Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement For a Complex World (New York: Penguin Publishing Group, 2015)

This book addresses probably the biggest limiting factor facing fire departments today: The lack of a “team approach” from the “administrative firehouse.” You know, the chiefs’ firehouse. We all know that it takes teams of skilled firefighters and officers working together to safely and effectively accomplish the mission objectives on the fire ground. Well, shouldn’t our “team of chiefs” work together as well to achieve the department’s goals and objectives? Shouldn’t they be a “team of teams?”


If you are a chief officer, this is a must-read for you. This recap from the book says it all: The temptation to lead as a chess master, controlling each move of the organization, must give way to an approach as a gardener, enabling rather than directing.

Times have changed, and it’s time for chief officers to change too. Loosen the strict hierarchy, stop micromanaging, and get rid of most of those rules. Establish relationships and build trust. Start working with your teams. Become a “team of teams.”

a curious mind

A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life (2015)

Brian Grazer is a picture of curiosity. His hair stands straight up, with the help of some gel. But it’s not what he looks like that creates so much curiosity, it’s the movies and TV shows he produces. He’s the co-founder of Imagine Entertainment and his hit movies and TV shows include real-life stories such as A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon, Arrested Development, Friday Night Lights, 24, and Empire.

I really like his onscreen entertainment, but what caught my eye was his recent book, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, where he describes his trick for staying inspired is to have what he calls, “curiosity conversations.” Over his 35 years in the entertainment business, he has had these conversations with a diverse group of people exploring a variety of topics. Much of what he discovers from the conversations provide the inspiration for the discussions of creativity and storytelling in his book, and his on screen work.

Grazer believes that curiosity conversations can help you  step out of your own world, widen your perspective, and give you a taste of experiences you won’t have on your own.

Here’s a couple of Grazer’s “curiosity conversation” takeaways:

  • Think in advance about what you’d most hope to get out of the conversation, and think of a handful of open-ended questions that will get the person talking about what you’re most interested in: “What was your first professional success?” “Why did you decide to do [whatever their job is]?” “Tell me about a couple of big challenges you had to overcome.”
  • Don’t share your own story or observations. Listen. Ask questions. The goal is for you to learn as much about the person you’re talking to as you can in the time you have. If you’re talking, you’re not learning about the other person.

Good leaders stay curious. Through “curiosity conversations” they seek out other perspectives, experience, and stories, which will multiply their own experience a thousandfold. They keep asking questions until something interesting happens!