Category Archives: Leadership

Why is Bathing Like Motivation?

parrot-bath

The great motivational speaker and business pitchman Zig Ziglar was quoted: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

How would that apply to us in emergency management?

Why is Bathing Like Motivation??? I’m glad you asked that question.

The point, I believe, that Ziglar was trying to make is that you cannot go long without a bath or personal hygiene; and that motivation is just as necessary.  It is a constant that needs to be in our lives.  But still, how does that correlate to those of us in Emergency Response?

Continue reading Why is Bathing Like Motivation?

Being the Company Officer Doesn’t Make You One – Chief Steven Orusa

Of the countless people who take on various leadership roles in the fire service, how many encounter resistance to their attempts to lead or even hostility, jealousy or unfriendliness. How many find the transition to company officer challenging to say the least? If, being a leader turns out to be a bad experience it is almost always because of the officers own ineffectiveness. The purpose of this presentation is to show you what special skills and methods you must learn to use today’s “model” of effective company officer leadership.

A 29-year public safety veteran, Steven Orusa is the Fire Chief for the Fishers Fire Department. He has a bachelor of science in Law Enforcement Administration and his graduate work is in Human Resource Management. He is a published author and is a frequently invited speaker on public safety leadership and development techniques. He has provided analysis on public safety response for USA Today, Fire Chief Magazine, Fire Engineering Magazine, and has also appeared on BBC, MSNBC, Fox News and CNN to provide expert analysis on disaster response.

Patience???

“If you want to learn patience…practice humility.”

F.M. Tanya Hoover

Check out California State Fire Marshal Tanya Hoover.  I had the great opportunity to meet and speak with Fire Marshal Hoover at an IAFF Instructor Development Conference.  She was personable and dynamic.   This clip is from the Fire Alumni Workshop Series.

The Fire Alumni Events continue to motivate and educate future firefighters in the right direction. These events will prepare you, the candidate, to become a firefighter anywhere in the nation. for Fire Departments across the nation.

FDIC 2016: Call for Presentations

fdic2016

FDIC2016 Call for Presentations

Still the Greatest (FIRE) Show on Earth.  Deadline for submissions is:

June 19, 2015

National Incident Management System | FEMA.gov

nims_doctrine_2

National Incident Management System | FEMA.gov.

The above link will take you to the Full Guidance Documents & Links

New Book: Dr. Burt Clark – I Can’t Save You, But I’ll Die Trying

BurtClark

https://www.facebook.com/FireCultureBook

Dr. Burton Clark Is a passionate professional and cares about our noble profession.

Moreover he cares about people and those who will risk their own lives to save them.

From solid factual information or training reluctant firefighters to call a May-Day;  Dr. Clark has been a wealth-spring of knowledge.

All the best…

P.S. – Received my copy this weekend, can’t wait to finish it!

The Chameleon Fire Officer

Mentor, Menace or Mediocre…Make Up Your Mind!

by John Alston

 ChameleonA chameleon is defined as any one of numerous Old World lizards of the family Chamaeleontidae, characterized by the ability to change the color of their skin, very slow locomotion, and a projectile tongue; or a changeable, fickle, or an inconstant person.
Having worked with Firefighters and Fire Officers from several departments, over many years, I continue to hear the same complaint and praises.  The issue is consistency.
The Chameleon Fire Officer: (The one who changes and blends with his/her environment as a defense mechanism.)  Is slow to react.  They can be characterized as fickle, moody and unpredictable.  They may display one aspect of their character as Firefighters; then a different one as a Fire Officer.  At best, they will make one change and you have to live with it; or at worst be one way today and another tomorrow.  I hear this assessment, over and over and over again.  Indecision and inconsistency in the fire station is bothersome yet tolerable.  It can be deadly on the fire-ground.
Let’s look at the three: Mentor, Menace or Mediocre.

MENTOR:

Graphic by Malcolm Alston

Have you adopted the character traits, persona and practices of a mentor.  Someone who is approachable, learned, intuitive, genuinely concerned for the positive growth and development of others?  Are you a good listener?  Do you constantly strive to stay at the top of your game (by study, taking courses and by information sharing); so that you are a valuable and knowledgeable resource to subordinates, colleagues, your superiors, and the public?  Do you help, aid, and assist all members of your service, where-ever you encounter them?  Do you seek genuine opportunities to encourage others?  Do you attempt to turn negatives into positives?

