I’m not too far off

Everytime I post about leadership, I wonder if I sound like a complete idiot. Sharing how I feel I try to manage things isn’t easy. What if I’ve got it totally wrong? When if the people I work with really just hate my guts? I will just sound like a fool.

 I know I’m not a perfect leader and I don’t meet all the best qualities like I should. But I don’t think any of us do.

One thing I know for certain is that the only way to become better at ANYTHING you do, is to first be open to the fact that there may be a better way.

As I scroll through Google and read leadership articles I begin to realize that my style isn’t so bad. I also read things that stand out to me…things I need to improve on…things I need to try. Self awareness is the key to doing just that. 

The following article from Fire Rescue Magazine lays out some key characteristics for successful leadership. Do you possess any of these? 

http://www.firerescuemagazine.com/articles/print/volume-4/issue-5/command-leadership/key-characteristics-of-successful-leaders.html

Teamwork 

While I was skimming through Pinterest I saw this quote posted by hhtp://hyplyrikz.com and it immediately jumped out at me. 

Looking back over my years as a middle manager I feel like this quote encompasses the route I tried to take when I made this rank. It hasn’t been easy, but I feel like my team and I have accomplished and continue to “tweak” coming together, keeping together, and working together.

Here some things I found to be helpful when I became a supervisor of a large team  made up of smaller teams that work together in life and death situations. Teams that work, live, eat, and sleep together.

-Take the “we work together” approach. I despise saying my co-workers work under me or for me. I know all to well what it is like to feel insufficient simply because I was a lower rank. So when I took this supervisor position I decided to observe more at first than go in blazing with my shiny extra bugle on display saying “I’m the damn boss!!”

They already know I’m the boss. 

I was fortunate to take a position in a familiar area. I actually became a supervisor of men who had supervised me at one point. Talk about ackward! (That could make a whole separate blog!)

But that ackward was an advantage. I knew how they operated. I knew their triggers. I was ahead of the game coming together with them.

The ones I hadn’t worked with I observed. I let them do their thing. See how they operate. See how they handle their people. See how they handle chaos.

How long did I observe? Long enough to figure out what changes we needed to make for all of us to come together as a cehosive group. That time line could be different in other circumstances.

-Understand different management styles. Understand different methods of conflict resolution. Know when to use ANY of them. 

Policies, procedures, and laws aside, everyone has a different style of management. Your way might not be the right way in certain circumstances. Hell, it might just flat out suck for those you supervisor. Meanwhile your walking around like a cock. ūüźď

Do you need to be an expert in all styles? No. You just have to be open to the FACT that there are other styles and that they might just work better than yours.

-Ask what they need in a supervisor. Most of my officers said they just wanted to be able to do their job and not be micromanaged. I completely get that because I don’t want to be micromanaged either. Especially after 20 years at the job.

It’s not hard to let people do their job if you have the mind set that you aren’t the “all knowing”. It’s not hard if you don’t have an ego the size and force of a freight train.

You don’t need to remind them or scold them on EVERY little thing. If all the little things become consistent problems then let them have it. But until then, have some confidence in your people.
-Have over all goals and make them clear to your team.

My goal: We all go home physically and mentally in tact. Instead of using dumb luck, let’s work safer and more efficiently. We need to share the work load.

I cut out some things that were breaking up our numbers and our crew integrity. I simply reiterated that operating safely and efficiently was my main focus. The more working hands, the better. And I kept it as consistent as possible. 
Some people who wanted to operate at the bare minimum just because that’s how it had always been done. But once they saw consistency and they saw the burden lifted off even their own shoulders, they understood and accepted it.

-Be a guide and a sounding board.

 When a crew is having issues amongst itself it is important to listen and guide the officer. Not immediately step in and take over unless it’s a safety issue. 

Don’t take power away from your officers. And don’t step in and do everything for them. Help them figure it out. Be open minded to how they may deal with something or someone. 

Who knows…They may be better at it than you. And you could learn something. 

-Last but not least, keep your mouth shut. Don’t go running your mouth about what someone asked or told you. Don’t share the issues with everyone else. That is the FASTEST way to destroy crew and team intergrity and make you look like nothing but an asshole.

Be aware that when you are constantly talking about things you don’t need to behind people’s backs, they eventually find out. And then all the trust and respect goes out the window.

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Thanks for taking time to read my post. Like and share for me if any of it made sense to you. Ha!

Fire Service question: Fog nozzle or Smoothbore 

There have been a recent changes to how things are done that effect a department and city. I am curious to other opinions from firefighters and Operations level officers who work and make decisions on aerial apparatus deployment in a variety of incidents.

