25 Common Mistakes Made by New Fire Officers

As a rule, firefighters making the transition to officer are usually not given the proper training and tools necessary to becoming a successful manager.

Did subordinates job for them - Many subordinates will gladly let you do their job for them. A fire officer's job is to supervise and assist when needed when your prescribed duties allow. If a team member does not know the proper way to do something, they should be correctly shown how or referred to departmental SOP's for further guidance.


Failed to delegate - As the work piles on, the new officer will eventually learn to do delegate. Again, their primary job is to manage. In reality, a good officer should always be training someone to take their place. Delegation of duties is a natural way to accomplish this task.


Gave no positive reinforcement to subordinates - An officer (new or old or in-between) simply cannot do the job alone. The most effective officers take the time necessary to praise their people when they do something right or go beyond what is normally respected. A little personal attention will pay huge dividends somewhere down the line.


Had an inconsistent approach to problems - Did you ever work for the company officer that brought their problems to work with him or her? This person goes around half-cocked all of the time; you never know what the outcome will be when a crisis appears. This is not a fun person to be around, is it? A wild-card officer should be dealt with early in their career.


Failed to listen to subordinates - Would we ever learn anything if we did not listen? A good officer will practice "active listening" on a regular basis, and they may be actually surprised by what they hear (and learn) from their crew.


Failed to solicit input from subordinates - A good company operates as a team. A wise officer will actually solicit input from the crew. When this happens, an officer that involves the entire team will operate more effectively and safely.


Showed favoritism to subordinates - Have you ever seen favorites played in your department? I would imagine the answer is yes for most of you. How did you feel when this happened? Favoritism is not the mark of a good fire officer.


Failed to motivate subordinates - Remember the two kinds of leaders ? the positive one and the negative one? Which one do you want to work with? A good fire officer will stand behind departmental values and never trash-talk the department.


Didn't address problems of subordinates - Firefighters are human and have problems like anyone else. We spend a great deal of time together and can usually tell when something is not right among one of us. A good officer will show genuine concern for those under them and assist when allowed to do so.


Failed to make timely decisions - Incident decisions are usually timely by necessity; can the same be said for non-emergency related decisions? Unresolved issues are a constant weight that will eventually drag you down. A decisive officer will prioritize prevailing issues and then deal with them, one at time.


Failed to effectively utilize time - Procrastination is a very bad word, and a most effective stumbling block to good management. Officers must learn to take advantage of any slow times, marking things off the list. Ideally, they should anticipate problems and get ahead of the game.


Lacked communication skills - The ability to speak and write is imperative to success in any organization. Community colleges are an excellent place to hone your writing and speaking abilities. The modern fire officer simply cannot advance without a foundation built upon basic communication skills; this small investment in your personnel will pay huge dividends for both the individual and the department.


Did not know contents of required paperwork - This is a training issue that should be addressed before someone is promoted. Once promoted, a fire officer will be expected to generate accurate departmental specified reports. Good data is essential to adequate departmental funding, which ultimately affects everyone.


Failed to foster positive interdepartmental relations - A fire officer represents the department, and their support is mandated - not requested. If a wrong is noted, they should work through the system to make a positive change. They should never resort to being a negative leader.


Failed to document positive and negative activities of subordinates - Evaluations of subordinates is not always a pleasant job, but it is your job. A good officer will perform evaluations fairly and consistently and always document everything.