Being a mentor is a selfless act.  It is a continuous process. It is a transparent process. It takes a strong commitment and a lot of work!

MENACE:
Have you adopted the character traits or persona of a Menace?  Are you perceived as one? Let’s face it –many members of our profession are “Type A” personalities. That is a good thing, at times and a horrible attribute at others.  I have met officers that bring hidden and no-so-hidden agendas to the workplace.  Why?When this happens, it clouds their judgement in all aspects of the work environment.  It causes other members of the service to shut down and avoid them.  One of the problems with that is many times those Menacing Officers are in key positions in the organization. LOL.  There is not enough couch time to unpack the psychological “issues” that created this “character”; just know that they are out there.Now, when I say a “Menacing Officer”, I don’t just mean the type that is always lewd, crude and obnoxious.  I don’t even limit that monicker to the one that is “in your face”.  I have met some of the quietest menaces you could find. Their modus operandi is calm, cool and just as menacing as officer who is “out there”.  These quiet, nondescript, “Closet Menacers” (<–poetic license, instead of “Menaces”) have their own way about harassing coworkers and subordinates.  They apply discipline and work assignments, disproportionately.  They play favorites and the “ends against the middle” (Classic divide and conquer).  Some of whom you would think stepped right out of the pages of General Sun Tzu’s, “Art of War” or Niccoli Machiavelli’s, ” The Prince “.  Cold, quiet and calculating.  Yet, a Menace, none the less!
MEDIOCRE:

Have you adopted the attitude, character traits and/or persona of a mediocre officer.  Status Quo is sufficient. It’s the Guy or Gal at the top who caused these problems and only they can fix them.  “Morale is low!”  “You really can’t change things, anyway.”  “Why Try?”  “There’s no benefit or penalty for attempting to improve things.”  “People are people.”  “This new generation of Firefighters are the worst ever!”  “You just have to go along to get along (and get ahead).”  “Things are just fine the way they are.”  “I set my expectations low and that way I am rarely disappointed.”  “Same Circus, Different Clowns!” “I’m just here for the paycheck.”.  Sound like anyone you know?

The Mediocre Officer is indecisive or, at worst, nonchalant. They are not engaging.  They skate by, with everything.  This person takes on the personality trait that they have already arrived or have risen as high as they can.  His/her characteristics are “Laissez-faire” (indifferent, hands-off or do the bare minimum).  One definition of laissez-faire is literal, “let it/them pass”.  Meaning let it along.  Don’t get involved.  Don’t interfere.  Don’t make changes.  Don’t make decisions.  Do you know someone like this?  Is it you???

 Which One is Worse?

Please use the comment section to explain.

Copyright 2015 John Alston. All rights reserved

Box vs Out-of-the-Box Thinking

box        John Alston

Box Thinking

A few years back, I had a great opportunity, during one of our planning sessions, to take notice of a particular “world” view held by a facilitator. The session was an emergency management development group.  It was sponsored by a dear friend and was facilitated by two other individuals.  These persons were not from our agency or group.  They were not familiar with its culture and underpinnings. They led us on different approaches to arrive at some of the decisions that we had to make.  That was the great part!  I like learning new methods and challenging some ideas that may have outlived their usefulness.

However, the not-so-great part was that, as the days went on, I got a sense that one of the facilitators may have been harboring a little negative, possibly condescending, attitude.  It was noticeable, in his comments and gestures.  I tried to shake it, because anyone can have a bad day (theirs or yours).  First impressions, although are usually “spot on”, can sometimes be misleads.  You have to give presenters a chance. People who make presentations to others know that you have to warm up the room, get a read and then proceed.  You may have to change methods, tactics and directions to get your room to “buy-in”. But I digress!  Okay, this guy bothered me. The feeling I had just wouldn’t go away.  As the days went on into multiphase sessions, that sense increased.   I thought, “Hey, this guy doesn’t know us.”.

Then, it happened:  One of my colleagues made a suggestion.  It was a great idea, by the way. It was based on sound past practices. It seemed feasible.  It was succinct.  But the response from the facilitator was, “Well, you’re just not an “Out-of-the-Box thinker”.   I then saw my colleague retreat and shut down.

