The Fire Station Pyramid of Success - Part 3

Mark Emery continues a series on fire station success based on Coach John Wooden's Pyramid of Success.


Part 3 - The Character Level Live and lead according to the principles of the Fire Station Pyramid of Success, and others will follow. Last month, you were introduced to Level One, the five behavioral blocks that establish a solid foundation for personal and team leadership and for...


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Bottom line: When you lose control of your emotions, you lose your self-control. When you lose your self-control, corners get rounded and bad things can happen. Control the adrenaline rather than allow the adrenaline to control you.

Alertness

"There is something going on around you at all times from which you can acquire knowledge. Too often, we get lost in our tunnel vision and we don't see the things that are right in front of us for the taking - for the learning."

As a fire officer and leader, you must constantly be alert and aware, looking for ways to improve and add value. In the fire station, "stuff" goes on around you all the time. As you strive to achieve and maintain your personal best, alertness will make the journey much easier and more interesting. By diligently monitoring your opportunity radar, you will be quick to spot flaws and weakness and be just as quick to correct, improve and change.

Weak leaders are not alert; they have shut down their opportunity radar by burying their head in an endless tunnel of projects, paper and meetings. With head buried in an administrative bunker, you will miss opportunities to learn, improve and grow. You will miss golden opportunities for leadership. Don't allow routine stuff to isolate you; it is impossible to lead in isolation. Occasionally, an isolated leader will pop up like an organizational sniper, squeeze-off a couple of quasi-leadership rounds and quickly retreat to the administrative bunker. Again, Coach Wooden: "Do not mistake activity for achievement."

Stay alert as you strive to achieve personal and professional excellence. Alertness is about looking for opportunities to make your small corner of the universe a better place. You must be engaged with your crew in order to diagnose what they need and want they want. Likewise, your players need to know what your expectations are. Write them down, post them conspicuously. Coach Wooden's rules and expectations were documented and crystal clear.

By coupling alertness with self-control, you can focus on opportunities and solutions that will produce desired outcomes. As a leader, it is critical to respond to setbacks and problems by quickly redirecting your focus to desired outcomes. A simple yet powerful question to ask when confronted with a problem is: "What is the true, desired outcome?" This question can be the catalyst for transforming problems into solutions - both in the fire station and on the fireground. Problem solving begins with clearly and objectively identifying the problem.

Initiative

Coach Wooden defines initiative as: "Having the courage to make decisions and take action when action is needed." As a leader, you must not be afraid to fail. You are not perfect and you are going to fail at times. Liberate yourself from perfection, once you don't have to be perfect and you know you're going to make mistakes, do so with gusto. If you are afraid of failure - or afraid of looking bad - you will never discover what you are capable of achieving.

There is no failure worse than failure to act; failure to act is a byproduct of lack of self-control, lack of alertness and lack of initiative. Fear of failure or mistakes is often what prevents smart, talented people from taking action and achieving the self-satisfaction of becoming the best they can. Quitting is often the result of a weak foundation and lack of character. Quitting is the easy road, particularly when there is someone else to use as an excuse for your retreat.

Be downright scared of not being prepared to the best of your ability. You have vanquished fear when you have a strong desire to be your best. Learn from failure and mistakes; never miss an opportunity to learn. Focusing on elaborate excuses and rooting out and focusing on who is to blame will bring nothing of lasting value. Unfortunately, such an atmosphere will foster fear of failure, lack of action and fault finding - at the expense of learning, growth and improvement. (Raise your hand if you want to be the next person raked over the coals when you're not present?) In my experience firefighters criticize inaction harsher than they criticize mistakes.