doing everything correct here. We need to change and we need to change NOW!!! Do your self, your firefighters and their families a favor. Help prevent a line of duty death, change the attitudes and culture in your departments and have the courage to be safe! The families at home depend on you to be a leader and an officer. If you are not willing to do as much as possible to help with the change of the culture, do the fire service a favor, RETIRE or QUIT or RESIGN BEING AN OFFICER because you are part of the problem not part of the solution. Help us support the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and the fire service quest of “EVERYONE GOES HOME”.
As we embark deep into the millennium and a new decade, changes are sure to occur. The fire service will surely see many of these changes. The place that we need to make changes initially is within ourselves as officers. We must be prepared to meet these new challenges and a new decade with a set of fully charged batteries. The task of change is extremely hard, as we are often times nostalgic. However, we must strive to reach new levels in service through education and training. The first taste of leadership in recruit academies is seen by trainees through the instructors and officers they have. As a young officer one of my mentors told me this little secret, “A true instructor is a leader of the future”. With that I had to ask how? My answer was, “you shape the minds and careers of many firefighters through education. By doing so you are leading the fire service of tomorrow.” It was not until much later that I could truly understood what this great leader was talking about. I have found it to be true that you lead tomorrow’s firefighters through instruction today.
An officer / instructor profile needs to encompass several areas to be able to meet these challenges and changes that we will face. First, we must find new motivation. Motivation that exceeds all levels previous. We must bring newfound excitement to the instructional programs we deliver. The excitement level that comes with the officer carries over and motivates the student to the same level or higher. We as instructors must enter the education setting that instruction is to take place with a true teaching attitude not one of just doing the minimum. Officers need to develop the right attitude about instructing. Attitude starts with evaluating whether you are meeting the mission statement of the fire service and your department through the training that you are performing. Secondly, you must evaluate whether your training is realistic. That is, realistic for your operations and equipment. Higher levels of training are great and have their place, but are we meeting the needs of the departments we serve. If not, we need to reevaluate what and how we are teaching. We must find new ways to deliver quality training in a society where budgets are being slashed to below acceptable levels. This will require you as the officer / instructor to be innovative if you are faced with a substandard budget. There are many resources that are available to a department and an officer if we just look for and cease the opportunities that are available. One opportunity that is not utilized by the fire service to the level that it could be is the National Fire Academy and the Learning Resource Center located there. The quality of education provided by the Fire Academy provides for one of the ultimate learning experiences you could encounter. Finally is your training current or out dated. I know that this is a big argument in every department. “We have done it this way for 30 years”, that is well and good. However, is there a more current, more progressive or better way?
The officer / instructor for this millennium is a three-part process that starts with the instructor as I have shown above. It does have two other key components, such as leaders and students. Leaders must take a more proactive role rather than the typical reactive role. Change is easier when affected from the top down rather than from the bottom up. As a leader of a department you must ask yourself several questions; Are we prepared for the changes of tomorrow? Are we currently meeting our training needs? Are we ready for what we are destined to face in the near future? Are we, as a group, willing to change to meet these new demands?
These are some key questions that not only leaders must ask of themselves, but each department and its members must also do this. Remember talk is cheap and your actions will speak louder than words. These actions may be the spark that starts or revitalizes motivation in the organization.
The students also play an interracial part in the training process. A student today must recognize that changes are imminent and concur. This starts with the willingness of a student to be motivated to new levels by their officers, their peers and by themselves. Motivation is the starting point for change. This motivation should bring new or revived energy. This new energy should be focused towards learning new ideas, concepts and techniques. This will require the student to explore new realms of the fire service and the knowledge that is directly associated. Exploration often times means traveling to different areas of the state, region or nation to find new information and ideas. Large symposiums and conferences like FDIC,
FIREHOUSE Expo and others are excellent examples of this travel where you can meet and learn from individuals worldwide. Travel can occur and you never leave the station. When fire journals arrive, do more than just look at the pictures. The availability of information on the World Wide Web is only a simple search away. Read and study how different departments handle responses and situations. Read the articles for more than just leisure reading. Once in these setting you must be willing as a student to explore new ideas. We often forget as instructors that we are also students. Each time you teach, you should be learning. All of these concepts are important, but without discipline to recognize and participate, change will not occur.
As officer / instructors you have an obligation to provide quality education. The future of the fire service depends on the utilization of our talents as educators. You see, the attributes of good instructors coincide very closely with good leaders. Company officers are the true leaders of the fire service.
Knowledge is power, share it!
