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First time so go easy on me. I am a relatively new company officer (3 years now) and I am looking for some advice. I am a nice guy and feel lately that it is hurting me as a company officer. I frustrated to the point that I don't want to be that "nice guy" anymore, but that is not who I am. I know that I am well respected by members of my own department and members from the agencies around me but I get the feeling that it is almost expected that I should be this "not so nice guy" and that frustrates me. I realize that I can't be "buddies" all the time and sometimes I need to be the "boss". I have no problems being in charge and making decisions even if they are unpopular. However, it seems that sometimes I am not taken seriously because of my laid back and nice personality. I feel that my kind and easygoing gestures towards other firefighters that don't know me are perceived as weakness. I expect (as I should) that those who work for me and those that work around me, know their job and should not require direction from me as a company officer to perform their job. I really don't feel the need to add any additional pressure to situations that are already stressful and that having a calm and sometimes casual demeanor is a positive thing and should not be considered as a lack of confidence,knowledge or skill. I know when the situation requires more serious focus and in those instances I act accordingly. I feel misunderstood and wonder if any of you have, or are experiencing what I am.

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Comment by Mark Wadsworth on June 29, 2010 at 7:22pm

Thanks for your advice.
Comment by Lt. J.J. Jablonsky on June 29, 2010 at 7:08pm
Probably the best thing you can do is give your crew constant feedback, both good and bad. You can still do this while being nice. Being not-so-nice often turns people off. That's not to say you can't nicely tell someone their performance is sub-par (when the situation is appropriate of course). If you can remember the officers that you have had both good and bad, it will also take you a long way. That will allow you to take inventory of what motivated you and what turned you off. I'll bet you'll find that the ones that you looked up to the most were able to be easygoing when the time was right, but were well respected when you were crawling through smoke at 0400. The days of the micro-managing, ranting and raving, fire-breathing officer are long gone. Most, if not all, Departments have mechanisms to terminate employees for poor performance. If they respect you (and your Department), they will not have to worry about their job. You can tell the others, with a smile on your face, that you will do all you can to help them improve, but it is ultimately up to them on whether they remain employed. Don't worry if not everyone is going to be your buddy. I've had crews where I made some great friends and others where we were nothing more than people who worked every third day together. I still treated them fairly regardless and felt that they all showed me the proper respect. There were even cases where I had to write my friends up, but they respected that because they knew it was appropriate and that it was nothing personal. I 100% agree with you that you should be able to rely on your crew to do their jobs without direction. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Make it a point to train in the areas that you see performance lacking. In cases where you feel that you're not getting the needed respect, you need to talk to your people, either individually or as a group and find out why. Many times, it is due to miscommunication. You can tell them in a non-threatening, but assertive manner that a task needs to be accomplished. Again, as others have said, this isn't appropriate in an emergency situation, but when it comes time to accomplish a work detail some people just aren't on the same page as you. Feedback, feedback, feedback. In the case of new people or people working an overtime shift at your Station, it pays to get to know them a little before getting into the heat of things. This is the perfect opportunity to let them know what you expect from them as well as what they may need from you. One last word of advice is to always lead by example. If I'm not doing reports or other specific Lieutenant duties, I try to be the first one to jump into whatever else needs to be done. My crew will be right behind me and respects me for it. I always do my best to keep calm no matter what and my crew almost without exception does the same. Be sure also to not be one of the officers that is notorious for not completing their assignemnts on time. Good luck!
Comment by Mark Wadsworth on June 7, 2010 at 11:45am

Thanks for your support. Your suggestions really do help put things back in perspective. thankyou
Comment by Sil Caggiano on June 7, 2010 at 9:51am
Mark, Being a newly promoted Battalion Chief I feel the pain. Here is what I go buy.

At fire scenes there is no group discussion games! You give an order, the troops follow. No democracy there and no leeway should be given. That is not to say that a Firefighter may have information the group needs to know like, hey the floor behind you is beginning to sag. As you and your crew train together you will develop a bond and eventually few words will need to be spoken. They will know what you expect and you will know if they can do that. It takes time.
At the station your fighting to be the official as well as the unoffical leader of the pack. You are the teacher and mentor. YOU set the stage for what will follow. As a company officer I allowed my crew to be a bit more informal in station. First names were ok unless public visitors were present. Horse play was allowed unless it was dangerious or deeply against departent regs. Remember the regs HAVE to be inforced or its YOUR butt! Crews have to understand what YOU have to loose if they are allowed to run amuck. Its a part of mentoring. Someday they may be in your shoes. If they can not understand that they are not your friends and you have school them or be rid of them. Fairness and dicipline are key. You have to be consistant. Getting the Company Commander wet during training is a no no and the violator will scrub garbage cans. That goes for the Company Commanders close friends too. You have to lay down YOUR law. Tell the crews what you expect. I worked 24 hour shifts. 0800 to 0900 we sat as a crew and planed our day. 0900 to 1000 we did station duty and checked the truck. 1000 to 1200 we trained and went to the store. 1200 to 1300 we had lunch. 1300 to 1500 we did any additional training we had to do and then the day was theirs till the bell hit or we went home. Famlies were allowed to visit for no more than an hour and the doors were locked at 2200. As long as everyone knew what the rules were and abided by them we were ok. Deep inside you, you will know right from wong. Go with that gut feeling. Suprisingly its right more often than wrong. When you do it that way everyone knows how you run your station and goof offs tend to not want to go to your station. They want the Company Commander that goes into his room and is never seen again till shift change or the bell hits. THAT Commander has problems. His crews may love him or her but when the heat is on they will fail to acheve their assigned duties. The final thing to be on the look for is a sudden change of attitude in a crew or crew member. Be quick to find out what is wrong. Many times its a member who is having trouble at home. Being supportive and giving good direction may help but always look to see if its a problem that needs more professional intervention than you can give. A crew problem may be more complex and involve more than one person. It can get wild. I remember a situation where one crew member was fooling around with the other twos girlfriends. It got ugly! That is when you need help from superiors. remember your superiors are or should be mentors themselves. Your willingness to voice your concerns on this forum is a good indicator that you care and want to do better. Your on the right track. Good Luck!
Comment by Mark Wadsworth on June 5, 2010 at 5:47pm
I think that I worry too much about making decisions that won't cause conflict instead of just making the right decision. Knew I could count on a few supportive comments from my online brothers....thanks.
Comment by Mike France on June 4, 2010 at 1:07pm
Mark, i would agree with Jason, I understand what yo are going thru. When i was promoted to Acting Chief it was very diifcult, but it will come together.
Comment by Mark Wadsworth on June 3, 2010 at 11:22pm
Thanks for the response. I think that maybe people don't know where those lines are with me. Don't get me wrong, I like being the nice guy and I don't think I could ever turn that off because that is just me. I know that earning respect is the only way to obtain it and would never use my position to demand it. I do feel like I am already well respected it just seems that my nature is misinterpreted as a lack of confidence or agressiveness. Appreciate your time.
Comment by Jason Hoevelmann on June 3, 2010 at 10:30pm
Nothing wrong with being nice, but if their behavior is inappropriate for the situation or disrespectful you need to address it. Just addressing the fact that sometimes they lack the appropriateness of certain situations may help. But, respect is something that is earned over time, so don't demand it. Lead by example and have lines that can't be crossed. Just make sure that you explain where those lines are.
Hang in there and do the right thing and treat people fair and honest and you will be fine.

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