I Wanna be in charge!
As a firefighter seeking a way to promote to the supervisory level in a fire service organization you have to realize that it’s not about what you do; it’s about what you don’t do. It’s about the little things daily that are not attended to; The little things that in reality don’t amount to much and may seem trivial, but collectively add up to define who we (and you) are as an organization.
The problem with this is that many firefighters never understand this concept until they are in a position of management and see if for themselves. Typically, 12-18 months after appointment as a manager, company officers find themselves sitting in their office completely overwhelmed. They simply cannot understand why their company is not performing well. They sit in dismay behind a wrecked desk of piled up projects that seem insurmountable. They contemplate and question the integrity and commitment of their own team while the rest of the company strolls along with no stress at all and oblivious to any problems. Deadlines are missed, tensions rise, and senior staff cannot understand how or why we struggle to accomplish the simplest of tasks to maintain our core values. And then the unbelievable happens, service levels are impacted for the worse and nobody can explain what happened.
Every officer walks into the position with the exact same dreams and goals. They want a cohesive group of firefighters that gets along very well. They want big fires that magically go out at the mere appearance of the company. They want to have fun. They want their co-workers to name their children after each other. Unfortunately, all of this is a dream, and not how it typically works. Time and time again I have witnessed this disaster unfold. No matter what the company makeup is, there is always trouble ahead for company officers. I challenge anyone to find me one company officer that says it was a cakewalk. Yes, dreams can be realized, but only after the initial trauma of becoming an officer heals and they recommit to their guiding principles that got them there in the first place. There are no officers that were bad or even average firefighters. Every officer I know performed at an EXCEPTIONAL LEVEL as a firefighter.
For years I have struggled to convey this message in a meaningful manner that would be easily interpreted by senior members of the organization looking for a path to management and eventually leadership. Over my career as a company officer and chief officer, I have sat with many firefighters seeking my advice and feedback on “what they need to do to become an officer.” Aside from the normal education and certification requirements, my answer has been consistent with every conversation. Start today by demonstrating some simple leadership. Let your principles and traits shine through. There is no magical bullet. There is no inside information, it’s that simple.
It’s Who You Are
The fact is, your interview for the position of manager started the day you walked through the door as a rookie firefighter. Becoming an officer is a really big deal, and it should be. But, becoming a firefighter is a bigger deal as the daily decisions you make will affect you for the rest of your career. You will make mistakes. And, you will have “off” days as a firefighter. But, how you respond to the occasional mishaps and feedback throughout your career will define how you will be as an officer.
How you ‘consistently’ attend to your job as a firefighter or driver will define who you are and is the best indicator of your potential as an officer. So, my first piece of advice is, “Start today, and be the best at the job you’re being paid for.” After many years of doing this job, I think I have developed an ability to spot an officer after their first 6 months. Trust me, it’s that easy. It’s a characteristic that is genuine and cannot be faked. That doesn’t mean people cannot change. But, some people get it from the first day.
Start today by showing you’re humble, that you’re human and
willing dying to learn. Start today by showing a constant and pervasive commitment to the fire rescue profession. Start today by being positive about everything. This is not a job you get by filling out an application. It’s one of few jobs that you actually “take an oath” to commit to. Start today by asking “why yes” instead of jumping on the “why not” freight train to a disaster.
There are no conspiracies or strategies to unlock to becoming an officer. Being an officer is just like being a firefighter. It’s not what you are, “it’s who you are.” It’s a personality, not a job. If you think becoming an officer is about taking a test, passing a set of exams, and charming the heck out of an interview panel you’re very “VERY” wrong. It just doesn’t work like that. It cannot work like that, there is too much at stake. This is why being an officer starts today, not after receiving a set of bugles. No matter how well you do on an exam, your traits and habits that you have demonstrated over your career will be revealed in the “process.” And, you cannot trick the process.
