As a career fire officer and as a fire academy instructor, I have on occasion encountered frustrated fire officers. Company officers who were faced with the constant uphill battle of trying to conduct company level training.
The most serious issues that I have noticed fall into four separate areas of concern. As a company officer have you ever encountered any of the following issues?
- Trying to motivate your troops when they don’t want to be motivated.
They’ll tell you point blank that they’re not interested in the “job.” They’re there because of the salary and benefits or the social aspects. Any training that these troops are ordered or “forced” to sit through might seem to you as a waste of both your time and theirs.
- You have high maintenance people that will complain to such an extent that you might think it’s easier to just leave them alone and concentrate on training those who have easier-going personalities.
Personnel who vociferously complain about everything, whether it’s training or building familiarization or checking their equipment or even having to respond to a call can bring down the moral of the company officer dramatically. Your high maintenance people always do as they’re ordered, but it’s a constant uphill battle to get these people to conduct even the simplest of tasks!
- You may find those who are slightly more willing, but their attention span is very short, or worse, they just “talk the talk.”
The troops with the short attention spans are easily distracted by their cell phone or become consumed with reading a nearby newspaper or are too busy wanting to have something to eat or having a conversation of a different nature with their nearest colleague. Those who “talk the talk” portray themselves as hard chargers, but unfortunately rarely produce that hard charge that is the spirit of a “heavy hitting” company.
- Or, the worst of the scenarios; you are trying to educate your people only to be told either verbally or through their actions that they don’t want to be educated in this field.
In this worst-case scenario, you find the members taking a back seat, or choosing not to actively participate, or for one reason or another, they “disappear.” Also, such attitudes as “Captain so-and-so is out sick today … great, no training!” are in line with this area of concern. These situations are deplorable, but gratefully are rare.
For good or bad, this type of behavior illuminates the group’s actions and thought process like a bright light that all in the organization from the top to the bottom will notice. These circumstances are problematic. As a company officer, you cannot “order” someone to be interested in this field of study.
Most departments and most company officers don’t have to contend with these issues. These company-related issues that I’m speaking of are some of the worst of the “worst-case” situations. This article is geared towards those rare situations where the culture of the department, or the culture of the company, or the specific shift of a company has allowed such behavior to occur. Trying to change this overnight becomes quite a task for the newly assigned, transferred, or promoted company officer.
Management and leadership gurus have the answer, I’m certain, but what about those absolute worst-case scenarios where all of the inspirational talks and all of the effective leadership strategies fall on deaf ears? Rare situations where even the leadership experts would shake their heads!
The fire service is people! They are the greatest strength, but can also be the weak link in the chain in some cases. This article is geared towards these scenarios. There is no quick fix to people-related issues, no instant medicine to remedy the above problems, no quick answers from the book. Nevertheless there has to be something the company officer can do?