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In the last post I provided a short list of how to be an attractive candidate for promotion to company officer. I can’t overstate how important it is to build a complete body of work as a firefighter and building the respect based on how you handle yourself everyday. One of the items in my list is to learn not just from good or well liked officers, but also learn from the poor leaders and officers.

I would argue that an astute firefighter that really pays attention could learn more about being a competent officer from a poor one than from a good officer. Of course, there are many factors that contribute to that statment, but many times the bad performance of an officer is much easier to take note of than some of the more subtle things that a good officer will provide.

As a firefighter that has aspirations to promote and advance in his/her organization, you must take a hard look at who has, is and will lead you during that time period. These are the opportunities to ask yourself “what would I have done different” and “what would have been the outcomes?” If we do this in an organized, objective manner, we start to develop our decision making processes and values. We will be able to see what worked or works versus what does not.

By closely observing the good officers we will be able to learn how to have a positive influence on our crew or company, even when it means corrections are needed. The good and effective officer will use skills to earn respect and get results based on expectations that the crew knows are not negotiable. They will also communicate and provide and environment for growth and productivity along with some autonomy. There is much to learn from them, but sometimes the methods are not as obvious as we would like, meaning that they don’t make a show, they just get the job done.

Conversely, by paying attention to the officers who seem to always force their ways, are loud and brash or who seem to struggle to get their crew to be cohesive we can learn some critical lessons in what not to do. These lessons are usually more obvious and cause the crews much frustration. it doesn’t mean the officer is a bad guy, it may be that he is acting the exact way an officer he had acted; a great lesson to consider!

Then we have the officer that is just completely hands off. They will say things like “I don’t care what you do, just don’t get me in trouble by doing something stupid.” That is an officer that just has lost touch with the job and his people. They will not make a lot of tough decisions and they will not do a lot of teaching. These officers can be some of the most dangerous because they seem to have an “I don’t care” attitude which many times leads to complacency and inattention.

The key for the candidate is to write these lessons down from all three models. You will not remember everything and many of these lessons will soon be forgotten and they are a valuable tool to your success. I recommend writing the positive or good stuff in blue ink, the bad stuff in red ink and everything else in black ink. It will help you to easily find what you’re looking for.

Like I tell the younger guys with me, instead of getting frustrated and discouraged; make it a learning experience. Those bad times are sometimes hard to handle and can challenge your energy. Vow to never do those things when you’re an officer or acting officer. That’s called learning and taking action.

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