I have always been interested in hearing what departments require for their firefighters to sit through a promotional process. I have heard everything from just zero certifications to more than five. Now Let me be clear before I move on, I by no means believe that a certificate or a series of classes alone automatically qualifies you for a step up the ladder. I do believe that it can be a testament to the level of commitment to your profession and a level of commitment to the position you are about to step into. So my question is this: if you are an organization that requires the bare minimum for a promotion, are you creating a culture of minimalist’s throughout your organization?
Let me explain, the other day I was having a conversation with a firefighter that was getting ready to go through a promotional process in his department. We were discussing what he has done to prepare and classes that have helped him get ready for the position. He replied to me “I am not required to have any classes before I promote so I haven’t gone out to get anything”. He went on to say “Do I need a piece of paper to prove how good of a firefighter I am?” My answer to that once again is no you don’t; however, in his department it is clear that a culture of minimalism is deeply rooted. This does not just apply to a promotional process either. In my opinion, if this type of apathetic approach to career development is allowed in a fire department, should we be surprised that we have people that don’t want to push themselves or others? Show me a fire department that requires barely anything of their firefighters and officers, and I will show you a stagnant one.
In any organization where their employees are allowed to get by doing the bare minimum, they are encouraging the minimum standard as acceptable. In some way they have institutionalized the thought that the minimum standard is the right one. What about a department that requires more out of their company officer candidates? Or, an organization that requires core competency checks from their special operations folks? How about a department that routinely performs skill testing for all firefighters? It’s these departments that foster a belief that effort and commitment to taking these classes far outweighs the idea of it being “just a piece of paper.” In the end, going beyond the minimum and doing the right thing for the right reasons will always be more beneficial to our crews and customers. This belief will drive them to reach for constant individual improvement. It’s firefighters and officers who reach for more that will keep a department full of life and moving forward.
So, give it some thought. What are you requiring from your firefighters? Are you creating a culture in your organization where there is a constant focus on professional development, a constant demand to require more of yourself? Or, are you creating a culture of minimalists by requiring the bare minimum? The combination of experience from doing the job coupled with a desire to further your fire service education is one that will leave you and your department at the tip of the spear!