Becoming an Officer
So how do you start? It’s not about what you do day-in and day-out. Unfortunately, it’s more about what you don’t do. You, your company, your station, and even your department will be defined by what YOU DON’T DO. Anybody can extinguish a fire. Anybody can deliver EMS. Anybody can get through a shift with nothing broken and nobody hurt. If you don’t put out the fire, or keep your apparatus in top shape, then you will be defined by those missteps. Departments that struggle have people sitting on their butts whining about the daily whatever. They have firefighters with no initiative that blame the “system” on their attitude. Who are those departments? Those are the ones that appear on the daily TV news with their aerials in the air, or a dramatic situation that has nothing to do with providing this valiant service to the public.
So, here’s my 2nd piece of advice. Don’t look for praise when you do something that is expected. Taking out the trash is not going to get you a set of bars. You should seek praise when you do something unexpected (for you) that benefits the organization. It’s more about the simple things you do when you’re not looking for praise or recognition. I promise people (especially the senior leadership) will notice things are being tended to.
If you’re sitting around the station waiting to be invited to do something, then you’ve missed the leadership train. If you’re waiting for directions from your officer to do “anything outside of the normal,” you’re screwing up your officer interview. If your officer is drowning at his/her desk as you sit and “study something” on the computer, then you’re missing a huge opportunity. If you pass up an opportunity to work some overtime or attend training, you’re missing another opportunity, and it’s noticed. If you’re not the one that is leading the way on the simplest of daily tasks or new ideas, then you don’t stand a chance to promote in any organization.
So what am I talking about? Take out the trash without being told. Clean anything if it’s dirty. Double, and even triple check your tools and equipment. Train on something. And by train, I mean get your hands dirty. Pull hose, climb ladders, dress up without asking for permission from your officer. Become an expert “on your own time.” If something is in disarray, then be accountable and take the initiative to fix it. Establish very high expectations in regards to your station and apparatus. Ask the tough questions to yourself. Don’t depend on others and get over the barriers that keep you from accomplishing something. Do not wait on others (officers) to approve of your routine actions around the station. Answer emails, take on projects, complete assignments and be dependable. Trust me, people notice when it’s not done. Tasks not performed, training not completed are very noticeable. Not to mention hose loaded improperly.
And finally, above all. Be accountable to maintain the history of the organization. If we clean kitchens on Monday’s, then you be the one to ensure it’s done. No one cares why or why not we do something. If history dictates the routine task, then honor it. If the trucks are to be clean at all times, then be the one to grab the hose and bucket first. If for no other reason than honoring the traditions of our past members that built these fire departments. Remember, if you don’t do it people (especially those responsible for promoting you) will notice.
I frequently sit in dismay wondering why a firefighter in any capacity would accept anything sub-par. I think the answer is complicated and the reasons vary. But in general, I believe many just take it for granted and don’t evaluate the value and the potential of something simply defining who they are, or how they will be as an officer.
It’s your fire department, and your interview for the next step started a long time ago. Don’t take anything for granted. I have witnessed the smallest miscalculations remove a person from the process long before they ever even applied to be an officer. So please, stop waiting for an opportunity to come walking in and create your own opportunities through your daily “simple” actions. If you’re waiting for an officer to “create an opportunity” for you then clearly you’re not ready to lead. Opportunities are everywhere, so don’t underestimate anything, get up and DO IT.
– Brian Ritter
– Battalion Chief – City of Wylie, Texas
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” – John Crosby
“Be the change that you want to see in the world.” – Gandhi
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but rather we have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle
“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” – Collin Powell
To Achieve Success, You Must First Be Able To Define Success
The one request that I receive more than anything else, has to do with our mentoring program. While I am more than happy to share anything that we are using in The Colony Fire Department (T.C.F.D.), what people are looking for is a turnkey mentoring program. Unfortunately, because our process is a model, that’s not possible. So what I thought I would do is to offer the steps that I believe are necessary for developing and implementing a successful and sustainable mentoring program.