Being a leader does not mean you have to be the Chief Brunacini in your fire department. In fact trying to be some type of leader you are not can get you into deep trouble. It is important to develop your own styles and type. In the 1980’s Dr. Warren Bennis of the University of California conducted a 5 year research study that look specifically at various styles of effective leaders. It is interesting to see that the results found that although each leader had his or her distinctive leadership style, they all shared four leadership competencies. These have been identified as the keys to successful leadership and Dr. Bennis identified them as: Management of Attention, Management of meaning, Management of Trust, Management of Self.
• Management of Attention – This component is described as the ability to draw others to themselves through an intense focus of attention. Individuals who possess this ability have routinely been able to get others to enroll in their own visions. This has even been to the point that they have adopted the vision as their own. Leaders always keep their intentions in clear evidence.
• Management of Meaning – This is the ability to communicate visions, dreams, and ideas effectively to others. These leaders do more than use words they use their entire person to communicate this message. These leaders know talk is cheap and that actions and appearances are the effective ways to communicate.
• Management of Trust – This is an essential aspect of leadership. This section is about constancy and focus. I am sure you have heard individuals say “you know where they are coming from and what they stand for”. If you want to be a successful leader, your people have to trust you in order to follow you. They want a leader they can count on, even if they disagree with them rather than one they agree with but changes position constantly.
• Management of Self – This is the ability to know one’s own skills and limitations and to get the most out of them. If you don’t have this trait you can do more harm than good. Leaders concentrate on positive goals and do not focus on risks. Here you must reject the idea of failure. Here you need to be able to display total confidence and not worry about mistakes.
These leadership skills can be learned and used as company officers. Leadership, more than anything else, is a role the Company Officer must effectively fill. Often what we are seeing in today’s society is the “GAP”. That GAP is that the company officer is failing to assume this role and it is critical in the operations and safety of today’s fire service.
I hear this phrase from fire officers across the United States, “You just can’t find good people today. They just aren’t like we were at their age.” So what does this mean? Some may say that the future isn’t too bright looking at the current generation. Others may say, “What is wrong with us?” I say if you asked the officers who trained us, they said the same thing about us, “You just can’t find good people today. They just aren’t like we were at their age.” So is the fire service really that bad now? I say no, we aren’t that bad but we could always improve what we are doing and I believe succession training is the key. Teach others from our mistakes and victories.
A successful leader must have a well defined vision of where the organization is going. Often times you can measure vision as it is in direct proportion to accomplishment. As we begin to develop the future generation of fire service personnel we must navigate that road with vision. Vision is like a navigational system guiding you precisely from point “A” to point “B”. With vision we must be focused on the mission as well. Like vision, the mission gives a successful leader a sense of direction and purpose. This same mission gives personnel and future leaders the same sense of direction and purpose.
As we navigate our pathways of development we must learn not to utilize a “shoot from the hip” philosophy. We must learn to set SMART Goals. SMART is an acronym standing for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time dimension. As we set goals we must set specific or well defined goals that can be measured. Measured is usually specific to statistics or set time tables. The realism is often the area leaders fail in. They either set the goals out of reach and they fail or set them too easy and never excel. Setting realistic goals means to set them where you have to stretch yourself but not fail in doing so. Without a time frame, the goal becomes merely a wish or dream.
As officers and leaders we are faced with developing the future leaders of the fire service. I often look around and see officers not setting a very good example in all aspects of the fire service. If you picture an individual you consider to be a great leader, like Dennis Compton, I can promise you will find one trait that they will exhibit…That is they will show integrity in all that they do! To have integrity you must have strong values like innovation, honesty, a positive attitude, team work, mercy and many more. But most of all you must take responsibility for your actions. I far too often see officer’s sell their subordinates down the road for their mistake.
Here is a responsibility check:
Do you get defensive when you are criticized?
Do you learn from your mistakes and start fresh?
Are you comfortable in admitting when you made a mistake?
Do you try to hide your weaknesses?
How do you feel when you make a mistake?
How does it feel when others know you made a mistake?
Depending on how you answer these questions will determine if you are willing to take responsibility for your own and others actions.
So we are at a point in the article where I ask myself: “Do I take you down the road to bashing you or do I take the high road?” Well if I want to commit leadership suicide I begin blaming you. But I want to take the high road here. So what do we do to correct the old saying, “You just can’t find good people today. They just aren’t like we were at their age.” You begin by promoting education and innovation. The more training and education the next generation can receive the better they will be. The problem is some of us old guys are just not the most willing to give up that information. We are afraid that we may not be the leader anymore. I got news for everyone out there, sooner or later you won’t be the leader, and so does it really matter? Besides if we utilize the knowledge the younger generation has and add it to our already gained knowledge, I don’t think we will get over run before our time.
