Becoming and officer envelops many tasks and in reality for what real benefit we often wonder. Getting the bars or bugles on your collar gives you the right to tell people what to do … and remember you get that extra $20.00 a day. The reality of it is this…the one thing that you must become a master at is motivation. How do you get someone to do something? Often times we feel that it is just easier and some times faster to just do it our selves. Remember you are the officer now it is your responsibility to LEAD. So do it! So how do we get someone to do something? How do we motivate them to want to wash the apparatus, take out trash, and carry tools off of the rig on every run? Therein lays the true challenge.
Your subordinates are not your hand puppets or there to serve you. They are like the irons that you carry on the rig…another tool (so to speak) in the tool box. When you are on a job and the ceiling needs pulled who is the one pulling the ceiling? If you say me as the officer you better reconsider. Why is the rookie standing there watching out for your safety? They don’t have the experience to make those calls. It is your job to delegate and to supervise. As your fire service career grows and you move up through the ranks your hands on the hose days become less and less... or they should.
The best way to get someone to do something is to make them want to do it. Understand as an officer we can learn all about strategies and tactics but people skills are much more difficult to master. Realize that most of our job involves people skills. Also note that different people will be motivated in different ways. Delegation means just that delegate. When it comes to doing jobs you will gain more respect from your crew if you save the worst job for yourself. It is really pretty simple. You do the crap jobs for a while and you will start to notice the guys in the outfit will start taking the mop out of your hand, washing the trucks, and doing all of that other stuff. If they don't it is your time to start the motivation process. This only takes a few shifts for them to notice the subtle changes in your approach.
A direct order is always a good motivator. Most of the time an order will accomplish what you need to accomplish. If the subordinate has an issue with an order that you gave out on the scene is not the time to discuss it unless it is a safety concern. If your subordinates respect you and have faith in your leadership capabilities they will become motivated and complete the tasks at hand. Often they will follow you into the mouth of hell and not even stop to ask for a cup of ice water. They have trust that you will lead and direct them to get them home safe.
That a boy!
A pat on the back is a great way to motivate. It is not a smooch on the back side, but telling someone that they did a good job goes a long way. This is a reward. Recognize when a member of your crew did a good job on a run or during a training session. This simple acknowledgement can go a long way. Point out what went right and what went wrong. Dwelling on the bad will only overshadow what went right. Most of time the individual that screwed up already knows it. Call out the probie and give them an “Attay boy!” It helps them feel like part of the team.
Fear and Intimidation are not good tools to motivate a person. Just because you have rank or seniority does not make you any better then the rookie that is backstepping. In reality you probably put your pants on the same way that they did this morning. Intimidation is the fear of punishment. If intimidation is a tactic that you as an officer employ it won’t be long and you will find that your crew is not going to do anything for you unless you give it to them as an order. The saying "You are going to respect me or fear me..." comes to mind. You will accomplish great things with your company if they respect you and not fear you.
Change in assignment!
Understand this… no one’s feet are in concrete. Speaking from experience! We get comfortable where we are and this can lead to complacency. Moving people around keeps people on there toes. It gives the old engine guys a chance to brush up on truck work; the truckies a chance to get off of the retirement home. Practice your EMS skills. This keeps the job interesting again. Understand at the Battalion level a reassignment can be seen as a punishment and it should not be meant in this way. Bouncing a guy to a new assignment seems to stimulate them by getting them out of their comfort zone. It provides you with a little edge. Sending a problem child out to a sub station is not the aspirin for the headache. Often this leads to shift turmoil and as the shift commander you can easily have the wool pulled over your eyes and not even know it. If there is a problem get your thumb on it and fix it now. Don’t sweep it under the rug to grow and fester out of control.
These are just a few ideas to help you when it becomes time for you to motivate your company. Remember as an officer it is your job to make sure that everyone goes home at the end of the tour…not just you!
As always stay safe!