Define.

This time of year is so draining. I’d like to say it’s just the heat, but it’s not.

It’s the heart. It’s the mind. Its the profound memories. It’s the things you have no control over. The insights.

Certain times of years remind you of what you lost and/or what you let go of. Things happen that open your eyes wider so you see truth. Moments and truths that give you “ah ha’s”, “duh’s”, and “well, shit’s”. Things that are said or done that define for you….

Define courage.

Define wisdom.

Define adaptability.

Define love.

Define family and friendship.

But remember and be open to the fact that they can define the lack of each just as quickly. Sometimes louder.

You begin to see things for what they are worth. Sometimes what you thought was worth something turns out to be worthless. And that can change you.

Let those worthless things go. Let any change be for a better you.

Stick to the worthwhile things that are defined…

The worthwhile love. The worthwhile family and friendships.

Stick with those who are courageous, wise, and adaptable.

And make any changes you need to be courageous, wise, and adaptable yourself.

A worthwhile you.

Letters of shame

Not too long ago I was informed that I had a crew that was “deficient” in a subject matter. I was taken by surprise with this. But then again I wasn’t. That might make sense to you if you know me, or it might not.

Anyways…over the years I have honed in on the skill of finding out all sides of a story before popping off at the mouth.

Note I said “honed in”….not “mastered”. Ha! I’ve lost my shit and been wrong. I’ve eaten several “I apologize” in my time. I’ve probably apologized more for crap I didn’t do than anything else. But that’s the game. (That’s another blog for after retirement…when I can unleash. Hahaha!)

So I’m told how they don’t know basic information. How not knowing this information could get people killed. A couple of examples were given that made it sound like the “defiency” in this one crew could have killed us all…. although the crew had no part in the decision making of either example. I did.

I read it, and stored it for a later day. Why? When you engage in your employees, you get to know them, and you pay attention to how they act in certain situations, you can usually grasp whether accusations are true, somewhat true/somewhat false, or false. I already had a sense of what was true and what was false.

When dealing with complaints, be sure and take in all factors for BOTH the accused and the accuser….who, what, where, when, how, why. In this case I did just that. And I then felt the need to roll my eyes. (Saying that will probably get me a write up….or I’ll have to apologize. Hahaha! You know as well as I do that people will read this and twist it.)

I finally got around to speaking with my crew. It was a basic training session to go over stuff that we rarely deal with. My guys were rusty. They admit that. That’s a truth.

Another truth while I mentioned it… They were no where near as rusty as their boss’s boss…aka ME. Hell, when I read what they had been asked I couldn’t have rattle the answers off either. And don’t even ask me what I thought the piece of equipment they were referring to was used for…..

The issue boiled down to this…..when he was asked a question he couldn’t remember right off the bat. Didn’t rattle anything off fast enough. Didn’t have information memorized that we get from a resource we carry all the time….a reference book.

So what happens next? The instructor immediately acts like an asshole about it…in front of everyone. Well, when you pop off like an asshole, chances are the person you are belittling in front of other people will immediately shut you out.

Whether they pop back off at you, they decide to walk off, they get upset, they report your behavior, or they just shut down and don’t talk anymore, they are shutting you and your “instruction”, your “knowledge”, your “authority” out.

And that’s what happened.

Approach is everything. Lack of tact and too much ego aren’t skills I ever remember hearing about being effective. Especially not in this day and age.

You just look like an egotistical asshole. And once that happens, it is hard to get your credibility back. I speak from experience. I’ve been that asshole.

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. 🐓

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.

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

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°) 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.

 

Make a decision

This cracks me up every time I read it!

www.powerofpositivity.com

I just got a phone call from one of my officers telling me that they had been dispatched to go sit at a private company and babysit two propane tanks while the fumes were burned off. 8 hours for each tank . 

Um…No. The officer knew he needed to run it by me. I, on the other hand, don’t have to run it by anybody. They pay me to make those type of decisions. So my response was…”Tell them I said “no” and that I said we don’t do that. They can call and hire a private company for that.” I know my officer is tactful and I knew he could handle the situation. But just in case, I added, “If they give you any trouble let me know. I’ll head that way.”

Know your people. Trust them, if they have earned it. Have their backs.  Even when they make a decision that isn’t the best choice. Back them for at least making a decision. Remember it could ALWAYS be YOU making the bad decision.

On with the story….I made a decision. I didn’t call and ask someone above me what I should do. I didn’t run my decision by anyone. I didn’t ask permission to say “no”. I just made a decision. 

It took all of 1 minute to make. We are EMERGENCY responders. Standing by for a burn-off isn’t an emergency. Now if it exploded then we would respond as the emergency responders that we are.

 Plus it is hot as hell outside. How miserable!! And boring!! We have training to do. Calls to run. Equipment to maintain. I can’t make my people sit in a running firetruck for 16 hours. 

Could I justify 16 hours of burning diesel at the taxpayer’s expense? AND at the expense of their safety? What if a house caught on fire and the closest firetruck was sitting there babysitting a tank? Nope. Not gonna happen. 

Unless…that company decides to call my boss. Then things could get flipped on me. You never know who might want to do favors for who. But my decision stands and I won’t back down. Won’t be the first and definitely not the last time. And because I’ve had my co-workers back time and time again, they have had mine. 

That’s how it is supposed to work.

I don’t care if it’s a multi-million dollar company. I don’t care who’s connected to who. My people are worth more to me than that. And so are the citizens of our city. 

No care given

(This quote is fresh and based on what I was typing just now. I’m cracking myself up with these stupid things. So at least one of us thinks it’s funny. Haha!)

 The past few of weeks I’ve managed to piss off a couple of co-workers, the entire DA’s Cold Case Unit, a judge, some random court officers, and countless civilians. And I haven’t looked back with regret or shame. 

I have gotten pretty good at pissing people off just by speaking the truth with zero sugar-coating…or “confection”. Haha! Get it?? (If not, then Google the word!) I still find tact to be important. But  sugar-coating is stupid.

I’ve been around long enough to not give a damn about saying what I think. Some of it is my battle with apathy. Most of it though is age and experience. BUT I must say, I usually only speak out on things I am confident about and I feel are important. 

You probably won’t find me poppin’ off about stuff I don’t know or stuff that doesn’t mean shit in the scheme of things. (That’s my “positive”, Beth. Ha!)

Pet-peeve: A know-it-all you doesn’t have their facts straight. 

I strive NOT to be that person. And I strive to surround myself with co-workers and friends who feel the same as I do.

 Tact and fact only, please.