So here are my questions:

-Do you think an aerial truck should have a fog nozzle attached for immediate deployment? Or do you think an aerial truck should have a smoothbore nozzle on it? 

-Do you feel it should be standard across an entire department? Or do you feel it should be dependent on primary district needs?

I would like to say that I don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer that will cover ever incident. We work in an unpredictable profession. I do, however feel that one of these choices is better than another. 

With that being said, I’m not here to debate or argue. I don’t even plan to reveal which  I personally think is better. I simply want some feedback on how departments across the country do things. This is just out of my personal interest.

Thanks for stopping by and thank you for any feedback.

And most importantly…Stay safe, brothers and sisters.

Lost my shit

Well, it happened. I lost my shit on a call. Luckily I didn’t cuss anyone in particular out. But I was hot. And I had to leave before I punched someone in the throat. (Not really…well, maybe….)

I took a mother to see her dead child. And within a second of being able to touch her child she was ripped away by people who apparently thought that was best for her. 

If you found out your child had been killed in a car accident, arrived at the scene, and had to walk by where they lay under a sheet, would you want to see, touch, hold, kiss, your child while they were still warm?

Yeah. Me too. And to witness a mother being stripped of her right to do that absolutely did me in. 

No one should feel that they have the right to say what a person can and cannot see when their loved one is killed, even if it is traumatic. 

Just because you are too weak to assist them through that process doesn’t give you the right to deny them that time with their loved one. 

THE BAR

https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/videos/10155294793981939/

She nails it! Just be prepared, when you speak up not only for yourself but for those around, some of the “fools” might not like it. 

Some find they need to “put you in your place”. They won’t hesitate to use how you are as a woman to humilate you. And they won’t ever see how what they do impacts everyone around them. 

That is on THEM! NOT YOU. Don’t pretend to be anything other than what and who you are. If that is a totally feminine woman, so be it. If that is masculine qualities mixed with some femininity, so be it. If that is all male qualities in a female’s body, so be it. 

Does that mean that your way is always the right way? No. It doesn’t.

Does that mean you shouldn’t find ways to work around differences in a professional manner? No. It doesn’t. 

Does that mean you have no  responsiblity to learn how to work WITH men instead of against them? No it doesn’t. 

Offended as a woman right now? Wondering how I could say such things? Are you reading what I just said as “bowing down” to the man?

Let me set you straight. There is no “bowing down”. There is picking battles and learning when to compromise. There is a huge amount of learning. There is a lot of time focusing on self-awareness. 

It’s give and take, ladies. And your approach is crucial. And timing is everything. If you immediately go at it like “I’m a woman, hear me roar.”, you won’t get far. Trust me. I’ve seen it happen over and over. And I’ve tried it at the wrong time and totally failed. 

The approach that has worked best for me over the years is to be quiet at first. Now let me explain something, I say “over the years” because that’s how long it has taken. I’m now at a point where I’ve been around long enough that in most situations, I don’t give a shit. But I always take the same approach. 

Does that mean allow them to harrass, degrade, or embarrass you? Um, hell no. Stand up for yourself if needed. Being “quiet” doesn’t mean being submissive. 

And I am going to go ahead and throw this out there before you read any further…men are simple. We are complex. Do not expect every man to put forth the mental effort and energy as you do. Like I said before…it’s picking battles and compromising where needed. 

When you enter a new environment filled with men you don’t know well, don’t immediately start spilling  your guts about anything  and everything.

I’m not saying be meek and mild and don’t speak at all or don’t stand up if needed. I just mean be conservative with what you share at first. And in reality, you should be conservative with what you share at all times. Not everyone is your friend or can be trusted. This includes other women (an entirety different topic and blog subject!). 

Join the group. Join the pertinant conversations. Join in the work load. Do your best. Don’t skimp. Accept some help every now and then if you need it. And certainly offer help.

Always remember there will be times when YOU are wrong and YOU are being  a fool. Own it if you mess up. And own it before someone else throws it at you. Stronger people admit they have flaws. They are self-aware and they are always monitoring how the perform. They eventually surround themselves with others  who compliment them and succeed in areas they may be slacking. It’s called ” being a team”.

This doesn’t happen overnight, in the first week, on every project, in every situation. It has taken me years to get comfortable with where I am as a woman among men. And I still have plenty of trials and errors. 

It is in those times of trial and error when you will see who has your back and who doesn’t. There is a very distinct difference in being told you messed up or that you are wrong and being “put in your place” because you are a woman. 

Trust me. I know all too well what that is like. 

