We begin our fire service careers with a fire burning in our bellies and the intent of being around for a long time. The challenges of day-to-day life at home and at work confront all of us and sometimes make it difficult to keep that fire from dimming over the years. We've all known company...
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We begin our fire service careers with a fire burning in our bellies and the intent of being around for a long time. The challenges of day-to-day life at home and at work confront all of us and sometimes make it difficult to keep that fire from dimming over the years.
We've all known company officers with a lot of seniority who are as positive and fulfilled as they were in the very beginning of their careers...and we've seen situations in which company officers (new and old) were not. They may be unhappy with the work they're doing, the changes in the job since they started, unhappy with their departments, their bosses, and sometimes even their friends and family.
The demeanor of the company officer and his or her outlook on things in general has a tremendous impact on crew members and service delivery. Working for a specific company officer can be the best or worst thing that can happen in a member's career...and the impact can be long lasting.
Teamwork In The Firehouse
Hundreds of officers from different parts of the country have provided me with suggestions for helping other officers remain positive, productive examples for others to model. The following represents their collective thoughts:
- Company officers should strive to approach their duties with the same "teamwork-based" attitude that they naturally utilized in the beginning of their careers. Maintaining a sense of self-motivation that is directed towards competence, safety, learning, teaching and overall wellness is an important part of that process.
- As long as we're active, we should remain students of the fire service. This could include attending a seminar periodically, taking structured classes, sharing information with crew members, transferring experience through storytelling and/or providing opportunities for others to learn and grow professionally.
- Trying to be consistent and predictable helps others interact with the officer and helps the officer maintain his or her sense of direction as a supervisor. Being as fair as possible, avoiding the appearance of favoritism, displaying trust in crew members, being honest in our interactions with others and simply being nice to the people we encounter can also act as daily "booster shots" to a company officer's sense of self-worth and value thus affecting his or her demeanor in a positive way.
- Being a good coach and working on our communications skills can help avoid personnel issues that can begin to get us down. Confronting issues in a productive way is preferred rather than letting them fester until emotions get the best of us...sometimes resulting in negative, long-lasting reactions from those who were involved.
- As much as possible, company officers should stay focused on the mission, committed to service delivery, and concerned about the welfare of their crew members. Supporting the organization, buying into the future and setting a positive example can be contagious for crew members when modeled by the company officer.
- Approaching each emergency call with the eagerness and empathy that we displayed early in our careers can help keep spirits high. Encouraging participation and input from crew members in all non-emergency and support programs at the station helps the company officer create an environment in which the work is taken seriously and the workers are able to have fun doing it. A positive work environment creates positive, productive people - including the company officer.
- Although it is difficult, bad things that happen at home should not dominate the work environment at the fire station and difficult times at work should not be allowed to create barriers to family relationships at home. That concept is a lot easier to write than it is to do, but officers that at least consider it periodically will probably manage this balance better than those who pay it no mind at all.
Staying The Course