August 27th 2015 was a big day for me as I was promoted to Assistant Fire Chief and in my department, this meant taking on the role as a shift commander in a department of three stations and roughly 20 people under me on shift, now I had been a Captain for almost 20 years prior and also served as the fire chief for a short time so I felt I knew the job of command but as of 1100 hours on August 27th I was the chief now and I took a good honest look at what it is I had to do to be successful, the words of Chief Billy Goldfeder rang in my head "what makes you qualified to command a fire?" I also reached out to several of my mentors and asked for advice, in my opinion, the greatest thing of being part of the fire service and specifically the Penwell /Fire Engineering family is the feeling of being welcomed and having the ability to reach out to some of the best and brightest our country can offer in regards to fire service leadership and command.
I get sick of hearing but it really is the truth that in many departments once you get the new gold that's it, there is nothing else many departments can or will offer newly promoted members, that in my opinion will continue to get many members injured and killed but we PERSONALLY CAN IMPROVE no excuses one great way is to ask others for advice!
I continue daily to make myself better in terms of command and making Chief Goldfeder proud but its the suggestions also from other mentors that keep me going, I have laminated their responses and keep them in a book, one of my mentors made a suggestion of sharing all the responses I received and while I was a little leery at first I felt the right thing for our service and the future is to pay it forward and share their powerful advice with you here in this quick blog. Their tidbits of knowledge are not only for a chief but really any rank. I just finished listening to a Fire Engineering Google Hangout where the subject was training and making the future better, without a doubt if every firefighter heeded the advice offered below we would be so further along then where we are now. I also would like to add that if you ever have a question or concern do things the old fashion way and ask someone you look up to in our profession, social media is great but if you really want advice ask someone specifically and find someone who has "run the race" so to speak. This blog show it can be done step out of your comfort zone and ask!!!
Finally before I give you the suggestions given to me, they are not my words but the words of THE BEST I want to say thank you to the mentor up in the Northeast who suggested this blog to help others! Here you go they are in no specific order, I hope these help you also!
- It's always about your people. The troops come first.
- Make decisions because they're right not because they're popular. Choose to be respected first, liked second.
- Visit each firehouse every day no matter how busy you are and make yourself available for your firefighters and officers.
- Remember, egos eat brains. Stay humble buddy.
- Stay dialed in, current and into the job.
- Train your people.
- Be loyal to your boss, to your admin, no matter what.
- And remember bud, your guys are always watching. To see what you're going to do, how you're going to handle a situation, conflict, etc. Never walk past a mistake.
- Lastly, keep loving the job. Good times and bad, love it brother!
- For me being a boss really comes down to training and discipline.
Training your crews training yourself and practicing what we train on. If I am taught to stretch a line and do it twice I really won't be very good at it, we have to practice all the time.
Discipline is important and not always easy. It starts with self discipline walking the walk so to speak. It goes on to not losing control of our selves our company our shift our department. Also as a boss try to implement discipline with a sniper rifle not a shotgun. Example if one guy has diarrhea don't make everyone wear depends. Lastly it isn't fun but exercise discipline don't be afraid to tell someone they did something wrong. You very well may save a life that way.
Never forget where you came from and always lead others by example. A definition of leadership that I like is that it is one part influence and two parts responsibility; in other words, we cannot expect to ever lead others to a level of excellence without being willing to model that same level of excellence in our own lives.
The best advice I can give is don't lose sight of and keep your eye on the prize. The question now is what's the prize? To me the prize is the firefighters and officers who work for me and their families. The prize is assuring when my job is done many years down the road, I have stood up and fought to provide every opportunity for every member to return home each day and have a healthy successful retirement. Fight for the firefighters and their families first. Fight for what's right!
Make a decision! There is nothing worse than a boss who doesn't make a decision. When you make decisions you will make some wrong ones. That's ok! Admit the mistake, own the mistake and fix it so it doesn't happen again. But, don't rush to make a decision without all the information and don't act when you are mad!
Take a few minutes (not many) to sit back and enjoy your success and accomplishments. Then get to work!
1) Don't try to fix everything all at once ( You will want to)
2) Be fair but firm
3) Trust your people ( if you cant, train them so you can! )
4) Sell changes, you have to have buy in
5) You can't fix everyone. They own their attitude you can only change the behavior not the person.
6) Absolutely be a team player!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
7) Check any ego at the door
Remember Protect your people not only from injury or death but from failure and embarrassment as well always make them look good.
STAY POSITIVE AND KEEP EM SAFE!