There has been a time recently that I almost let it break me. But with the love and support of my rock of a husband, family, friends, counseling, and some awesome guys I work with, I came out stronger than ever.

Life is too short to let “the bar” beat the shit out of you. So stand above the fools and their bar. 

It’s never a simple extrication: Part 1

The following are some vehicle wrecks my coworkers and I have encountered that make you go “Hmmmmm…..”. 

“That’s not good.”

“How are we going to get this done?” 

“How the hell did they manage that?” 

“We are going to be pushing the limits of this person’s golden hour.”

“This sucks.”

“How are they even alive?”

This vehicle was a good 500 feet off the interstate, down an embankment, into the woods, in the middle of the night, while it is pouring down rain. See the reflecting stripes of turnout coats? Not really, I know, but they are in there.

It got called in as a trapped driver in a burning vehicle. Luckily for this kid a good samaritan pulled him out of his truck before he burned up. And of course he couldn’t walk out thanks to a very broken femur. But, he lived.

This extrication was several years ago when I was a Captain on an engine company. And this picture was taken AFTER the guy was in route to the hospital.

At some point in the middle of the night, this poor fella drove off the free way Dukes of Hazard style and landed upside down in a retaining pond. Of course this retaining pond was next to a deadend road that led to a manufacturing business area. So no one saw him until the next morning.

He was upside down just feet away from drowning. We have no idea how long because he was unconscious when we cut him out. I have no idea if he lived.

Then there was this guy. Not quite sure what he was thinking or if he even was. For some reason he took a sharp right turn where the was no right turn. Fortunately only a rock wall sustained some injury. The driver was able to climb down the ladder with no problem.

On a somber note, this extrication turned into a body recovery. For some reason this couple decided to take a short cut through the college campus. They chose to take the stairs… literally. 

Unfortunately the bounce at the bottom flipped them and crushed the un-seatbelted driver. The passenger walked away unscathed. 

And finally, one of the people who keeps us safe on the roads got hit while he was parked on the side of the interstate. The box truck that hit him landed on it’s side and the DOT truck went for a ride down into a ravine. It took a minute for people calling 911 to realized the DOT truck was the one who had someone trapped in it. 

He was one of my buddies. Someone who I’ve worked with for 5 years. Someone who is always looking out for us. I am so thankful that he lived. Although his status for returning to work is unknown.
We never know what we are going to find when we pull up to any scene. Working on the fly and adapting and overcoming is imperative. I am fortunate to work with men and women who can do that.  

I’m just going to remain rough around the edges


Yesterday I had an idea. The idea to apply for the position of fire chief that will be open soon. Now mind you, up until a few months ago, I was doing good to just get to work in the first place. Someday soon I will write about the last straw that sent me over the edge into the “I don’t give a damn” pit.

Up until a few months ago, some  good therapy, and the right cocktail to handle depression, I had said “fuck it”. (I’m sorry, Mom and Dad!)  I was even considering quitting my job. I was at probably the lowest point I could get before my brain became so unbalanced from depression that it might have considered suicide. I never wanted to commit suicide, by the way, because I have too many people that love me and vice versa. I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t start that rumor. (I know some mouthy people will read this. Some who like to spin the truth.)

For me, the time before the point of no return was indifference. No care given. No feelings…at all.  No sadness. And definitely no joy. Short tempered was the closest I could get to feeling anything. But it only lasted a split second. Other than that it was: When did I shower last? Housework, schmouse-work. Why bother going to the last place I feel normal… Crossfit Hixson? Because exercise is stupid. We have dogs? You can skip school today because I don’t want to drive you over there. Good luck finding food to feed yourselves, kids. Dry cereal for dinner, maybe? And so on and so on….

So here I was yesterday, considering applying for the most stressful, time-consuming, ‘in the spot-light’ kind of a job on the department (in my opinion).

I talked to my husband, my best friend, and 4 of the men I work with that I trust to tell me the truth, not just what they think I want to hear. I can’t even begin to say how important it is to have these people. The ones who shoot you straight. Not scared to give you feedback on what you do and how you do it…good or bad. People, who you know when you turn your back, won’t talk shit about you. People rough around the edges.

Finding these people takes time no matter where you work or what position you are in. You may have to fly solo for a bit before you find them. That means keeping your mouth shut and just observing. Be careful who you confide in. Maybe even throw something out there to see how far it goes and who takes it there. Yes, that’s baiting someone. But who cares. Just be aware that someone may try it on you. So when you say “I won’t tell anyone”….. don’t.