You’re just not an out of the box thinker? I thought to myself; the way that statement was delivered was condescending. It seemed as if he was saying to the person, “You’re not that creative”, ; “You’re not that bright!, “You’re not intelligent enough.”, “You’re not that flexible.” You’re rigid. You don’t know what we know.  YOU’RE NOT THINKING!   I took umbrage to that and I didn’t like it either. 😉

When you tell someone that they’re not an out-of-the-box thinker,  it shouldn’t be a negative.

I find that “Box” and “Out-of-the-box” thinkers are both needed in planning situations and emergency management.  In our day-to-day situations, Box Thinkers are very clear on their roles and responsibilities. They are clear on the “space” they occupy.  They can prove to be invaluable, under many circumstances.  They have full knowledge of their position in the organization and are detail oriented.

If you’re going to be a “Box Thinker”, though, be sure to handle everything within the box.

I know it may seem like an abstract analogy but follow me for a little while.  Be clear on where your box fits into the entire operation.  Know the relationship and responsibilities that your box has to the other boxes adjacent to, below and above your box.

EXAMPLE: If you’re a company officer and your “box” is being on the Ladder Company; “Handle everything within your box!  If your task, that day, is to perform search & rescue then handle everything in your box!  If you’re assigned to be the supervisor, on the third floor or division three of the building, then you are responsible for everything within that box.  Fire suppression, search and rescue, ventilation, salvage, pre-&post- control overhaul, etc.  Know the  authority, resources and tools that are necessary for the box, completely.  If your box is ventilation; then you should know everything there is to know about Ventilation: positive pressure, negative pressure, hydraulic, mechanical, natural, vertical, horizontal.  You need to know when to apply what and at what appropriate time.  Handle everything within that box.

When you’re an out-of-the-box thinker it means that you have the ability or the wherewithal to step outside of the norm; or you just decided to think of things in a different way.  That doesn’t make you a better thinker than the people who do think within the box.

EXAMPLE:  If your box is OPERATIONS, at an incident, and you are the Operations Section Chief…handle everything within your box.  Assign the necessary tasks, establish the correct groups, place them in and on the proper divisions.  Call up the appropriate resources.  Provide for accountability and safety measures.  Monitor progress.  Be clear on your communications, directions and requests.  Staff all required positions.  Use checklists.    And…and…and…

MASTER YOUR BOX!

Additionally, to be an “Out-of-the-box” thinker means that you can take the conventional methods, the tried and true methods and apply them in a different way.  You may have the ability not use the conventional methods at all and still realize a successful outcome.  You know the standards.  You just look at the situation in a different way. You may want to come up with a different or alternative means to perform the same task.  You may very well look at things completely different.

In Emergency Management, when you think outside of the box you are still utilizing box thinking to formulate your idea.  You have to.  Think of it as a Stringed Quartet vs. a Jazz Quartet.  It’s still music.  One is very structured and the other more improvisational and yet they still utilize some of the same instruments, chords and notes to produce the final sound that they desire.  It can even be the same song or piece of music.  Very often the stringed quartet can make improvisations or perform different interpretations to the classical pieces.

“Out-of-the-Box thinking” is no greater than “Box thinking”, when it’s done completely. It just means that we have different approaches to achieving a successful outcome..

I think they’re both great and I that any individual can possess both characteristics of a “Box or Out-of-the-Box thinker.

Which one are you and why do you think so?

13 Career Crushers

No Matter the Industry!
No Matter the Industry!
The 13 Career Crushers are universal indexes.
My take:
  1. Revenge is a dish best served cold or not at all…
  2. Treat others better than you want to be treated
  3. Use lists, take notes and a calender (planner)
  4. Keep your personal business “PERSONAL” – Manage
  5. Understand and practice your organization’s mission and goals
  6. Take care of your self; work, refresh and rest
  7. Stay current with industry and technology trends
  8. Stay trustworthy and transparent not C.Y.A.
  9. Respect your superiors, if not the person the position
  10. Truth crushed to earth will rise again
  11. Aggressive and/or Vociferous alignment or posturing is never good.
  12. Cutting corners is still cutting something
  13. Stay on your “A-Game”.  Know your job and everyone elses.

What’s your take???