I need to start by saying that I believe mentoring is the future of fire service training, the point being to make training personal. Training that impacts people on a personal level has proven to stay with them longer because when it is personal, the firefighter takes ownership of the training and therefore their success and survival. After all, what’s more personal than training that increases a Firefighter’s chance for survival?
Like everything else I talk about, to be successful, you must start with the end in mind (Covey). So the question here is, what do you want your mentoring program to produce? If the leadership team can’t answer this question, chances are you will not have success with developing a sustainable mentoring program. First, decide what you want to accomplish, and then decide the best way to get there.
Mentoring v. Coaching
I often hear people using the term mentor to address issues that would be better resolved through coaching. Coaching is generally a more formal approach used to address existing skills and behaviors. A firefighter or fire officer who is struggling with basic skills or lack of knowledge, who requires immediate improvement, would benefit better from the immediate feedback that comes from a coaching relationship.
On the other hand, if your goal is to position a fire officer of firefighter for future success with the organization, a less formal mentoring process based on a one-to-one mentoring relationship would have the greatest value. While the mentoring process may be somewhat formal or more informal, the focus should always be long-term success.
It has been my experience in the fire service, that coaching takes a different teaching and interpersonal skill set than does mentoring. Coaches must have knowledge, they must have skill competency, and they must have the courage to do the right thing. Coaching works well during indoctrination or orientation programs but leaves off where mentoring begins. While the mentoring process should evaluate the application of existing knowledge and skills, the focus should be on mastering skills and applying knowledge to real-world situations. Mentors are usually skilled at turning events into experiences that will last a career. They too must be proficient and knowledgeable, and they must have experience with the organization.
Step 1 – The Model
The first step in developing a mentoring process is to clearly define what the process should produce. Once outcomes are identified, work backward to develop a process that leads up to the achievement of those outcomes. We use a model in T.C.F.D. that clearly states what we hope our mentoring process will produce, and the parts of the model describe what is necessary for a successful mentoring process. By using a model, mentors are empowered to choose and use their own mentoring style, while mentoring towards a defined and consistent outcome. I have yet to see a successful and sustained mentoring program that was mandated or the result of policy. Like customer service, there are certain dos and don’ts, but exceptional customer service is the result of individual compassion and effort.
Step 2 – Changing the Culture
Culture modification often requires breakthrough change. Breakthrough change requires vision, commitment, and managing the culture daily. If the organization is struggling with committing to quality training, a mentoring program will likely also struggle. Once the organization embraces training, learning, and investing in the next generation of firemen and fire officers, mentoring is the next step to make sure they succeed and survive in those roles long term.
Changing the culture is the most difficult part of the mentoring process, and often the most feared. To reach full potential, mentoring must be supported by a learning culture. If the organization does not value training and learning, the members will not value the benefits of mentoring. Too often a “mentoring program” is put into place in hopes of solving deep-seated cultural or climate issues. While any form of mentoring can be beneficial with the right people, it should not be viewed as a cure for all that is wrong. Outside of a learning culture, mentors become discouraged and feel defeated because they are always going against the grain, and eventually the program fizzles out. For the program to succeed, support must come from the top, from the Chief of Department. It’s the chief that must provide the leadership, the horsepower, and be the main advocate for the process.
Step 3 – Mentoring Tools
This is the heavy lifting, and the phase that requires the most work and the greatest attention to detail. In The Colony, we want our mentors to model and teach The Colony Way. For mentors to be successful, the leadership team must provide mentors with the tools that define The Colony Way.
We want our mentors to teach philosophy more than policy. To do that, mentors must understand what the leadership and operational philosophy of the organization is. Coaches address policy, rules, and regulations.
