The Fire Service Pyramid of Success: Part 4

Mark Emery continues this series with part four discussing the heart of the pyramid: condition, skill and team spirit.Part 4 -- Heart of the Pyramid: Condition, Skill and Team Spirit 


Mark Emery continues this series with part four discussing the heart of the pyramid: condition, skill and team spirit. Part 4 -- Heart of the Pyramid: Condition, Skill and Team Spirit   Coach Wooden's All-Time Best Starting Five Industriousness Enthusiasm Condition Fundamentals...


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Coach Wooden describes team spirit as an eagerness to sacrifice personal comfort and glory for the welfare of all. In other words, the team comes first. Notice that team spirit doesn't mean willing to put the team first; team spirit is eagerness to put the team first. There is a profound difference between willingness and eagerness. Again, Coach Wooden: "A prisoner on a chain gang may be willing to break rocks, but how eager is he?" (We chose to become fire department members; we weren't sentenced to hard fire station labor by a judge.) Eagerness to make your fire station better, your crew better, your apparatus better, your equipment better, your fire department better, your community better -- and eagerness to make yourself better -- is what will create a championship fire station culture. Most rookies enter the fire station with enthusiastic eagerness to be industrious and show initiative only to have their alertness and initiative crushed due to a culture of lassitude and feeble leadership. A recliner, a TV and Internet surfing is selfish and will not improve you, your crew or your fire station. Time in the recliner feels much better when it has been earned through initiative and enthusiastic industriousness.

So long as ambition is put to good use for your family, crew, fire station and fire department, there is nothing wrong with wanting to achieve personal success. However, team players are defined by their willingness to sacrifice personal considerations for the benefit and success of all. Although friendship is a component of the Pyramid foundation, it is unlikely that everyone in your fire department will like each other; however, it is essential they everyone in your fire station respect each other and place the dignity, welfare and success of the "team" first.

Team spirit will enable all members of your crew to succeed, not just one individual. Should one member experience individual success (for example, receive a promotion or college degree), the group should share in the celebration. Each member is much more likely to achieve individual success when they are a loyal, reliable, and respected member of a team (or fire department) that has achieved (and works hard at maintaining) team success. Peace of mind does not accompany winning and notoriety; peace of mind is the direct result of the self-satisfaction that comes with knowing you gave your best effort to become the best that you are capable.

When you show up at the fire station, be ready to give your best effort for the team. Reward members that give their best effort to become the best firefighters they are capable of becoming. A genuine leader does not crush the industriousness, initiative and team spirit of other members.

Call to Action

There is no question that the members of a fire department are part of an elite, high-performance team. True leaders are leaders of Coach Wooden's Pyramid principles, plain and simple. I challenge anyone to show me an excellent leader who does not exemplify the principles of Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success. Whether they are aware or not, true team leaders already personify most of Coach Wooden's Pyramid principles, plain and simple. (Just because you're a leader doesn't mean that you're a leader of good; history books are full of strong leaders who left a legacy of evil and destruction.)

If you would like to be a member of a high-performance fire station, start by developing your high-performance self -- start with your foundation. Get off your butt and be industrious, friendly, loyal, cooperative and enthusiastic. After you've established a solid foundation, add character by exhibiting self-control, be alert, show initiative, and live and work with intentness.

Next, make sure you are prepared; be conditioned physically, mentally, and morally. Develop fundamental skill competency; know how to do all aspects of your job quickly and efficiently -- work to achieve "unconscious competence." Perform all aspects of your job with enthusiasm. Be a practice leader more than a game leader; don't sit around waiting for "show time." Because your team is prepared, when show time does come, you will make it look easy. Do all this with the team in mind by nurturing and investing in team spirit.

Coach Wooden professed that "the star of the team is the team." He could have chosen "teamwork" rather than team spirit. You have to admit that the word "spirit" is more compelling than "work." Team spirit captures all the significance of "teamwork" with the added value of heart and soul. Team spirit means placing the goals of your fire station (and your fire department) ahead of personal desires and interests. Again, Coach Wooden: "Just as enthusiasm ignites industriousness, team spirit is the catalyst for enhancing condition and skill, and all the supporting blocks of the Pyramid to extraordinary levels. It is so because it creates a deep desire on the part of each individual to do everything within his or her power to improve and strengthen the organization."

Level Four: The Leadership Level

Next month, we will add the final two blocks of the Fire Station Pyramid of Success: poise and confidence. Coach Wooden considered Level Four the "leadership level" of his Pyramid. The 12 blocks discussed thus far were carefully selected by Coach Wooden: "Each block has a unique purpose, and there is logic behind its position in the Pyramid."