Developing a Plan for Self-Evaluation

Ask Yourself: Where Should I Be Headed at This Stage in My Life?

Let me begin where I left off in my last column by sharing some actual, identifiable data that was developed for self-study in my career as a student at Capella University in Minneapolis in a course titled "The Developing Leader." I would like to start with a review of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) testing. I believe that this information provides an interesting insight into me as a human being.

My test results classified me as an INFP (Introversion-Intuition-Feeling-Perceiving) type personality. This tells us the following:

  1. People who prefer Introversion tend to focus on the inner world of ideas and impressions.
  2. People who prefer Intuition tend to focus on the future, with a view toward patterns and possibilities.
  3. People who prefer Feeling tend to base their decisions primarily on values and subjective evaluation of person-centered concerns.
  4. People who prefer Perceiving tend to like a flexible and spontaneous approach to life and prefer to keep their options open (Myers-Briggs, 1998).

These evocative phrases seem to typify that manner in which I operate as a person. These descriptive thoughts are further amplified by the content within the following statement made by the Myers-Briggs format:

INFP - Idealistic, loyal to their values and to people who are important to them. Want an external life that is congruent with their values. Curious, quick to see possibilities, can be catalysts for implementing ideas. Seek to understand people and to help them reach their potential. Adaptable, flexible, and accepting, unless a value is threatened (ibid).

The EQ in Action Profile test results indicated that I possess a great deal of empathy. However, there are some issues with regard to my concern for other people. The results of this procedure suggest a need to devote more time to reflecting on the needs of others. The need also exists to take some of the efforts directed at self reflection and move them to a reflection about others. This same situation is supported by the data in the Campbell Leadership Descriptor. There is an indication that the concerns for self need to be reoriented to a concern for others, particularly those of a different gender or ethnic background.

An important learning point for the future was touched on during an interview with my friend Jack Peltier of Marlboro, MA. He spoke of one of my primary strengths as being my willingness to stand up for those things in which I strongly believe. He also indicated that I did this in many cases in full knowledge of the consequences of my actions. He suggested that I needed to create an awareness of which battles needed to be fought and which needed to be avoided. He suggested that although my record was good, that there was also room for improvement.

My strengths are:

  1. Integrity
  2. Courage
  3. Pride
  4. Faith
  5. Persistence
  6. Good judgment
  7. Tact
  8. Unselfishness
  9. Trust
  10. Loyal

To create a list of weaknesses, I was required to delve deeply into my psyche. The following are some thoughts about my personal weaknesses. In some cases, the weaknesses described are actually the potential downside of one of the strengths listed above.

  1. Procrastinator of the first rank
  2. Not good with time management
  3. Not a good listener
  4. Fragile ego
  5. Easily hurt
  6. Tend to pout sometimes
  7. Can be stubborn if a strong, personal value is challenged
  8. Ritualistic in the performance of routine tasks; any interruption of established routines can be upsetting
  9. Tend not to forget past injustices
  10. Can be abrupt with people during stressful times
  11. Can do too much for people to garner their support and affection

All of these issues need to receive attention during the conduct of my Personal Leadership Action Plan (PLAP). The when and the how of this action will be outlined as we proceed.

Taking stock of Harry R. Carter: A review of the strengths and weaknesses listed in an earlier section of this report to you needs to be recapped and emphasized. This has been done so that an appropriate array of measurable objectives can be created, based upon these identifiable points.

In order for individuals to better understand who they are as people, they should take stock of themselves. They also need to understand the impact of those important events that defined them as people with the potential to be leaders. In 2002, Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas wrote an article titled "Crucibles of Leadership" for the Harvard Business Review in which they ask the critical question, "Why is it that certain people seem to naturally inspire confidence, loyalty and hard work, while others (who may have just as much vision and smarts) stumble again and again?" They further suggest that people acquire a certain strength and resolve based on the hard times that they have faced.

In line with their thinking, it is critical to examine any possible crucibles in my life in the fire service that have assisted me in developing into the person I am today. An important clue comes from the value statement that I created for my self-examination course at Capella. In that assessment, I stated that I flunked out of an Ivy League school in May 1966. This was seen as an extreme failure by my family. Instead of running away to join the circus, I joined the U.S. Air Force and became a firefighter. On further reflection, it was this failure at the University of Pennsylvania that led me in the direction of the successful career I enjoyed in the fire service.

