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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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Chief:

A quick thought. I heartily agree with your points on performance reviews and positive peer pressure, but I thought I would weight in on the personnel rotation idea. I happen to have worked in two departments that made rotation a bi-annual or yearly policy and I have to say that I still hate that process. Yes, when you have a team that is struggling, it can be the change that is needed, but so often the entire department is re-arranged in order to sort out a few problem children.
The result is that you have wounded people in multiple companys or crews that need to be protected by the affects of those bad apples you mention and the rotation often sours the whole cart.
I spend a great amount of effort getting to know my people and investing time in them, only to watch another officer take over and make a wreck of it all through a lack of good leadership basics. Not that I'm immune to failure, but I do make servant minded leadership a primary target, which, sad to say, a lot of officers do not.

It can be a good thing, but too many departments use it as a means of PREVENTING a team from getting too good. Sometimes teams that excel make other teams look bad. Our pride or power should never get in the way of doing our job the best we can do it. - DTRT
How true! I think we have all experienced this one. Also, communication must be a 360 Degree process.

Thanks for the thoughts...BE SAFE!!!

Scott
Here are the top 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. If you know what they are it will help you prevent them. #1 Absence of Trust (Invulnerabiltiy) #2 Fear of Conflict (You avoid the problem - artifical harmony) #3 Lack of Commitment (Ambiguity) #4 Avoidance of Accountabiltiy (Low Standards) #5 Inattention to Results (Status and Ego) I find these very helpful in assessing teams and groups. This comes from the book 5 Dysfuntion of a Team. It has a nice assessment tool also.

Most of us don't have the ability to simply change our team members out so we fall into these dysfunctions very often and we "settle" for what we have and make the best of it. That is the frustrating part. The key in that situation is to identify the strengths of each individual and try to place them in the right role within the group. Most everyone has something to offer it is just a matter of matching up the right roles. It is not easy that's for sure! Don't get mad and set anyone up for failure instead work hard to gain their trust first and then work up the chart.

I guess this opens the door of "Can you learn to be a team?"
Funny. Why do the 5 points look so familiar? ........Dang. I'm tryin' to be positive. Chief, those 5 points really define the problem. They are the perfect list of results created by some of the inefficient leaders I have known, many of them wonderful people, but not trained or equipped to fill the role the are in and too proud to admit it. Pride is always mixin' itself into the show.
Leadership training seems to cover all kinds of aspects of being in charge except actually how to lead. We are beginning a small group on our shift, twice a month, to take some of our senior guys and work through some leadership material. Our "senior" guys are fairly young, so we starting out with basics. I was going to use IFSTA's old "Leadership" manual, written back in the 1960's, still a great book. Any other good texts you have found that might have splipped my notice? You seem to have your eye on this in detail.
Ben - right on target. You can't build a team by rotating crews. Even filling in or detailing members often effects this. Ironically with the current SAFETY initiatives we have learned that the #1 and #2 reasons for Close Calls is a lack of situational awareness and decision making errors. These are both heavily influenced by how closely the team works together. This is where the communication issue surfaces. A good tight team has the benefit of implicit communications skill (I know what you mean even if you don't say it) a poor team is dependent on explicit communications only and we all interpret explicit communication differently. The better the team the better the communications thus the better situational awareness and better decision making. Leave good crews intact and break up the dysfunctional ones! Just have means to measure team effectiveness. It can't just be who the chief likes and dislikes or the whole department will become dysfunctional.
The IFSTA info is still great. Use it! In addition try looking up Robert Greeleaf - Servant Leadeship. The book is too deep for most of us but just get the "Servant as a Leader" to start. I think you can order it from the Greenleaf foundation. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team that I mentioned is great because it is written as a fable and quick read (2-3 hours). The mentoring part you are doing however is the most important. We can read all we want the hard part is implementation. We learn better from seeing someone doing it than just talking about how we should do it. Keep me posted on your progress sounds like a good program.
Will do Boss.

I really believe that Servant leadership is the best way to go. In this day and age there is something incredibly powerful about saying "you come first" to your crew. In a way, (words may fail here) its a similar reaction to how the general public feels about firefighters. Its the idea that someone will place themselves second to you, there own importance laid aside. Its powerful and can really capture the loyalty of your people.

Thanks for the recommendation, I'll be pursuing it.
"A good tight team has the benefit of implicit communications skill (I know what you mean even if you don't say it) a poor team is dependent on explicit communications only and we all interpret explicit communication differently."

