In Part 1 of this series, we looked at some of the frustrations of training at the company level. In Part 2, we’ll take a look at how the company officer can enhance the safety of his or her company, while at the same time enhancing their own career prospects.
For the frustrated company officer, what does he or she do when faced with the roadblocks of troops who have absolutely no interest in company training? For our purposes, we will remove the tools of transfer and termination. Disciplinary action can be a tool in the toolbox, but like we said in Part 1, you cannot order someone to be “interested.” We are talking about companies, or even specific shifts of companies, who are not looked at as premier units.
Elite companies, such as rescue and squad companies, or even more traditional engine and ladder companies, who have very prestigious reputations, have pride in their work and ability. Training is constant and usually members have to volunteer for these “5-star units.” You may at present have the opposite extreme, but in time, you may be able to convert your present assignment into one of these sought-after units.
But for now, we are talking about situations where there are very few tools to help the company officer! Also, remember that training should never be used as a punishment! Training people because you know it will cause them duress may open up another can of worms.
For the company officer who loves the job, you cannot lose that desire, no matter how stressed and aggravating the situation becomes.
You have been dealt a hand that will test your very interest in a profession you care about and are good at. The fire service needs good people. You cannot be driven away from this field because of the personnel assigned to the company. Therefore, the first step is one of a proper mindset. The fire service is a fascinating profession; the headache that you are faced with is going to be just part of a chapter in your career. Learn from it so you can help others in similar situations in the future. Don’t lose that motivation and initiative that you have; know that there are answers and solutions to your problem.
Use the tools of empowerment.
Empowerment can be very successful in many cases. Give it a try. Find those members that may actively want to give a presentation on a topic of interest. Be overwhelmingly supportive and let your people grow and evolve into true professionals. Their entire demeanor may change and they’ll become the shining stars of your department. There is nothing better than watching a department member evolve into a world-class professional.
But, be prepared to be told outright that they’re not giving any presentation; they’re not certified instructors, they don’t want to speak in front of their colleagues, and if you force them to do a presentation, it will amount to a waste of time and very poor effort on their part. Again, you cannot “order” someone to be interested! We’ll discuss more about the tool of empowerment later.
The company still has a role to perform and an obligation to the residents and fellow department members. Therefore, as the company officer you had better know what you are doing!
Ok, the situation may be so bad that the time presently allotted to training may be nothing more than a waste of a very valuable commodity. Yes, time is a commodity that cannot be squandered!
Use the time you have to maximize the company’s success by training yourself more than ever. This means that since you are ultimately the one under the microscope, you had better know what you are doing. More so now than at any other point in your career! The reason is somewhat disturbing. In those high-performance companies where each member is heavily into the job, you always have people to fall back on, and extra sets of eyes and ears, and 3 or 4 “thinkers.” Now you may not have that same luxury.