Where are you Going? Three Principles for Identifying Your Path

Albert Einstein, perhaps the most intelligent human being who ever lived, once boarded a train in Princeton, New Jersey bound for Boston. Einstein immediately began fumbling for his ticket upon finding a seat on the train.

Organizations should also work toward getting all personnel to "pull in the same direction". In other words all personnel have to be motivated to work together toward the common goals that have been identified. They need to all have the same clear vision.

We have all heard the statement that "we can lead a horse to the water but we can't make him drink" before. It refers to the idea that we cannot motivate a person to do something they do not want to do despite our best efforts. To voluntarily take action or do some task is a matter of personal choice but how can we get the "horse" to drink? That question has been answered by a modern day horse-whisperer by the name of Monty Roberts.

In his groundbreaking book, "A Man Who Talks to Horses", Roberts describes how he learned the language of horses through his years of observing them as they related to each other. The language of Equus taught Roberts how to tame the wild horses to be used as work animals on ranches. Robert's approach utilizes non-violent and non-coercive methods, along with Equus, to get the horse to do what they want to do. Roberts calls the whole process "join-up" and has demonstrated on numerous occasions how a wild mustang can be saddled and ridden within 30 minutes. Robert's "horse-gentling" methods are truly remarkable.

In a subsequent book, Roberts points out how the methods he uses for horses can also apply to working with humans. In other words, if humans are treated with respect, not coerced, and allowed to "join-up" by themselves they will be much more inclined to get involved because of their own motivation. This is such a simple concept yet it is ignored by many organizations.

It is very simple; treat others the way you want to be treated; the Golden Rule. Most employees in today's workplace simply want to be involved in the direction of the organization and want to be able to contribute. From experience, if that is allowed and there is a sincere climate of participation employees feel better about their workplace and are more apt to contribute and to "buy-in" to the program goals. On this topic, Covey warns that without involvement, there is no commitment. With personnel, "no involvement, no commitment". This seems to be a critical part of the human "join-up" process.

The Team

Hazmat responders are hybrid personnel who usually enjoy challenges, they think critically, and are intrinsically motivated. Quite often, the hazmat person is among the best personnel on a fire department and most can be labeled as "doers". Ideally, these are the types of people you would desire for your team. If you can select them it is good but if they step forward it is even better.

When you choose team members among volunteers, choose them carefully. Most likely they will be involved in the program for a long period of time so you need to analyze not only their knowledge and skills but also their attitudes and motivations. Also, while most teams compensate team members for hazmat response team duties you should avoid the team member who is there solely for the money.

Once members are selected they need to be developed to respond safely, effectively, and efficiently. This is an on-going process that needs to be clearly spelled out, communicated to all personnel, and then adhered to. Personnel need to be effectively coached, counseled, and supported in their development by program leaders. Also, encourage all personnel to take active roles in their own development. Get them involved by dividing responsibilities for the training program. Have each person develop a training module for a training program component in which they have interest. This is another form of join-up. They are participating in an area in which they have an interest and they have control of their own destiny. This concept also lightens the load for other people.

Another facet of the team environment involves morale and attitude. This is an example of a value or demeanor that must come from within each team member. Attitudes cannot be forced upon team members but if the right climate is fostered morale can flourish. An atmosphere of trust and mutual respect will most likely encourage join-up.