WELL SAID! An analogy I like to use is sports teams that rely on intuitive skills and implicit communication. These teams practice plays until they become second nature, for example, if a quarterback and a wide receiver are on the same page, the quarterback will often throw a pass to a specific mark knowing the receiver will catch up to the ball. If these same two are not on the same page, or do not have the confidence in each other the result will likely be an incomplete pass, or worse.

In our business, strong leaders strive to know as much about their team members as possible. It is very difficult to accomplish this if your team members are constantly being roved or detailed out. We teach our new EMTs to listen to as many sets of breath sounds as possible, why? So we know what normal breath sounds sound like. You cannot know if there is a problem if you do not know what normal or typical breath sounds sound like, right? The same goes for your team members.

As Ben and David mentioned earlier, we need to take the time to truly understand our team members, and more importantly, how to communicate with them. Each team member is different and they will appreciate the effort we take to understand them and THEIR situations.

Scott
I agree with most of these posts, about Trust and Respect. I've been on a lot of sports teams and recently transferred stations, leaving an amazing team or crew at my slow, old station to go to a station with a much higher call volume. I was so excited to be a part of this new team with good reputations and exceptional captains. But, unfortunately when I got to my new station, what I found was I had joined a crew of individuals and there was no team to be found. My station was wrought with trust and respect issues. A lot of the major differences I see in these two teams are what have already been discussed. EGO, poor leadership, and Trust. But, for the first time in my fire-service experience, I entered a work-environment where disrespect was the name of the game. and the joke, which was actually reality was that we were the IGM, "I got Mine" station and to get used to it. Respect and Trust can't be turned on from 8-5 while we're on "hard-time" (as we call it) and then be turned off during our soft-time from after dinner until breakfast the next day. When someone is disrespectful enough to you to cause you not to trust them with basic personal matters, or creates drama within just station-work, how are you supposed to trust them in a life or death situation?
Also, as a tip to Company Officers, since I have experienced this recently and first hand. Welcome newcomers whether they are transfers or true-rookies, but be careful introducing them to their new crew like they are there to make things better and shape things up. I came into a battalion 3 station from battalion 4 with two other respected battalion 4 firefighters. The comment was made on our first day with our new crew that there was a reason that battalion 4 firefighters were brought over, that they liked how things were done in B-4 and were going to help change things for the better. Of course this made our task of earning the respect of our new crew even harder, after they felt attacked by their own captain. Our captain had no idea what he was saying in this long-introductory speech. But in a nutshell, what this captain was expecting was for three firefighters to come into a station with deep-rooted problems and cultivate a new overall attitude. Leadership comes from the top. While the bottom and middle parts of the crew or team can make or break the crew, it has to start at the top in a station setting and each step down is then held accountable.
A crew that is respectful, trustworthy, and the members are "sold-out" is a successful team that anyone would want to be a part of.
Hey Katy,

This is a tough one. The Officer should never have put you guys on the spot as the "saving grace" of the company first off.

That puts you guys on both the outs and the defensive from the get go. Maybe, Hopefully, he just spoke poorly when trying to explain things. None the less it is very difficult to undo a first impression that was created for you. Talk to him and at least give him an opportunity to help what he can.

However you are not there to do HIS job, but apparently you Are there to set a new example for the old "TEAM". Stay close to the ones that play well and work well with others. See who comes over to your side...no it wont' be overnight but they will come. When they do, give them the benefit of the doubt and take them in until they show you otherwise. Continue to lead by example of how things should be not the old standard.

One thing to keep in mind...these guys may be a pain in the A@@ right now but they are still professionals. IF it is so far gone that you do not believe that and you feel that they would allow someone to be injured or worse then you need to run the flag up the pole and FAST. There is no room in this business for folks who would perform in that manner, and no excuse for it either!

Keep in touch Please! And Be SAFE.

John
Hey Katy,

I wanted to check in and see how you were doing? As John mentioned, you and your colleagues were brought into a very difficult situation from the beginning. First and foremost I wanted to see how safety is going both in the station and on calls. I agree wholeheartedly with John in that there is ) tolerance for safety compromise. My other questions center on the chain of command above your company officer and the command structure. I am trying to get a better idea of other ways we might be able to help you. So, here goes...
1) How is your C of C set up from the Chief of Department to Company officer (Training Chief, how many battalions, etc.)
2)How is the relationship between BC3 and BC4?
3)Do outside bureaus see the problems or are they masked from them?

I hope things are getting better for you. It sounds like the group of three that transferred into this situation are all good people with leadership ability. Not to be redundant but: There is nothing like leading by example. I know the three of you have each others backs!

BE SAFE!
Scott
Hey Dusty,

When you say: "you can't rush it" can you elaborate on that please?
Dusty Dines said:
I just think you can't rush it.

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