T.C.F.D. operational standard is S.M.A.R.T3. Strategic, Managed, Aggressive, Risk Regulated, Tactics, Tasks, and Techniques. Our Fire Operations Guidelines (FOGs) and coaches address fire ground strategy, incident management, operational aggression, risk management, and company tactics. Mentors focus on the tasks, techniques, and the organization’s commitment to being smart versus just being safe.
Mentoring is a great tool for achieving operational predictability and consistency between shifts and stations. To accomplish this, the organization must provide mentors with the information that describes what that operational predictability and consistency looks like. When leadership or operational guidelines are lacking, the organism (the fire department) will adapt in order to survive. In the absence of leadership and operational direction, micro-cultures such as battalions, stations, and companies will make up their own.
Step 4 – Choosing Mentors
Once the process has been identified, the culture modified, and the mentor’s tools developed and distributed, it’s time to identify mentors. Choosing the right mentors is essential if you hope to achieve the best outcome. Remember mentoring is about people first. While those with mentor qualities should be identified and encouraged to participate, mandating members to be mentors is not the best route to a successful process. Mentors should:
• Have experience with the organization
• Have the ability to turn events (fires) into experiences (experience fighting fire)
• Have a positive attitude
• Be committed to the vision and professional standards of the organization
• Have a passion for the profession
• Be an advocate for the mentoring process
• Be someone who cares about the success of others
• Always be a part of the solution and not the problem
• Be a lifelong learner; a student of the fire service
Step 5 – Support the Process
This is the most important part. If a member(s) commits to mentoring the next generation of firemen and fire officers, the absolute minimum that chief officers and company officers should do is support the process and run interference for any negativity that may arise to defeat the effort, this takes courage. Those that don’t believe in progress, those that don’t participate in training, and those who oppose anything positive, should not be allowed the authority to derail the success of others.
In closing, I have yet to realize anything negative regarding the mentoring of new members and new officers. I can’t imagine why leadership wouldn’t fully support the effort. The only way we are going to be successful in meeting future challenges is to position our people and our organization for success and survival in the firehouse and on the fire ground. This should be job one for all Chief Officers
Chief Scott Thompson
The Colony Texas
As firefighters, we have all had associates that we have looked up to. These are the type of individuals about whom you say, “I want to be like him/her when I get older, get promoted, or advance my career.” We look up to those individuals that have taken the time to work with us, show us the ropes, responsibilities, and prepare us for our job and our future. There are no better teachers in the fire service than the seasoned veterans who take time out of their days to educate and train us on the way the job was, is, and should be in the future. So this coming year, instead of just sitting in the dayroom complaining of all the things I would fix if I were in charge, I am making 15 New Year’s resolutions for my fire department. These are things that I can spearhead to address our issues while imparting camaraderie, fostering a team concept, and promoting an actual desire to be a part of a world-class fire department.
#1. – Squashing the “us against them” mentality:
This is the management against firefighter mentality that exists in virtually every fire department. How do we resolve this? We stop letting anger fester. The complaining while sitting in the day room, during dinner, or at roll call is counterproductive. As the adage states, “Misery loves company,” we are only defeating ourselves. We need to ensure we don’t talk bad about ourselves outside the department. Stop airing our dirty laundry. The community will judge you by your actions, the words you speak, and your perceived appearance. Instead, be proud to be here. You are now a member of the best fire department in the world; yours. This organization is built on the shoulders of the people before you. Leave the legacy that you would want to return to. Have a sense of ownership. While you are here, this is your family, your firehouse, your job, and a stepping stone to your future. I am going to represent my department in a positive light. I want to leave a good impression.
