1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2009

    Default New Captain Help

    I'm a new (one year) Capt for Engine Company. I'm having problems with my firefighter. He hit is one year mark and has the 25year syndrome. When I did his year eval, I stressed that he needed to remember that even though he wasn't a rookie, he was still a firefighter. He continues to act like a hoseman that's been on for years, yet has no motivation to be the best he can. When we go to the gym, he will run/walk for a few laps then go and wait till we are done. When my company has down time because I'm busy doing something, he's not. I hate being a micromanager (because I hate being micromanaged). Any suggestions would be appreciated. I don't want to be a jerk but feel like I might have messed up by not drawing my line thick in the beginning. (new Capt. mistake but willing to take the blame) Is it too late to teach a new dog (who thinks he's old) new tricks??

  2. #2
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    JayDudley's Avatar
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    Jan 2006

    Default Newbie

    Being a new Captain is a hard position to be in if you make it that way. Your a Captain for a reason....act like one. Talk to your crew as a whole and air out the problems. Your a team..How does it go.....There's no "I" in team. I also think that as a new Captain they love to test the new Captain. You also have to remember that you have to "earn" their respect don't use your badge to manage them.
    Jay Dudley
    Retired Fire
    Background Investigator
    Lifetime Member CSFA
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  3. #3
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    PaladinKnight's Avatar
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    Aug 2006


    MADCOW: Sounds like you have a tough deal going on.

    I have always advised my Captains and Lieutenants to think about their responsibility to their team. They are groomed/trained to believe that they work for their crew; the crew does not work for them. You must earn their respect, not demand it.

    You have been charged with the responsibility to protect your guys. You also have the unpleasant task of perhaps putting them in harms way. That should not be taken lightly. Sometimes that means that you have to think for them, and yes... micromanage them.

    It sounds like he hasn't been humbled yet. Do you remember when you got your humble lesson? It was probably at the same time you kissed the ground after you were certain that you would not survive the day. You can teach them everything but humble... it must be found or acquired.

    As for your team member, you must get his attention real quick.

    In your department SOGs or Policies, there may be a language that visits this issue. We call it, 'laying down' or 'slacking off'. It is usually good for a warning the first time, with continued display good for specified punishments. You might check on this for guideance.

    You don't mention if this is a career or volly department. In a volunteer dept you don't have as much latitude since the most you can do is tick him off enough to make him quit. And that isn't what we should striving for.

    If he is being paid, he must give the public their money's worth.

    Look, your guys know you're the Captain... reminding them of it doesn't help you a bit in this situation. Some of them will at some point resent you perhaps thinking they should have your job. That is part of the nature of being human. You have to rise above that crap. Put fresh varnish on your back each day and everything will slide right off.

    You must PRIVATELY assert your authority over this member and advise him that you have no choice but to log/document his behavior and attitude. This information will be considered when his review comes around again. It also can hurt when seeking promotion. Team Player... YES or NO!

    This is micromanagement to the fullest since you will be basically riding him, following him, etc. Personally, I would not want to have to do this, but there are times when there is no choice. It will be like pulling chicken teeth or herding cats.

    Each of our guys are Evaluated annually and this kind of information is considered for future placement. Member's poor behavior at times reflects badly on the commander, so you must consider this as well. But I do insist that my Officers get the best out of their crews. If someone is dragging, I want it in the eval.

    You must advise him that you are there to help him become the best firefighter he can be. You're his dad, big brother, best friend, you choose the words.

    You must advise him that you are committed to having the best Company and he must pick it up since he is holding the team back.

    If you see no change, consider visiting with your superior about transferring him out of your crew. That does wonders for a guys self-esteem and career. But again, you must have a valid foundation of fact and data that backs it up. If he doesn't play well with others, then you have reason.

    But you FIRST must try to help him since he is a lost lamb... you must bring him back to the flock.

    Good Luck!

  4. #4
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    BoxAlarm187's Avatar
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    Jan 2003


    PaladinKnight summed it up very, very well.

    Communication and good documentation are two of the keys here. At only one year of tenure, this employee is already showing poor performance traits. Imagine what he'll be like in another one or two years if this isn't dealt with immediately. You're not micromanaging the employee, you're doing your job. You must remember that you only having to deal with these issues because that employee is forcing you to do so.

    In a similar story, I was once transferred to a new engine company. One of the employees was known department-wide (we have 500+ sworn personnel) for his social awkwardness which causes him to have performance issues. After we did some live-fire training, I saw that his performance was below recruit level (this employee had 10 years on the job). My captain, my BC, and I started an immediate documentation process on him, and we were very open about telling him where his strengths and weaknesses were, and worked to improve his performance and behavior. He knew he was being evaluated, yet his performance only slightly improved. When the issue was taken to the ops chief, bad things happened that effected this employees career greatly (which I'm unable to discuss).

    Was it a witch hunt on the employee? Not at all. When you have the rest of the personnel on the shift which are either exceeding or meeting set performance standards, and one that isn't, it's your job to sternly explain to the non-performer what your expectations are, and that you're going to watch him to ensure that they're being met. Give him examples of what you're seeing, and suggestions (or orders) on how to avoid that poor behavior. Document that so he can't say next month that "he didn't know."

    A micro-manager stands at the pump panel and tells the operator what pressure to deliver, or tells a seasoned firefighter how to use the nozzle. You're not micromanaging, you're being an effective supervisor.

    Good luck with this, let us know what comes of the situation.
    Career Fire Captain
    Volunteer Chief Officer

    Never taking for granted that I'm privileged enough to have the greatest job in the world!

  5. #5
    Forum Member
    PaladinKnight's Avatar
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    Aug 2006


    BoxAlarm187 brought up another great point: Safety of the team. He didn't use that exact wording but it was clear.

    A team is much like a chain: It is only as strong as its weakest link.

    A weak team member will, without a doubt, have an impact on the over-all effectiveness.

    Thanks BoxAlarm187 for the comment.

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