So back to applying for the chief job…I conducted a poll with those 6 people. It came back unanimous. “You can do it.” “Go for it.” And…..”the person you will report to probably can’t handle you”. Hahaha!

I cuss. I’m a smartass. I have reached a point where pissing people off doesn’t bother me if it’s what I have to do. I suck up to no one. Money and power aren’t what I think life is about. I’ll tell you like it is. I’m rough around the edges.

Let’s face it. Around here the big chief has pretty much been chosen before the job is even open. So far in my career, none of the 4 chief appointments have been a surprise. Well….there was that one time they  made a “Rowe” chief. Worst chief ever.

But the job is always posted and people always apply. And they should. There are a ton of perfect candidates for the job. And the process can be a good experience to use later on down the road.

But me….not going to happen. I enjoy my free time. I don’t need anything more to deal with. And I rather be out with the men and women making a difference in that capacity….ya know….delivering them water and occasionally acting like an Incident Commander and stuff.

I believe that most people eventually find their niche. And mine is with those rough around the edges.

I can’t make this stuff up: Volume 2

Here are a couple of stories from when I was on an engine company…..

One night we got a called to forced entry on a residence to gain access to a patient in a diabetic emergency. When we got there we could see an elderly lady through the front windows. She literally looked like a fish out of water flipping and flopping. Knocking over furniture. Injuring herself. Making a sound I can’t even begin describe. 

One of my firefighters wanted to force the door but I said there was no sense in damaging it. I busted out a small pane of glass in the grid of the front window. I reached in, unlocked, and opened it. I then used my cat-like skills to climb through the window. I only took out a table lamp when I fell in.

I immediately made my way to the door to unlock it for the medics to come in. I turned around and the lady was suddenly on me like white on rice, pulling me to the ground with her. Strong. As. Hell.

We had to hold her down while the medic started an IV. Have you ever tried to hold down an elderly lady? It was awful because her thin skin was tearing. But once the IV started she immediately came around. At first asking us to kill her. Then asking what happened. Then saying how embarrassed she was. 

Bless her heart, she was so sweet and so horrified. But we tried to make her feel better about it. We lied and told her she had just been “rolling around some”. I’m not sure she bought it.  
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One day we responded to a party having “difficulty breathing”. Lord have mercy. When we rolled up she was already coming out the door. And I couldn’t. stop. staring. 

She had very clearly gotten a face lift the day before. And when she woke up that morning…..holy shit!!!! Her face was green and yellow with infection and so swollen that the staples all around her face where ripping out. Her mouth was so taut that she could barely speak and I thought for sure the sides of her mouth would split all the way to her ears.

She was terrified. I was trying not to look terrified.

 She sat on the firetruck tailboard while we waited for the ambulance. It was so hard not to stare. She was trying to tell me something. I’m not sure what. It came out mostly as drool. Then she passed out.

I cried for her later that night. 

It. Was. Awful.

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Turkey comas and dysfunction

Unbeknownst to us at the time this picture was taken, we had enough food to feed all the companies that respond on the 3rd alarm fire we had. We rotated crews to the station to eat a Thanksgiving meal.

Some days I absolutely amaze myself. They don’t happen often. As a matter of fact, it might only be once a month. The rest of the time I’m turning in circles wondering where to start.

This feeling reminds me of Thanksgiving Day 2017 when I found myself in the street looking at a 2nd alarm fire (it was only 2nd alarm at that moment). We had just finished our firehall Thanksgiving feast. I was making myself comfy on my couch when the tones hit. 

I’m not even sure how I got there. I was in a turkey coma and I just followed my firetrucks rolling out of the station. This day, I had to. I was so sleepy! Plus I didn’t hear the address. Ha!

I rarely lead the way to a call. In my opinion, the firetrucks need to roll in first. They are the most important and so is there placement. Some may say this is the wrong approach and that as a leader I should go in first. But I disagree in this situation. It took me a while to figure out my officers. To learn how they think. Learn how the respond to me. And I choose to LEAD from the back of the pack because I have faith in them.

It can be done. Pushing them forward. Letting them make decisions on their own and to take control. Hell, they are adults getting paid to make decisions. Most of my officers are seasoned and know what they are doing. They know their people the best. They and their drivers know the maximum abilities and limitations of their apparatus. Use that to your advantage.

They know I will make a decision.They know who is ultimately “in charge” (I don’t like that saying). They know when I say to do something a certain way then they need to do it because there is usually a reason. I don’t give out piddly orders just because I can. They also know that all responsibility falls on me if things goes wrong. And I have broad enough shoulders to take that. 

So back to Thanksgiving….