#2. – Creating a conduit to admitting wrong-doings:
Whether it is up or down the chain of command, whether it is a captain or a chief, this is a big issue; never admitting you’re wrong. So as a leader, don’t fall into that trap. Admit your mistakes, take ownership, and move on. Be a leader. A leader is a person who has integrity, vision, honesty, trustworthy, has a drive, and a commitment to achieve that vision. They have the skills to make it happen. As a leader, first and foremost, lead by example. Don’t expect your crews to do things you wouldn’t do. Instill trust in your crewmembers. Your crew will realize that you have their best interest at heart and they will be more likely to follow you into hazardous situations once you have gained their trust. This also applies to vehicle checks, station cleaning, morning stretching and planning the day. Be present and involved. You must not be afraid to make a decision. Whether it is the right one or the wrong one, you must be able to decide and justify it, if questioned. A decisive officer instills trust and leadership with the crews. I am going to do a better job of making informed decisions. When I am wrong, I will admit it, correct it, and grow from it.
#3. – Redesigning indecisiveness:
Taking too long to make decisions is considered a huge barrier to effective leadership. Just remember, as a leader, people generally would rather you make a bad decision than no decision. The low hanging fruit is easy to harvest. The regular business day decisions set the tone for the ones you make during emergency situations. Even if you don’t make the right decision, you can make the decision right. Plenty of talented people, even the chief, go to exhaustive lengths not to appear dumb. Let it go. We have the right to change our minds; you are not admitting defeat. You are simply reassessing the situation and processing new information. Similar to a hazmat call where the offensive tactics aren’t mitigating the situation. We retreat, call an audible and deploy defensive operations. I am not dumb. I don’t know everything. I am learning. (See? It wasn’t hard to admit.)
#4. Creating a vision and purpose:
A lack of vision and purpose make effective leadership impossible. Make a daily schedule. We don’t have to adhere to it by the minute, but it gives guidelines for a typical day in the firehouse. Just to figure out a general schedule for each shift. It could be a list of times for training, cleaning, others tasks, down-time, meals, breaks, free-time. This visual tool will bolster the dissemination of information to everyone. They do this in grade school to keep the students on task and promote punctuality. In a broader sense, we need to define our personal goals. To accomplish this, we can start by writing a list of goals you want to complete. It could be of any type; personal, work-related, relationship, educational, or financial. Make it broad or specific. Share it with your supervisor. The department defines expectations of you as an employee; provide them with your expectations. Leadership won’t know what you want if we don’t tell them. It also helps write a performance review. We could define our purpose and share our vision with the entire department.
#5. Constructing a foundation of discipline:
Trying to be a buddy instead of a boss makes it difficult to be a formal leader. A huge morale killer in the fire service: having to drag around dead weight firefighters that no one wants to step up and discipline. If the captain or the chief does discipline, but it is inconsistent or not standardized between the shifts/personnel creates a barrier to effective leadership. The purpose of discipline should be to enforce the rules and standards that are valued by management, provide feedback, reaffirm expectations, and promote fairness through consistency. It doesn’t have to be negative/involve punishment or be confrontational. We can discipline ourselves. Set clear, achievable goals and a reasonable timeline to help yourself meet your job expectations. Additionally, always offer support and guidance to coworkers. After all, we are a family. One of my failures is deploying congruent discipline to all of my subordinates. I will remedy this with clear, concise, obtainable objectives.
#6. Fostering accountability:
Leaders need to take ownership for their actions and decisions both up and down the chain of command. Hold everyone accountable. We are the best fire department in our town/city/county/state/country. We set the bar. We should be the organization that other departments want to emulate. We have the opportunity to be a great place to work, but it starts with trust, motivating your crew, and taking ownership. As a driver, backstep firefighter, or riding the seat; it is your job and responsibility to keep your office, apparatus, and office space clean. Learn what motivates your personnel and use those techniques to instill a sense of pride and ownership in the work we do. Polish your shoes, the chrome on the rig, and that badge on your chest. I am working towards leading by example, a good example.
