Recognize People When They Do Good Things

Personnel need guidance.

If you want to build positive discipline within your organization: set a good example; let the personnel know the standard to which they will be held accountable; be friendly; promote understanding and confidence; maintain firm and impartial control; take action when you have to, to maintain discipline.

When behavior is unacceptable: identify the behavior; decide if the behavior is acceptable/unacceptable; evaluate the possible reason for the behavior; confront the unacceptable behavior; reach an agreement; monitor the behavior and provide feedback.

Accept responsibility. Accept responsibility for the mistakes that you will make.

Leadership is not always about doing what is popular. Leadership is about doing what is right at this time, in this situation based upon your experience, knowledge and circumstances presented.

What do you do with the incompetent personnel on your department? Ignore them? Move them? Accept incompetence? Leadership is about doing the right thing, at the right time for the right reason. Leadership is about not sticking your head or hand in the sand and hoping that the problem will go away. Career and volunteer have this problem. When we have firefighters who are not meeting a standard we must work with them to bring them up to the performance standard within a reasonable time frame.

To be a good officer you must be competent, fair and always trying to do the right thing.

It is a difficult thing to go from firefighter to officer. Transitioning up means forgetting some of the things of the past. No one is perfect. Everyone has a history, live with yours admit your past mistakes and failures and advise those that work for you of them. Put it all on the table and open it up for discussion. Explaining why you did what you did in a particular situation. Most people would rather work for a boss who has been there, done that, and survived than one who acts like they have never walked in their shoes and made a bad decision or a choice that today is regretted.

Dinosaurs are living in the past and are against change. The old way is good enough for them and they will argue “that won’t work here because were different.” dinosaurs is a state of mind not based upon age or seniority.

Going from a company officer to a chief officer can be a very difficult transition. The skills needed to do the job are different. The company officer is usually a hands-on position that requires a look at the inside of everything to understand how it operates; the chief officer demands the opposite. Chief Officers must learn to delegate and hold that work for them accountable for deadlines and for those who work for them. Chief Officers must make sure that things get done by not doing all of the things. This is a difficult transition.

When you become a chief of department you will know how heavy that fifth bugle is. Until then 1, 2, 3 or 4 bugles individually or collectively do not weigh as much as the fifth bugle. CEO’s of major corporations make decisions every day that impact the financial solvency of companies, Fire Chiefs make decisions every day that impact the life of our citizens, lives of our firefighters and the quality of life within a community. I believe it would be easier to be a CEO making decisions than a Fire Chief.

If Fire Chiefs truly cared about Mrs. Smith we would be sending the closest apparatus to an emergency call and not worry about the boundaries. What matters most to Mrs. Smith is who can get there first when she needs help.

If a firefighter makes a good suggestion or has a good idea implement it right away.

People complain about change but they need to adjust to it or pick a new profession. Everything has changed. The public expectations. The firefighters expectation. Our view of the world closest to us and distant from us. Some things change for the better and some are not for the better. Many people opine for the good old days. They are watching history pass them by.

It is very difficult to improve when the only thing you know or experience is the one you are in. Get out in the world and see how others do it. Listen and learn. Most all of us rightfully think that we are the best. No one person and no one department can be the best at everything. The challenge is to expand our horizons and examine the outside world. Read the trade journals are an easy way to see things from a different perspective.

Morale improves when we…are fair, firm and polite when dealing with personnel mistakes.

The lack of experience is a critical factor in most fire departments in this country. Whether they are career or volunteers there just aren’t enough structural fires today and there won’t be many more in the future. Simulations are one way to gain experience but they are limited in most departments. Mentoring is an excellent tool but in many cases the mentoring system fails miserably because of the lack of structure. Mentoring in many cases may be just remembering the big one and relaying that story. Learning from the past is important but the past must be taken in context.

Make sure that the rules you have in your department are the important ones. Some departments will have a uniform policy but no policy on the first due engine being required to take the hydrant in with them on a structure fire. The balance is out of whack.

All equipment is checked and in working order. 100% right – 100% of the time.

Using SOP’s all of the time will help to develop a consistent pattern and ensure that the same things happen at the same time on every response

Every incident is an opportunity to learn, share and improve individual and overall operations.

Steady, experienced and calm is much better than yelling and screaming.

Don’t become part of the problem, become the solution.

Dirty little secrets – there shouldn’t be any within the brotherhood.

People don’t like change when they don’t understand the need.

Don’t discipline when mad.

None of us gets to be right all the time.

Identify the mission of your fire department

Establish priorities for your fire department

Set operational objectives for your fire department to achieve

Diversity is not an option it is an expectation.

The fire fighter can’t dress quickly. The pump operator forgot a critical step in placing the pump in gear. The Captain can’t get the response report entered in the computer system. On it goes. There is time for everyone else, but not for ourselves-an easy trap. Successful leaders tend to be “helping people” by nature. People, who put aside their own needs to fulfill the needs of others, watch out. Helping others is one thing, but being a people – pleaser, never able to say no, is costly. Canceling training for the leadership, freeing them to conduct their role without training cheats the officers and eventually the firefighters who deserve the best possible training. There is a way out.


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