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What do you feel is the most significant roadblock to building a team, any team. From an engine company, station crew or battalion to a special operations team such as hazardous materials or technical rescue

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John hit this one right on! There are many reasons for someone to be unhappy with their assignment. What they (and you) do with that information will determine the success or failure of the team.

Is this a outside issue (family problem, etc.)?
Is this an internal issue within the department?
Is the station dynamics a problem for them, and if so what problems exist and how can they be REASONABLY worked out".

I'm not saying you have to spoon feed the answers to them; that would reduce the learning end for everyone involved.

As far as the station events go, compromise...a little. If you encounter so much resistance that it becomes a detractor to the rest of the team, that's when it is time to take it up a notch. For example, perhaps you can not force these two members to eat the same meal as the rest of the team. You can, however let them know that your teams expectations are that everyone will be at the dinner table at 1800. We have similar problems at one of our stations. On one shift, one entire crew (8+BC+EMS Supervisor) all eat separately most of the time. It shows with regard to operations at calls and general station morale.

If these members have something they have a "knack" for have them develop an informal, non-confrontational, class for the team. I once was placed in a station as a temporarily promoted Lieutenant at a house that had just had just come off of some horrendous personnel issues. The engineer was particularly hard to gauge. He was very quiet, short tempered and generally burnt out. He has a dog that he was training for search and rescue and he was a completely different person around her. I sat down with him, had the cursory what's on your mind chat to no avail. Then I asked him to bring Renee in for the day (Saturday) and teach us about the dog search and rescue program. I got lucky, this completely changed the dynamics of the team relationship with the engineer, for the better.

Finally, sit with each member of your company individually and let them know your expectations of them AND ASK THEM THEIR EXPECTATIONS OF YOU! Again, this is a 360 degree process.

I hope this helps!

Take care...BE SAFE!!!
Thanks for advice so far! A little more detail might get some new ideas to- the Lt.(24 yr) the FF(8yr). The ff is the LT's right hand man. I 've been in the station with them for about 3 months and have yet to hear a positive comment work, county or employee related yet. Even going as far to degrade other Lt.s and Capt.s that have recently retired. The Lt is "the only Lt. that knows how to do an officer's job in the dept." We just had a sit down with the B.C. he let every member of the station (an engine and ambulance) say what their problems were in front of each other, uninterrupted. The meeting went pretty well. The B.C. laid down one important rule, "get along,or get along" he is not a babysitter and he will not move people just because of problems. I personally think thats a great way to do things. I just gotta find a way to start. Things have been getting better since the meeting. If you call the Lt. going to his personal room at least 21 hours of each shift And the FF does the same, but he will pop his head out if there is some funny things carring on. Ems does'nt even stay at the station, they go down the street all day. But really things have been getting better. Im a newbie,been in the county for a little over a year, Im a third generation so the lifestyle is not new but, I'm still tryin to not be seen or heard as well. Any input is greatly apreciatted.
Hey Lee,

Okay, i understand a little more now. You are one of five or six at a station. It sounds like your BC laid a foundation for improvement. How is your relationship with EMS? collaboration with them may be one way of developing a plan of attack (so to speak). Do you have the ability to sit down with them one-on-one and ask the point blank if they have issues with you?

There are many great leaders on this site. Bounce this off of some of them as well!

Take care...BE SAFE...Scott
Hey Lee,

What Scott said! LOL No need to reiterate everything right!

Actually what I have are more questions sir.

When the Chief opened the floor did your Brothers and Sisters actually speak their minds or did they beat around the bush.

How much experience do the other guys have at the station?

Do the EMS guys go somewhere else due to protocol or to get away?

Do you have any influence with others in your house despite your seen not heard methodology? Personally I believe seen and heard is a good thing, just not...know it all, smart A@@. Just because I may have been around a while does not mean that I am always right!

The above is part of what I believe Scott is referring to when was talking about a plan of attack.

I believe that your BC is laying the ground work by having the meeting as he has. He has taken the initial step to make things right, and that's a good thing.

The answers are in the details or questions as I said before. You need to spill it all, everything you can think of in order for these guys to get you on the right track. There are a lot of sharp guys that cruse this site and I have learned a great deal in the short time I have hung around FE. So stay tuned and keep your chin up, and ears open!

Hang in there and as always....Be Safe

In my opinion, a major problem in the fire service is a broad cultural acceptance of mediocrity. This negatively effects team building by allowing individuals (especially senior ones who have been coddled for years) to undermine team building by being aloof and not buying in to positive change. We spend so much time paying lip service to team building and how to get people to give a s***, that we're rarely fortunate enough to arrive at the point of team proficiency. We tolerate low levels of fitness. We tolerate negativity. We tolerate mean spirited gossip. We tolerate shift wars. We tolerate too much television. We tolerate poor performance. But why?

The solution can't come from a single human being. I think the "magical leader" is a myth. Good leadership helps, but it can't succeed in a vacuum. High standards need to be articulated from the top down and people need to be held accountable from the very beginning. Go to YouTube and search BUDs Class 234 for an example of what I'm talking about. No, it's not realistic to expect firefighters to be Navy SEALs, but who do you want to go into combat with? An elite team of high performers or a bunch of partially qualified recruits who received self-esteem building hugs from their drill instructors?

High standards, excellent training, and superior performance builds team unity and pride. Low standards, poor training, acceptance of mediocrity, and failure of upper management to remove poor leaders from leadership positions builds resentment and low morale. Accountability goes both ways. We need to expect great things from our recruits, but it starts with expecting great things from ourselves. The complacent, lazy, and sometimes arrogant negative culture of the fire service is a cancer.

