INFLUENCE, every day we have an opportunity to influence those around us. Some days, even if unintentional, the impact of our posture could be negative. Always must we stay vigilant and maintain good attitudes. “Good?” you may be asking yourself. We need to be honest; we are not our best every single day. Although we may strive to, life is dynamic which could keep us from having our best day - everyday. Enter the mighty power of influence. Can you recall a time when you just were in a “blah” type of mood and the day is not starting right? You walk into the Firehouse, and because of the atmosphere, you were able to recover. A simple, positive conversation over morning coffee or a handshake with a “good morning, how ya doin?” from the off going crew, could be what you need.
Influence is a much deeper subject then our mood and those around us. Perception, Reality, and Projection are key elements of influence.
• Perception is simply your point of view. We all perceive the world differently. As Fire Service Professionals our perceptions are similar due to our sub-culture, yet as individuals, there are still variances.
• Reality is real things, facts, and actual events.
• Projection is our attitude, thoughts and perception of reality to those around us.
This is a never-ending process. We perceive reality and project those perceptions onto others, which will do the same perpetuating the cycle. We do have an effect on how this sequence plays out, through our influence. Projection dominates the influence we have over others. Charismatic people are a great example of influence. Have you ever been sold a product simply because the salesperson just had that quality? Do you have Officers who make you want to go above and beyond due to the way they treat you? The projection and influence makes your perception of them want to work towards the goal.
From the standpoint of the Life Safety Initiatives, there are several ways influence is a factor. The initiatives can influence us, we influence the initiatives, and we can use the initiatives to influence others. One particular imitative that we should closely look at is number 5: Develop and implement national standards for training, qualifications, and certification (including regular recertification) that are equally applicable to all firefighters based on the duties they are expected to perform.
During training, the influence of others can make or break the session. Outgoing and enthusiastic participants can make an everyday training be great. When you have buy in from the group, the Instructor is influenced which makes their performance better. What about individuals that project unconstructive influence? Consider how very little can make the training environment deficient. Comments and body language are dead give a ways when someone is projecting a poor attitude during training. How are they influencing those around them? When this person is an Officer or Senior Firefighter who is looked upon as a leader, the influence can be detrimental. This is even more significant when less experienced or impressionable Firefighters are exposed. The effort to be and stay positive is much greater then the energy to be negative.
To this point, we have discussed how influence is controlled by our perception, reality and the projection of ourselves then how others perceive it. There are several ways we can ensure our influence is positive.
• Avoid taking on too many task. Overburdening oneself can create negative situations.
• Plan activities and events far enough in advance. Give yourself plenty of time to do it right the first time. Look a head so all tools, equipment, supplies, and staff are available for the task. This is a very important aspect of large group training.
• Set achievable goals for the day. Having a goal then meeting it helps you have a sense of accomplishment. This helps on those days where motivation is lacking.
• Learn to actively listen and be engaged in the conversation. Eye contact and body language play critical roles in active listening.
• Be assertive in giving directions. Get to the point; try not to “beat around the bush.” Showing confidence in decision-making and communicating builds team confidence.
• Make criticism constructive. No one likes faults to be pointed out, so make sure if errors are made, solutions are offered.
• Be happy! Remember you are a FIREFIGHTER!
Repeatedly, it has been said that being a Firefighter is a great and noble profession. This position carries great responsibility while the rewards out weigh the labor. Everyone has the power to influence those around them. The choice is yours in how you project yourself and choose to be perceived. Even on your not so best days make the effort to stay positive, so those around you can be their best. This chain of events may just influence you back to where you want to be.