This is what we refer to as the fire “gettin’ it”. 

As I rounded the corner and said “Oh Shit” at the amount of flames literally roaring out the windows, I didn’t bother to look at any street sign. Genius. This building was a block long. In order to do a 360 I had to speed walk pretty far. (For those who know me, picture that in your head. Haha!). 

 While trying to direct incoming firetrucks to where they needed to go, I found myself a block down the road turning circles…. literally. I had no clue what street I was standing on. This moment later became the only way I could describe to a counselor and my psychiatrist, how I felt. Perfect analogy.

Just in case you need one I’m going to insert this here…

www.riverviewpsychiatry.com

Most supervisors will have very similar moments (turning in circles). And they won’t tell a soul. But me?? I think it’s funny. I can laugh at myself. I’m me and I’m not perfect. Do I often say “I’m not perfect”? Yes. Do I admit when I mess up? Yes. Do I share my story about literally turning in circles in the street? Yes, obviously I do. 

I posted on Facebook and in a recent blog about pulling into the driveway and thinking the newspaper was a cat. I had someone comment “I can’t believe you would post that.” 

Well why not? A huge part of fire service in EGO. And ego, in my opinion, holds us back. Ego tells us we are all knowing, we are perfect, our way is the only way. And that just simply isn’t true. Ego tells us that those we supervise are literally beneath us. That definitely isn’t true.

Our people are assets. Treating them as such gets you further. Letting them know that you aren’t perfect too isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s just simply a way to communicate with your people. Letting them know that despite wanting things to go perfectly, they won’t. And you know that from experience.  


a 360- the term we use in the fire service to describe walking around the entire structure (360¬į) involved in fire in order to see everything, such as fire extent, exposures, potential hazards or suppression hindrance.

Cool, calm, and collected

In emergency services it is a gamble whether you get a full meal, a fresh meal, a hot meal, or even a meal at all. Yesterday was no different. Lunch was cut short for a possible apartment fire.

Someone called and said his apartment was on fire when, in fact, it was not on fire. We of course didn’t know that so six firetrucks, myself, a medical unit, and three patrol cars responded with lights and sirens….to open his door.

Yep. He just needed his apartment door open.

I still remember how it is to respond on a firetruck. Adrenaline starts pumping when you hear “apartment fire”. You get your turn-outs on as fast as possible. You strap on an SCBA. You make sure you have your mask, helmet, gloves, radio, flashlight. As the officer who’s truck will arrive first, you begin to formulate a plan of action. Who is going to catch the hydrant? Where is the closest hydrant in the first place!? Is there a possibility of entrapment? What if fire is going through the roof? Where will I tell trucks to stage? Who will be RIC (Rapid Intervention Crew)? What additional resources do I need to request?

Then you pull up to the address and you got NOTHIN’.  No smoke, no fire. Nothin’. Just a guy standing on the sidewalk wanting his apartment door open.

This is actually nothing new for us. It happens often for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is just because someone is lazy or just a total jerk. Other times….a majority of the time…it is someone who is a mental health consumer, has little to no resources for help, and/or they are just clueless to how things work.

 

“Lord Help Me”!!!  That is literally what I have to say when I exit my vehicle and I know I’ve got to keep my composure. It is very easy to lose your cool when your adrenaline is suddenly thrust into overdrive. VERY EASY. Immediate thoughts pop into your head like “What an idiot” or “What a jerk” or “He needs to go to jail”.

But this man was a mental health consumer. Testosterone was high when I walked up. Frustration was clear, not only for responders but for the man as well. I knew overwhelming him with accusations and anger might make things worse.

Not everyone has the mental capacity to understand that what they did was wrong. And people’s perceptions of their situation can be totally different from yours. I’ve learned through trial and alot of error, that your approach makes a huge difference.

A co-worker said something very simple and poignant one day while we talked about how people approach situations. He said “It’s not that hard to be nice for like 5 minutes.” Even if you have to fake it, try “nice” first.

I’ve noticed over the years that if I take a minute to gather myself before I even have a chance to lose my cool, then I myself am less stressed. Not that I’ve never lost my cool. I’m far from perfect. But it really is simple to be calm. I just remember not everyone thinks like I do. Not everyone functions like I do. Some don’t even know right from wrong.

A confident but calm approach doesn’t, by any means, say you are weak. If anything it says you are strong. You can easily manipulate a situation by being confident, controlled, and calm…even if you have to fake it. And others will follow your lead. I’ve seen it. I’ve used it. I’ve had success with it.

So if what you are doing when dealing with people isn’t working, change it up.

Be calm, cool, and collected.