I'm reminded of Chief Kelvin Cochran's words at the IAFC's Company Officer Leadership Symposium at FRI in Atlanta (August 2007). There isn't a single culture in your fire department, there are competing cultures, one positive and one negative. One of them dominates, and in great departments the negative culture is a minority culture that is frowned upon. Nothing allows the negative culture to thrive more than silence.

Start standing up for the firefighter who isn't there to defend himself. Don't tolerate the smart-a** comments when that certain someone keys up the radio. Get out in the district and do serious pre-incident planning. Train for reality and practice stress-tempered communication skills. Master the basics. Read NIOSH firefighter fatality and near-miss reports as a crew. Don't allow individuals to bring down the group. Never miss an opportunity to catch someone doing something right. Leadership starts with making sure you're not a part of the problem.

Care more about your crew going home at the end of the shift than your popularity. Enforce safety rules. Don't ever ask a member of your crew to do something you wouldn't be willing to do yourself. This is "Pride & Ownership" but it can't just be a catch phrase. The organization can't demand loyalty and respect without being worthy of it. Those are my beliefs and attitudes after my first year as a company officer. They may change, or they may not. You may agree and you may disagree, but hopefully in the disagreement we can all learn something.
Mutual trust is the most important component to any team. This is the foundation of the relationship and dynamics of the group. Without it nothing else is possible. This mutual trust can be gained and strengthened through training but requires complete honesty and integrity. A team has to have a leader either formal or informal that can foster the mutual trust within the group. Individuals who have serious character flaws cannot expect to be able to develop great teams because they will never gain the mutual trust.

Not everyone make a good team member and therefore cannot be allowed on the team or may need to be removed from the team. If not, the other team members loose trust in the leader for not dealing with or correcting the problem. Competence breeds trust so incompetence breeds a lack of trust.

There is some very interesting work currently going on in Norway within the Norwegian Military Officers training programs. They are using a tool called SPGR (Systematizing the Person-Group Relation) model, which the Royal Norwegian Naval Academy uses for individual, group and leadership development. This concept was taken from the work of Endre Sjøvold (2002, 2005, 2007) to measure the effectiveness of teams. This stuff is light years ahead of us. The problem is that most of the work is not yet in English but there is some information out there about this if you are interested in let me know.

I can't speak Swedish, but I'm interested in whatever you have. I'll send you my email.

Excellent post Tom. The things you are talking about are almost or can be overwhelming for a new company officer and it can really defeat him if there is a lack of character or experience. Discerning the two different mindsets can also be difficult. My first engineer was a clever one, and he used to spend time trying to make me think he was on board with whatever I had in mind until I found out that behind my back he was doing his best to undermine my efforts with the crew. He was backed up by a good ole' boy system that has finally been destroyed in that department. But someone had to begin that change. I held the line (and tooks some punches for it), but he eventually removed himself from my crew. That culture war was a brutal one and I eventually moved on so that I could work under some more dynamic conditions, but years later, the effects of pushing in the right direction and standing my ground along with other motivated guys made a difference.

Here's the thing. When the negative culture is already well intrenched. It can still be reversed. But it takes time, it takes dedication and it really takes the team building that Chief Rhodes is talking about.

And another thing, so often you hear young firefighters feeling dejected and wanting out of thier organization or company badly. But that isn't always the answer. I learned an awful lot by surviving under some really bad leadership. I didn't have any choice at the time, but later, when other opportunities came about, I found that my performance under bad leadership had won loyalty among others and I was not forgotten by those around me. In the above mentioned department, I didn't move on until I had conquered the problem and had earned my place. Then I left. I mention these thing to show others that we all go through very similar experiences, not to highlight my own achievements. There is nothing new under the sun.

The team will follow in the right direction given time, given a chance to see the reality of the situation. Sometimes you have to wait a long time for that reality to sink in.
"Not everyone make a good team member and therefore cannot be allowed on the team or may need to be removed from the team. If not, the other team members loose trust in the leader for not dealing with or correcting the problem. Competence breeds trust so incompetence breeds a lack of trust".

Source: David Rhodes Sep 20

Mr. Rhodes makes a great point here. Unfortunately not everyone can adapt to being part of a team. These are tough decisions for a leader to make. It is important to keep in mind that these decisions are not (or should not) be personal; they are business decisions. As Mr. Rhodes points out, those members who do not embrace teamwork are cancers to the team. That is, if they are not contributing to the team they are detracting from it.

A little earlier a subscriber asked how to involve those who do not want to be team players. That is a great question that could have many answers, some that work and some that do not. The key is to try and develop a plan. Keep track of what works and what doesn't, AND LET US KNOW HERE!

Always learning!
Hey Lee,

I wanted to follow up and see how things were going. as is the case with firefighters, you received a lot of feedback from a lot of people. Were you able to find any resolve? You were in a tough spot, no question. Please touch base with us and let us know how things are going. we can also learn from you experiences!

BE SAFE!!! scott
I'm not sure how things are where you are all at but in my neck of the woods we have some issues that affect our efforts.

First, we have part time and full time members and while the part time members are "at will" employees the full time members have certain rights under Illinois law. If we do not wash them out during probation we have basically bought them for life. While most are great occasionally we get a bad apple. That is why performance reviews and peer pressure are so important. The company officer can't do it all himself, but he (or she) must do most of it.

Also, over the years I have noticed that sometimes the obstacle to the team is the team itself. Some personaltiies just don't match up. Change shifts and or stations and thing seem to fit-sometimes. If I could, I would rotate new members to all shifts and stations to see the good, the bad and the ugly-but time does not permit that. A member must stay in one place long enough so both sides (his and ours) have time to get to know each other, tell the expectations and give it a little time and a lot of leadership.
How about Communication? It all fallls apart if nobody knows whats going on.


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