Allow for mistakes. This is a hard one. But look at it this way, when they make mistakes they have learned one more way that doesn’t work, they didn’t fail. If you allow for mistakes I will promise you they will soar on wings like eagles.
Be adaptable and proactive to change. A lot of the problem with the younger generation is not them – it is us! Ouch that hurt didn’t it. That’s correct I just bashed us. We are so set in our ways that many of us can’t change or adapt to something new. I had a firefighter tell me that he had been on the job for 25 years and a few little changes had him so confused that he did know what to do. This is a prime example of the inability to be adaptable to change. These changes put this firefighter outside of their comfort zone and he was not willing to adapt. Change is inevitable. You better get ready because it is going to happen whether you are ready or not.
Listen to understand. As leaders we commit suicide by not actively listening. Wise people will listen and learn more. By not listening we are not truly communicating. So as a leader how many times have we not truly listened to our youth and we just blame it on their ethics. Maybe if we would slow up and open our ears we may hear what the true message is: “Help me and teach me in a way I can understand.” Ouch, hit another nerve. That’s correct we have to adapt to their way of learning and educate them so we can create a bright future. The way we learned is not how they learn today. We didn’t wear breathing apparatus in the 70’s either, but does that make it correct today?
Link recognition and rewards to their performance. By making these visible we enhance their egos and everyone has an ego to some degree. I was taught that you need to clearly define the goals and expectations, make it sincere, meaningful and unique and accept nothing less. As these goals and expectations are met recognize them and give a reward. Think about it, what motivates you?
Finally promote win-win thinking. This will set the stage for many things to come. So how many toes are hurting right now? Well I know one person who just got their toes stepped on…ME!
It is far too easy to fall into the old mind set and forget about being proactive, setting SMART goals or even giving the true effort to develop our future. As an officer and a leader we are charged with many duties, the failure to focus on our future is a critical failure that has catastrophic consequences. We must step up to the plate. As the leaders of the fire service, we must have to have the Guts to Do More. We must set a precedent for the future. We begin that precedent with the instructor in the mirror. We have an obligation of dedication and commitment to educating the future of the fire service.
Both leadership and management are important and have their place. it is important not to confuse the two as they are different. Leadership is the skill and an attitude that enables one to get others to accomplish the objectives or goals that have been established. Management is the ability or skill of controlling resources, activities or tasks during the accomplishment of a objectives or goals. It is important to realize that these two concepts work synergistically together and that one without the other is not going to be very effective. “leadership is doing the right things, management is doing things right”, according to Doctor Warren Bennis of the University of California.
We can break this down a little further for understanding. We manage resources but you must lead people. The application of leadership and management will vary based upon several components; the resources at hand, the people, the confidence and abilities of the fire officer. Each officer will develop their own style. It is important to have a harmoneous balance between management and leadership. This balance will be dictated by the objectives or goals to be acheived.
There are three basic supervision styles; Autocratic, Democratic, Laissez-Faire.
Autocratic – I Decide
Democratic – We decide
Laissez-Faire – You decide
Effective Company Officers must have a mastery of all three styles and learn through experience which is the best style for every situation. Remember this is a learning process to reach “mastery”. You will make mistakes along the way in choosing the right style for a given situation. That is normal and it becomes a great basis for future decision making. When you make a mistake in choosing a style of supervision it doesn’t hurt to be humble with your personnel and let them know you made a mistake and you recognize it. When they recognize your sincere efforts to improve your supervision, you will gain respect from them. Remember respect is best earned not demanded.
Many of us may have had someone in our career that provided influence, guidance and offered reinforcement, feedback or constructive criticism when needed. You know; that chief or company officer, who seemed to take you under thier wing and watchful eye in the street or at the least, spoke to you in the back of the apparatus bay when everyone else was in the day room. It was that seasoned veteran or senior member who always seemed to have a bigger picture and insights on what was happening both on the fireground as well as in quarters, who shared words of wisdom or nuggets of information that helped in our individual progress, development and growth. Many of the lessons and insights related to me, both as a young firefighter and as I transitioned to an officer have stayed with me to this day. Formal or informal, recognized or unacknowledged; mentors play a very real and important part in the development of a firefighter, company officer and chief officer. The opportunities for mentorship never pass with rank or position. On the contrary, the need magnifies and grows as you transition and move through the ranks and positions of responsibility and authority.
Definition of Mentoring
Mentoring is a developmental partnership through which one person shares knowledge, skills, information and perspective to foster the personal and professional growth of someone else. We all have a need for insight that is outside of our normal life and educational experience. The power of mentoring is that it creates a one-of-a-kind opportunity for collaboration, goal achievement and problem-solving. Traditionally, mentoring might have been described as the activities conducted by a person (the mentor) for another person (the mentee) in order to help that other person to do a job more effectively and/or to progress in their career. The mentor was probably someone who had “been there, done that” before. A mentor might use a variety of approaches, eg, coaching, training, discussion, counseling, etc. The Merriam-Webster WWWebster Dictionary defines a mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide
What is a mentor?