You might say that I owe the successes that I have enjoyed to an early failure. It is important to note that the impact on me was not of a short duration. I served in the Air Force for nearly four years. During that time, I was exposed to a wide range of forces that shaped my approach to the field of leadership in the fire service. I served in geographically disparate locales, ranging from Alaska to Vietnam. My exposure to leaders ranged across the board. There seemed to be many intellectually challenged people in positions of authority. I decided that in order to achieve any great stature in the world, leadership was going to be a primary force in my life.

These military experiences were followed by a period of nearly 40 years of service in different fire departments. It was during my service in the Newark, NJ, Fire Department that I was privileged to experience another series of crucible events of the type that Bennis and Thomas (2002) call mentoring relationships. One mentor taught me how to operate in the world of politics, while another fanned the flames of knowledge as a way of building success in the fire service. Yet another taught me how to be a good fire suppression field battalion commander. Each of these individuals, when combined with the experience gained in my day-to-day work, provided me with an education that made me a much better leader; one grounded in the world of daily reality.

With all of this in mind, where should I be headed at this stage in my life? What goals can be set that will build on my strengths? How might I develop a continuing educational component to my life that will allow me to minimize the impact of my weaknesses? This effort must begin with the creation of a vision for the future.

Vision statement of Harry R. Carter: I shall strive to be a voice for education and leadership in fire service of the United States. When people think of the fire service in America, it is my hope that they will think of me as a voice of honesty, reason, and dedication.

As you might imagine, this is quite a lofty estimation of what the future might bring. However, that is the purpose of a vision statement. The next step in this process should be the development of a mission statement for the consulting firm that is the platform for all of my efforts.

Mission statement of Harry R. Carter, Ph.D., LLC: The consulting firm of Harry R. Carter, Ph.D., LLC exists to deliver top-quality municipal fire protection consulting services. It will strive provide its clients with the best possible information and advice. It will settle for nothing less than the best.

To reach the lofty heights outlined above, a conscious plan must be created that involves measurable goals and objectives that build on my strengths and minimize the impact of or eliminate the impact of my weaknesses. These goals will be created under headings that encompass my array of skills, strengths and weaknesses.

It has often been said that the journey of 10,000 miles begins with the taking of the first step. So it is with the creation of those goals and objectives that will serve as the luminaries lighting the road to my future leadership success. In our 1989 textbook Management in the Fire Service (National Fire Protection Association), Erwin Rausch and I speak to the importance of goals when we state, "A day started without a plan - without some goals to achieve - results in less accomplishment than a day for which objectives have been set."

Goals let an individual focus his or her energies on a given set of tasks. The setting of goals clarifies what demands concentration and what is to be handled in a more routine manner. In the case of a PLAP, it is critical to set out a sufficiently large array of goals and objectives so that each aspect of an individual's progression toward improved leadership is covered. Most people have a general idea of where they want their lives to go, so even in the simplest of scenarios these people might be perceived as having goals. However, as the complexity of the tasks that must be completed increases, so too does the need for a wider range of measurable goals and objectives to guide the effort.

In this section of my PLAP, goals will be established that allow for future success to be built on my strengths. Other goals will be listed that speak to my need to improve areas of weakness identified via the testing mechanisms identified during the course at Capella. In Management in the Fire Service, Rausch and I write that to be effective, a goal system should not "become an elaborate set of procedures that attempts to cover every aspect of an activity." These goals will list the tasks slated for accomplishment, as well as the individual who is responsible for them. There is also a reference to outside assistance from members of my "board of directors."

In my next column, I will list the goals that have been developed to address not only the strengths, but the weaknesses that have been identified through the analytical mechanisms I use during of the Capella course.

DR. HARRY R. CARTER, Ph.D., CFO, MIFireE, is a Firehouse® contributing editor. A municipal fire protection consultant based in Adelphia, NJ, he is the former president of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. Dr. Carter is a past chief and active life member of the Adelphia Fire Company. Currently chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners for Howell Township District 2, he retired from the Newark, NJ, Fire Department in 1999 as a battalion commander. He also served as chief of training and commander of the Hazardous Materials Response Team. Dr. Carter is vice president of the American Branch of the Institution of Fire Engineers (MIFireE). He recently published Living My Dream: Dr. Harry Carter's 2006 FIRE Act Road Trip, which was also the subject of a blog. He may be contacted at