The Journey: Team Building

This article continues our discussion on the path to fire service leadership. As we have said in past articles, no great leader does it alone. At some point you will have to assemble a group of people to get a job done. You will be fortunate if you can...


This article continues our discussion on the path to fire service leadership. As we have said in past articles, no great leader does it alone. At some point you will have to assemble a group of people to get a job done. You will be fortunate if you can hand pick your team. Previously, I have said, "that a mark of a good leader is how well they surround themselves with good people." Strong advisors may be a key to their success. But a leader needs more than just strong advisers. He or she needs good workers. The queen bee brings the hive to life, but it is the drones that do the work of maintaining it, protecting it and making it grow.

Most of us will not have the luxury of selecting our team. We need to work with those assigned to us. If we were able to choose, how do you select them? The first thing is that you must have people you can trust. If you are going to assign them a task you must have a reasonable expectation they will be able to complete it, and complete it properly. They must trust you to provide them with the clear objectives and the guidance to deliver the product they are looking for. We touched on this in the article on "The Journey: Loyalty and Honesty." When we discussed a leaders loyalty and honesty to their people and the organization.

Building A Winning Team

A well-known leader was once asked, that if you needed to hire someone for your team and if all things were equal, how would you select that person? He replied, "the person who wanted it the most." Selecting the person "that wants it the most" may work, but I disagree. This maybe a loaded question; I did say all things were equal. The person you select may have the energy and enthusiasm, but when I need to build a team I would look at what other qualities will that person bring to the team. Not everyone came down the same road to get here. Are their experiences differ from the other members of the team? Will they not only get the job done but bring a fresh look? Will they compliment the existing organization? When building a team you can't have all offense and no defense. If you expect your team to play "both sides of the ball" you will wear them out and lose in the long run. A leader who can find the hidden value in his or her people will be able to build a winning team.

A winning team is built by discovering individuals' differences, not similarities. Find what sets them apart and how their skills will meet the needs of the mission. Team building is a key to fire service operations. Every member has an assignment that must be executed. The members of the team will know if an assignment is carried out or not.

If a firefighter assigned to ventilate, fails in their assignment, the firefighters inside the structure will be exposed to the intense heat and smoke. Conditions that could prevent them from making the rescue or extinguishing the fire. Completing assignments is critical. If a firefighter can't complete tasks on a regular basis, the company will suffer. This makes it difficult for new members to become part of the team. They are under pressure to prove themselves and may take unusual risks to gain acceptance. As a leader you need to control the new members zeal. Give assignments based on their individual ability and only when they can handle them. To do anything less is setting them up for failure. New members should use their strengths to increase the value of the team. As their contribution is realized, they will become valued members.

For firefighters and fire officers familiarity does not breed contempt. It is essential to building the winning team. The leader needs to know who is uncomfortable with heights, which ones are skilled with tools or have experience in the trades of plumbing, electrical and so on. This information will guide him or her in giving assignments.

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