The Captain's College - Part 2

Team building has never been one of those classes most fire service personnel take as part of their fire service education.

With this said, it is important for the leader to identify when the team has set into a groupthink attitude. This can be scene in certain behaviors that present in areas such as safety, culture, and station or shift climate. Better said, when the team begins to act out against others, or policy this can be an issue of groupthink in negative terms. Behaviors such as a strong safety culture and pride of service would be positive effects of the groupthink process.

If you look at organization such as Phoenix Fire Department (PFD), one would see were groupthink has had a positive impact on safety and service, PFD's culture did not occur overnight and is constantly being reviewed, evaluated and refined to maintain the positive nature of the process. Yet, all one has to do is read any online fire service magazine to identify a negative aspect of the Groupthink process.

As for safety, the lack of seatbelts being worn by firefighters is an indication the organization or at the very least the company responding has not embraced a safety culture. Or items such as sexual immorality within the confines of the station scream of a complete breakdown in the supervision of that company and the organization. Therefore, somewhere along the way the parties involved have determined this behavior is correct and allowable, even if it violates both policy and the god ole smell test.

The bottom line is, when a group of people fail to identify issues of safety and morality as a whole, one can only assume the group itself is defective and lacks supervision and has settled into the negative aspects of group think. Additionally, at issue is the group think process for this group is not inline with positive professional behaviors that should be defined by the organization and established by behavior and policy.

On the flip side of that coin is the positive aspects of group think. For this to occur the organization itself must establish the values, norm and traditions it demands from both supervisors and members. Clearly those values and norms must be shared by all and each and everyone in the organization held accountable for those behaviors. This is especially true for supervisors. Each and every supervisor must remain at 150% at all times in the areas defined by the organization. If not, the troops will see a lack of consistency and identify this with weak leadership and failed ability to remain true to the purpose and intent of those items.

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Ed Hadfield, a Contributing Editor, has worked his way through the ranks of the fire service over the last 20 years from firefighter to battalion chief. He was a captain for the ISO Class 1 Huntington Beach, CA, Fire Department. He is the Lead Instructor for Firetown Training Specialist and was awarded the 2004 California Training Officer of the Year.

Ed is recognized for his tremendous accomplishments in the area of Truck Company Operations, Firefighter Safety and Survival, Rapid Intervention Tactics & Strategy, Command and Strategy at the scene of fireground emergencies and his overall leadership in the fire service.

Ed is contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine and The Orange County Firefighter. He is a adjunct /instructor to numerous fire science programs, and lead instructor for Firehouse Expo, FDIC West, and numerous fire service conferences nationwide. He holds an Associates Degree from Santa Ana College in Fire Administration, a Bachelors Degree in Organizational Leadership for Azusa Pacific University and a Chief Officers Certification from the California State Fire Marshal. He is currently pursuing his Masters Degree in Leadership Studies.

You can contact Ed through his training website: Firetown Training Specialist.