How many times have you heard, "Man, it's like we've got four different fire departments working here!" Many have and we all know the meaning behind that statement. Fire Departments that have 3 or 4 different operational shifts, can often do things each a little differently. You know what I am talking about like differences in daily chores, vehicle maintenance, riding assignments or even operational responses. The amount of "different" can be dependant upon the amount of leadership oversight. Now from our organizational assessement methods taught in our Extreme Leadership program, we discuss that the statement is actually a compensating behavior (undesirable behavior) but the real underlying cause is the lack of organizational policies, procedures or guidelines to address them.
Organizational Management -
You see the fire service can learn a lot from the fast food industry. For example have you ever wondered how they can take a 16 year old kid from Anytown, USA and train him to make french fries that present exactly the same in any location (domestic or international) I am talking about the exact same thickness, texture, temperature, depth of cooking and taste... To be honest that concept is pretty impressive. They are working with young, first time employees who have zero experience and no real industry education. So how do they do that? It is called implementing "Franchise Systems" from the food management industry. Corporate puts them in place to provide the franchisee, a program for training, education, systems to assure the health and safety of the public and the employee. It is a highly controlled (QC) Quality Control and (QA) Quality Assurance program.
The fire service tends to have a lot of rules in place. Most department's that make the above statement often have little or no real operational systems in place. What I mean by that is they provide training to their new recruit, they run a recruit school that provides basic behavioral modification to enter the line. We then provide on the job training at the company level. The training division rolls out new training programs along the way to keep companies on top of the latest equipment or techniques. Often times the fire service disconnect is within the lack of "franchise systems". You see we have lots of systems in place, delivered to the companies but their isn't many systems in place for the department as a whole. You see private industry management uses a lot of professional development to make sure the franchise systems are upheld to the highest standard as a whole.
Some fire departments are lucky to hold a once a month or quarterly officer meeting. Good for them as they are implementing systems as a whole. The one's who don't... well maybe they lack the funds to hold them or that the current administration doesn't see the benefit of having them. In this case, many are leading from emotion. We are all products of the environment we were raised in. If management didn't run them when we were raised then often times the managers in top positions don't see the need for them. But reality is the number one key component to fire department franchise systems is developing our leadership team as a whole. Without it then we can't expect Group 1 to operate in the same manner as Group 3.
In reality, to implement franchise systems for the fire service we must develop our company or line officers. The first line supervisor plays a major role in franchise systems. Firefighters must have a thorough understanding of what is expected of them. But have you put into place expectations for all of your first line supervisors? How about your middle and or senior management teams as well? In my opinion professional development is an absolute MUST to get all of your supervisors on the same page. Once expectations have been established for all of them, then you can incorporate a solid in house (QA) quality assurance and (QC) quality control program developed specifically for a service delivery organization. We work in a dangerous field, one that requires good decisions with limited information and resources...
Are We Training Them Right?
Do your supervisors have a solid understanding of human behavior? I am not talking about the traditional stuff taught in business management or fire officer school. What I am referring to is having a solid understanding of the three major components of exceptional leadership that we call Extreme Leadership.
1. (IQ) Intellectual Intelligence - The minimum amount of education needed to function at a given rank or level.
2. (EQ) Emotional Intelligence - The ability to wade through the emotional stressors that effect decision making.
3. (IP) Interpersonal Dynamics - Understand that each of us have different personality traits and limited beliefs.
And your training division needs to have a solid understanding of these three leadership factors too. You see the average training officer understands behavioral modification for cognitive and psychomotor delivery. They can provide training from a lesson plan and can look at quizzes or testing for measurability. BUT have they been trained to consider the delivery concept, method and measurability for both rationale thought processing (discretionary time) and for limbic mode (survival or stress induced) decision making? You see we can train them in the firehouse and on the drill yard in highly controlled environments but are you really replicating the real world? If you find yourself asking, "What the hell was that guy thinking" after a real world incident, then I am willing to bet that your training program and delivery process doesn't match the environment your personnel are expected to work in.
More on that on my next article.... "Stepping Up Your Instructorship Game"
The Extreme Leadership Series
- The Next Generation of Leading Coaching and Mentoring
- Putting Out Fires Within the Firehouse
- Stepping Up Your Instructorship Game
- Gaining the Promotional Edge
- Recovery Planning - Leadership Through Adversity