The Ten Commandments Of Communication

Those hearing your message should get a clear understanding of exactly what it is they are going to be dealing with. However, there are those who will communicate very poorly, giving the impression that they have lost it, and are out of control! Which...

"Edifying" is the Fourth Commandment. I am a firm believer that a company is only as good as the weakest link. The good news is that the weakest link can be strengthened through edification. A good company officer will work very hard with his team of firefighters to do just that. Building a firefighter's confidence takes hard work and patience, but pays great dividends in the end. As mentioned, it's a team effort, lead by the company officer with assistance from the other members of the company. One of the most influential members of the company is the senior man; sometime know as the whip. One role of the senior man is to encourage newly assigned personnel and take them under their wings. The best thing he can do is quickly befriend this fire fighter.

The Fifth Commandment is to "Avoid Criticizing or Attacking Others." For some reason many individuals in positions of authority are always looking to put the blame on someone (other than themselves) should results not be favorable. As a company officer, you should encourage your firefighters to take some initiative on their own to salve problems confronting them. If you are not happy with the actions then you need to work with that firefighter to educate him on how tasks of that nature should be handled in the future. At times, company officers will take their frustrations out on their firefighters; forgetting their role as a mentor. This is never good and can lead to rejection on both the officer and the firefighters. There are times when the officer or a fellow fire fighter would like to get into a confrontation. Situations should never be allowed to escalate to this level at an incident scene. As a company officer, you will need to quickly take control of this situation and keep under control until the company gets back to quarters and the parties involved can be taken aside into an office, with the door shut. Addressing situations in this manor will gives the parties a cooling off period and allows them and the company officer time to think about what they want to say. Remember reading about thinking before you speak in Commandment Number One?

This takes us to Commandment Six, "Proper Timing." Knowing when to speak and when not to speak. You know exactly what I mean. Put yourself in the other persons shoes. Timing is everything, and it could be the difference between keeping a friendship or losing it. Always be considerate and take into account all aspects associated with the situation. Officers sometime do not hear both sides of the story before they make a harsh decision. Get the facts; Rome was not built in a day. Some situations require extra time to investigate and gather facts. Once again, I would like to bring you back to Commandment One. You don't want to say something that you will regret later.

On a more positive note, proper timing should be use as well when making requests. Not all request need to be addressed immediately. Sort over requests and submit the highest priority ones first. The rest can wait until a better opportunity presents itself.

Commandment Number Seven is "Kindness and Respect." Kindness and respect go a long way. In Probationary School, every new recruit received instructions on how to address firefighters and officers on the job. That instruction was to respect each of the officers and firefighters on the department, including their fellow probationary firefighters. Has this changed? Some newly appointed probationary fire fighters today act as if they have 37 on the job. They should have been taught to keep quiet and only speak when spoken too. Other than that, they should be encouraged to ask questions about the job and improving their performance before they start sounding off.

The Eighth Commandment is that of "Understanding." When we don't following the above commandments, there is a tendency to shun our firefighters from asking questions to get clarification and understanding. When fire fighters don't have a clear understanding of their job, mistakes occur. Some of these mistakes contribute to injuries or fatalities on the fireground. For companies to operate successfully, each firefighter needs to have a clear understanding of what is expected of him and what his duties are. If firefighters are not asking questions of the company officer during training exercises then the officer should be asking the firefighter questions. Remember Commandment Four said it takes hard work by the company officer to edify his firefighters. Half the battle is getting the fire fighters to ask questions for understanding and clarification. No one wants to come across as an idiot by asking a question that he feels may be embarrassing.