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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Being a fire officer is about being what I call a "heroic leader." You become a heroic leader when you throw every ounce of your heart and soul into making a positive difference for someone else. Initiative, along with a solid Pyramid foundation, is the key to leading heroically. A heroic leader has the courage to act alone and to make decisions.

One of the most valuable ways to exercise your initiative is to acknowledge and recognize initiative in others. Instead of feeling taken for granted, your firefighters must know they are truly important, appreciated and a valued member of the team. I agree with Coach Wooden that the team that makes the most mistakes usually wins. Being overly cautious and tentative will produce inaction. Hesitate and before you know it you're down by 20 points.

Intentness

Coach Wooden's definition of intentness is simple yet powerful: Intentness is the ability to resist temptation and stay the course, to concentrate on your objective with determination and resolve. Impatience is wanting too much too soon. Intentness doesn't involve wanting something, intentness involves doing something.

Your professional excellence journey will take time - a long time. I'll admit it sounds corny, but it's true, success is a journey not a destination. It took Coach Wooden 14 years to develop the Pyramid of Success. It was another 15 years before UCLA won the first of its 10 national championships. Wooden's patient 29-year journey produced the greatest NCAA basketball record in history. (UCLA won its first NCAA championship with a team that had no player taller than 6-foot-5! Before the season started, sports journalists and basketball "experts" dismissed UCLA as a championship contender; they believed that no team of such short stature could possibly win an NCAA championship.)

After winning their first national championship, Wooden's UCLA teams compiled the most amazing run of championship performances in NCAA history. The "Wizard of Westwood" was the model of intentness.

Once you have determined your vision and established goals for yourself, your crew and for your fire station, stay the course. There will be setbacks. You may have to change your methods. You may have to go around, under or over. You may have to return to the drawing board and start over. Adapt and adjust; don't fight it. Do what you've got to do, but you do not quit. Just remember not to project fault on other people - instead focus on learning, adapting, and moving forward.

Coach Wooden told his players: "Be persistent. Be determined. Be tenacious. Be completely determined to reach your goal." My friend, that is intentness.

F. E. A. R.

Familiarization. Education. Application. Repeat.

My personal model for implementing this level of the Pyramid is the acronym F.E.A.R.:

  • Familiarization examples include pre-plan familiarization tours (access problems, fire load problems, evacuation and exposure challenges, etc.), ensuring that everybody knows where everything is on the apparatus, knowing your response area, reviewing post incident analysis, reviewing the DOT Emergency Response Guidebook, and revisiting a policy or procedure each shift. There is never nothing to do in or around your fire station. Visit target hazard occupancies; measure interior hoselays, look for optimal locations for apparatus and ground ladder placement. Design and lead simple incident-simulation exercises.
  • Education examples include formal training and drills, incident case study, give your crew a reading assignment followed by a 10-question key-point quiz. Attend outside training opportunities. Get your degree. Study building construction. Review your accountability system. Review the incident command system. Have your firefighters prepare and deliver short training sessions. Review communication procedures. Help aspiring fire officers prepare for promotion and promotional tests.
  • Application includes anything that builds on familiarization, education, and training. Experience (post-incident analysis), practice, drills, review, accountability exercises, simulations, and skull sessions.
  • Repeat, as in more familiarization, education and application. Refresh, update, learn and improve.

To keep the cycle of F.E.A.R. going requires a solid Pyramid foundation and that Level Two is firmly in place: Self-Control, Alertness, Initiative and Intentness.