In Part 1 of this series, we took a look at some of the reasons for stress the company officer might experience when it comes to training at the company level. In Part 2, we began to address ways our company officer can enhance the safety of his people while improving his or her own career prospects. In this final article, we’ll take a look at some ways we can motivate a company into being more professionally oriented and more interested in the “job.”
Other ways to foster company success
Up to this point, we concentrated mainly on strategies whereby the fire officer can create an environment where his or her people are protected to some degree and, in doing so, the fire officer can also maintain his or her motivation of the job. But there are other potential avenues to support a company that is experiencing the issues we mentioned.
As a company officer, consider ways to improve company morale and team building by starting a grass roots program to alter the culture starting with your next shift.
Some solutions may include:
• Empowering your people to complete certain activities
Empowerment is a great tool and can work one of two ways. As a company officer, you can approach a member and ask him or her to complete a task that might be of great interest to them. The other way is a member approaches you and asks if they can have your permission to work towards some goal that would help the group. For example, say a firefighter asks permission to build a training prop or wants to create a lesson plan for training. Absolutely! Support him, allow him to use his initiative and offer him any support including contacts that may be of further aid to his project. Give him the freedom to try his best!
Another example would be to give a member a task of teaching a short segment of a particular topic. Maybe the member has an interest in power tools. They may gladly accept the challenge of wanting to teach their skill in the use of, say cutting tools. I had a company member who showed an interest in this very topic and actually brought to work a variety of metal items of different strengths for the other members to work with. He brought in steel chains of various grades, brake drums and several other items of various strengths just to show different metals.
This enthusiastic member went into great depth with the tools, blades and techniques to cut through various metals. This session allowed members to actually see the strengths and limitations of certain cutting instruments, the dangers associated with them and the manipulation of the tool. This is a great example of empowerment.
• See if you can develop a sense of unit pride, possibly through competition with other companies or through mutual aid drills
Training with other companies in the challenges of the fire attack may be a way to increase pride in the company and, in turn, motivation. For example, stretching a hoseline into a vacant building quickly and effectively with company personnel is a means to strengthen a company skill, but it also creates a spirit of friendly competition that can be advantageous. Just make sure you control the training so the competitive nature of the activity doesn’t get out of hand. Make sure to also include safe practices as part of the “grading” process during each challenge!
• You don’t want to “carry” your people, nor are you a “babysitter.” Rather, help them to develop
This could even include helping them to achieve promotion through company-level training sessions geared towards the upcoming promotional exam. Maybe you can do a PowerPoint presentation on building construction as it relates to what might be on the upcoming exam.
These are just some examples of creating motivation, strengthening the bond and bringing your company to that “5-Star” status.
Some suggestions for senior level fire officers
Our goal with this three-part series was to provide some suggestions and ideas for those knowledgeable, successful, enthusiastic and hard-charging fire officers who are faced with having firefighters who are less than enthusiastic towards wanting to be the best and brightest. The solutions described in this article may work for your department and then again, they may not. Different personalities certainly make for an “interesting” experience in the day-to-day fire service! What might work for one department may not work for another.
Poor quality fire officers are always a reason for lackluster performance and this is worthy of an article unto itself, but our present discussion is geared towards those company officers who are “immersed” in the job. They live and breathe the “job” with every waking moment, on and off duty. For them, it is an obsession. They are charismatic, good at what they do, have a track record as good educators and are sought after in the organization for what attributes they bring. Those who fall into this category may not be your typical fire officers, but they certainly bring something to the table that is worthy of consideration.
Our senior department leaders should look for these “pearls” in their organization. Find out who they are, for they can make the department shine! When you find them, harness their motivation, protect them, allow them to grow and to learn, because these junior level leaders have spirit and motivation; they are gold! The payoff of maintaining their motivation and spirit will only strengthen your department.
Don’t let these gems throw their hands up in the air, admit defeat and go forth to pursue personal interests away from the fire service.