#7. Organizing our standardized operating procedures:
The departments SOP’s must be readily available. Show me the SOP’s and make me read them. Read them out loud to me. Make me sign that I understand and have read them. Hold me accountable. Hold everyone accountable. Set the rules and make me follow them. NO EXCEPTIONS. Foster a consistent team. You set the tone. Complacency kills. Keeping a positive attitude during your whole shift will instill a sense of purpose and pride in the job that they do every day. Encourage people to remain positive and do things to cultivate that pride, ownership, and positivity. Put in the same effort that you want from people. Accolades and “Atta-boys” go a long way in recognition. It doesn’t have to be coins, award ceremonies, or bonuses. Just acknowledge the type of behavior you want to retain and inspire. I am going to stop focusing on the negative.
#8. Developing effective communication skills:
Ineffective communication hurts the public, your crew, and also the department. A leader that doesn’t listen isn’t approachable. One that is inaccessible will create barriers. If they don’t know how to articulate themselves, or they are socially withdrawn, the results can be devastating. Having effective communication skills is vital when it comes to leadership. Communications is more than just being able to speak and write. Communicating effectively means you keep your crews informed, when possible, of daily events that will affect them and the way they perform their regular duties. Nobody likes surprises. Make sure that you keep the lines of communication open. Open communication between you and your crews gains respect. I am going to do better by practicing my public speaking, mentoring more firefighters, and calling my mother more often.
#9. Be receptive and take input on ideas:
Another barrier to effective leadership in the fire service is acting like you have all the answers, you know everything, you don’t need input from anybody, and there’s no humility. People find it very difficult to buy into missions and visions they didn’t help create, so get input! It is our department too, let us be a part of it. Tap into experience. This administration perpetuates the notion that no firefighter is different than the other. However, we all have different experience levels and training. Tap into that, it is a free resource and gives people a purpose. Let me teach; let me share; let me impart my experience on another coworker. It builds bonds, trust, and opens an avenue for potential leaders that can rise. Don’t forget the words “please” and “thank you” when asking personnel to complete a task (outside incident operations). These phrases will take you a long way in respect and motivation of your staff. I will be humble, share my thoughts and ideas, and continue to foster an efficient team.
#10. Cultivating trust:
Now, I want you to think about this one for a minute because this is huge. Do you know what the most effective way is to build and maintain a high level of trust? Do what you say you’re going to do when you said you would do it and how you said it would get done. Let your words mean something. If people can’t depend on you, they won’t trust you. I read a great quote once, “Trust is a lot like fine China; once broken, it can be repaired, but it’s never quite the same.” It ties into the lack of personal morality. This actually causes followers to be very reluctant about standing behind a leader. If you demonstrate a lack of personal integrity, you will have a huge uphill battle winning the trust of your followers again. A simple way to exude honor is pride in appearance. Perception is everything. YOU ARE THE EXAMPLE. Dress the part. Practice decorum. The statement still holds true, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” I believe one way I can nurture trust in my co-workers and my leadership is to solicit advice, counsel, and train with them.
#11. Sponsor effective training:
Train with your crew. Training is a vital part of what we do, now more than ever. Convey the importance of training with your crews. Make each shift a training day. If there is no formal training scheduled on a particular shift, take the crew out for driver’s training. Get the rope bag out and brush up on your knots or learn some new ones. Practice buddy breathing with your self-contained breathing apparatus. Practice a rapid intervention scenario. Practice putting up ladders behind the firehouse. Pre-plan a building that you’re not familiar with, discuss the layout, construction type, and the potential risks and hazards. Would a rescue be a concern, and if so, where and how would you deal with it if it happened? What are the exposures? Where is the nearest water supply and is it enough to sustain a prolonged fire attack? Would this be an offensive or a defensive incident? What hazardous materials do you need to address? The more you train with your personnel, the more comfortable you will be with them, and they will trust you as their officer. Remember, this profession is a team effort. Freelancing will get you killed. This comes back to complacency. I am going to lead more training, developing new training modules, and sign up for more classes.