A mentor facilitates personal and professional growth in an individual by sharing the knowledge and insights that have been learned through the years.
(DOT Mentoring Handbook, p2 http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/mentor/mentorhb.htm)
Teacher; share your knowledge and experience as a former USC student.
Problem solver; refer mentees to resources and offer options.
Motivator; when mentee is facing a challenging class, for example:This is done through encouragement, support, and incentives.
Coach; help mentee to overcome performance difficulties through positive feedback (reinforce behavior) and constructive feedback (change behavior).
Guide; help mentee to set realistic goals. Five goal setting factors: specific, time-framed, results oriented, relevant, and reachable. “If you don’t know where you are going, you won’t know how to get there.”
What is a mentee?
A mentee is an achiever–”groomed” for advancement by being provided opportunities to excel beyond the limits of his or her position.
(DOT Mentoring Handbook, p3 http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/mentor/mentorhb.htm)Learner; a strong desire to learn new skills and abilities
Decision maker; take charge of your education
Initiator; mentee is willing to explore challenges on their own initiative.
Risk taker; “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate,” quote by Thomas Watson, Sr., founder of IBM.
Goal setter; if you know where you are going, people are willing to help guide you.
Mentorship refers to a developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person—who can be referred to as a protégé, or apprentice — to develop in a specified capacity.
“Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé)” (Bozeman, Feeney, 2007).
Think about where you fit into this process. Is there someone in your company, station or department that you see some potential in? Is there someone who could benefit from some level of encouragement, support or direction? Are you in need of some advice, feedback or guidance? Think about the possibilities, start communicating, get involved.
Ralph Waldo Emerson stated that, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” And indeed, mentors are doing kindness when they take on the responsibility of helping other people learn from their experiences. Through this, they can give back to society and make career growth, personal development, or intellectual achievement possible for the person they are mentoring.
“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us. What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” ~ Albert Pine
Take a look HERE for some insights on Life…..
For a different look at things, check out Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture”
Knowledge is Power… Share It !!! This statement is often used by many including myself. So what does it truly mean? It means that you will freely give of your knowledge and wisdom to others withholding nothing. It never fails, I will see a leader of an organization trying to hold information and knowledge from the next generation because they are afraid that this up and coming group will end up smarter than they are and as a leader they will loose control.
Well take a reality check…for as long as I can remember each generation has obviously gotten smarter, more technologically advanced and has superceded the generation before them. So what makes that so bad. I thought we were trying to make things better? I am sure this will hurt a few toes but the truth is the truth. The folks doing the withholding are the dumb ones. If you combine knowledge everyone gets better even yourself! (Ouch!!)
That’s right I took a jab at a few of you out there, but if we want to progress and if we are going to make progress we have to share our knowledge both good and bad with our youthful leaders to be. There future depends on it. In sharing this knowledge we have to be dynamic instructors creating engaging learning environments. A leader / instructor profile needs to encompass several areas to be able to meet these challenges and changes that we will face. First, we must find new motivation. Motivation that exceeds all levels previous. We must bring newfound excitement to the leadership programs we deliver. The excitement level that comes with the leader carries over and motivates the student to the same level or higher.
I think it can be best said that for use to reach the attitude of “Everyone Goes Home” we must do the right things. Leadership plays the most significant role in this. As future leaders begin to develop they need to address the issues, learn from our mistakes, make educated and calculated risk / benefit analysis assessments and be brutally honest when necessary.
I see this where as I had a discussion with a fellow collegue on seat belt laws as to whether or not firefighters are exempt. Point is who cares if we are exempt or not!!! We know that some things just don’t add up to being good risk benefit analysis decisions. We have witnessed multiple firefighter injuries and deaths from ejections from motor vehicle crashes over the past few years. If they were belted they probably would not have been ejected and would have maybe survived. It has nothing to do with a slogan. The slogan “Everyone Goes Home” is an attitude…an attitude within a fire department and a leader that boldly says we will do all we can to try and bring all of our firefighters home. It should be everyone’s attitude.
I challenge the young and old alike, if you are a current leader in the fire service…stand up get a backbone, polish your bugles, take a stance and be a true leader. If you are the youth of today, I challenge you to develop yourselves and be the leaders of tomorrow. I personally believe Chief Dennis Compton states it the best, “Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way”. Fellow fire service brothers and sisters, tomorrow hinges on what you do today. THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THOSE WHO PREPARE FOR IT!