Coaching can be the solid first step in moving in this direction. However, it is critical that coaching efforts be supported by those folks at the top of the department food chain. If this boss laughs at coaching, so will the troops. I have seen this happen and it is indeed a sad occurrence.
Interpersonal coaching relationship efforts can provide an effective route for the transmission of an organization's vision and mission statement. But if top-level support is not in the cards, do not despair. Good coaches at any level can have a solid, positive impact on the people with whom they work.
Think about what it is that makes on Captain (or Battalion Chief) better than another; more rewarding to work with and more fun to be with. It is probably the fact that the officer who is a better coach is the officer who is a better leader. This holds true whether it is at the company, battalion, or division level.
What then does it take for you to become a better, more successful coach? First and foremost, you must enjoy being with people. I cannot tell you how many times I have written or lectured about this, but it is still overlooked by many. If you discover that you like people then it is up to you to ensure that you become technically proficient in the fire protection and suppression field.
Let me suggest that you become friendly with those people who sell the fire service textbooks in your area. You will need to develop a solid, professional library to assist you in gathering the requisite knowledge for your coaching endeavors. You cannot help other people if you are not equipped with the necessary knowledge. You cannot help others if you lack the knowledge to do the job. How can you correct another's mistakes if you lack the knowledge to know what is right and what wrong when you observe others at work?
Once you have developed what you feel to be a solid technical grasp of your firefighting skills, it is then critical for you to begin delving into the world of subjects such as instructional methodology, human relations, leadership, management, and psychology. It will you take quite awhile to become proficient in these subject areas.
Perhaps by the time you have gained knowledge in these areas, you will have been promoted to a level wherein you can use these skills to help others. If you have done your homework and paid attention to the world around you, you should be ready. If not, people will surely notice and you will suffer for your inability to help other people.
Can you still be a coach of you are not an officer? Some of the greatest lessons I have ever learned came from my peers. A friendly, knowledgeable pump operator can create a whole new generation of capable pump operators through the use of coaching techniques. And many times they will not be aware of the fact that they are coaching others. It might just be that they know a lot about pumps and a lot about people. Oh, and did I mention that they enjoy playing well and sharing with others.
Think about it for a moment. There are really just three things that a coach does:
- They make people aware of things.
- They help people to improve their ability to do things.
- The help other people to overcome their fears and reservations about doing things.
Trust me when I say that it doesn't take a college degree to do these things. All it takes is a bit of hard work, a genuine smile, and a deep and abiding concern for your fellow firefighters. Come on coach let me into the game … the game of coaching for a better fire department.