#12. Encourage time spent with the troops:
Staff officers are sometimes viewed as out-of-touch with what’s actually going on in the station. This can create an obstacle and should be addressed immediately. Be a good listener. Be open to what your crew has to say. Take time to be a good listener. If one of your crewmembers needs or wants to discuss something with you, make a chance to do so. Save what you’re working on your computer, put your cell phone on vibrate, and assign another crewmember to answer the phone to take messages for you. Such behavior shows your personnel that you honestly care about your crew and what they have to say. This behavior also instills respect from your personnel. Being a good listener is probably one of the most important ways to inspire trust and respect in your personnel. We must not forget that we are under the watchful eye of the entire community. We must hold ourselves to a higher regard than the other departments. If leadership is embarrassed to acknowledge us, then the community will follow suit. All due to the examples that the leadership sets. Don’t ostracize our department and co-workers. Don’t ignore us. Every day should be an open house at the fire department. I have an open door policy, I eat meals with the staff, I offer greetings and handshakes, and you should too.
#13. Inspire free thinking leaders:
This applies to informal leaders who are attempting to share ideas. One of the obstructions to effective leadership in the fire service is there is not enough freedom for free-thinking leaders. Informal leaders are squashed, and supervisory or positional leaders are very threatened by them. There is a fear of retaliation. Regardless of their position, whether it was a firefighter, lieutenant, captain, or command staff, they aren’t free reigned enough to put their ideas out there or say what’s wrong, or what needs to be fixed because they’re afraid they will be retaliated against. People need to feel safe coming forward with their ideas, suggestions, and input. And if you’re the one coming forward, you need to do it with respect and humility. As a formal leader, don’t use your positional power to try to keep people in line. Use your positive influence, your vision, and your role model example. Be a supervisor. A supervisor is the team leader, overseer, coach, facilitator, and a manager in a position of trust. It is your job to make sure that work is completed safely, effectively, and promptly. I am going to hold a meeting with my staff to solicit ideas, concerns, and comments to take to the Chief. They work for me; it is my duty to work for them.
#14. Provide mentors in the fire service:
When people are thrown into positions, they’re expected just to figure it out, and it’s frustrating. It’s not just rookie firefighters who need mentoring. Officers & veteran firefighters need it as well. Everyone needs good mentoring and good role modeling to look to in the fire service for good leadership. As a mentor, don’t be afraid to relinquish some of your information, your duties, and your valuable knowledge to the personnel who will be following in your footsteps some day. That is how the next generation will learn your position. Yes, I said YOUR position. None of us are permanent fixtures in the fire service. I have worked with officers who are afraid that if their secrets get out, someone will advance in front of them, or worse yet, take all their glory. Remember, firefighting is a team effort. Not one single person can do this profession alone. A good officer is also a good teacher. Lead by example. This year, I am going to mentor more firefighters and I am going to seek out a professional mentor for myself.
#15. Nurture respect:
We should not be condescending. Rather, we should be approachable, friendly, and inviting. The city/municipality/town judges us regularly; not by the leadership, uniforms, or effectiveness to extinguish fires, but rather by that one asshole that runs his/her mouth at the bar, public gatherings, or on social media. Respect is earned! It doesn’t come with a uniform, position, or title. Remember that a leader must lead from the front. An officer should strive to better himself/herself every day. It is your responsibility to motivate and keep your people heading in the right direction. It is also your responsibility to keep yourself motivated, educated, and up with the newest trends, management, and leadership skills, as well as equipment in the fire service. Never coast along because it only hurts those who want to do a good job. Morale will suffer if you don’t care. Motivate your crew. As a driver, back step firefighter, or riding the seat; it is your job and responsibility to keep your crew motivated. Keeping a positive attitude within your whole shift will instill a sense of purpose and pride in the job that they do every day. Learn what motivates your personnel and use those techniques to instill a sense of pride and ownership in the work we do. I am spending 2017 making my crew, department, and myself better. I want to work for a world-class fire department, so with these 15 resolutions, I am creating it; a world-class department that I have always wanted to work for.