Two Quick Links: Briefings and Hollowed Ground

I have a column up at Fire Rescue Magazine on FirefighterNation:

Whether in the firehouse or on scene, briefings contribute to operational and tactical goal achievement.

The fire service is a complex system that often operates in a chaotic environment. Emergency scene tactics and strategies, practical hands-on training and daily routine operations all require effective communication of a plan to the people. This is called “the briefing,” and it’s the first step—one that shouldn’t be overlooked—to successful execution. Simply put, “We execute the brief.”

Wildand Fire Leadership has a great post on leadership, staff rides, and the hollowed ground of Gettysburg:

On Hallowed Ground

“Buy ’em books and buy ’em books, and all they do is chew off the covers.” This was a common cry from Mr. Delmar Hardy, my junior high school history teacher. Why is it that I remember his quote, yet I didn’t retain the significant historical events that he presented? Standing upon the hallowed battlegrounds of Gettysburg approximately 35 years later and some 150 years after the Civil War began, I became acutely aware of how important understanding our past is to shaping our future.

Build a Relationship and Trust Will Come

Photo by Tim Olk

Photo by Tim Olk

Trust. You know when you have it, and you know when you don’t. How do we define trust in a team or an organization? How do we build it, and then maintain it? Trust is more important today because of the rapidly changing and challenging world we live in.

Trust creates opportunity. It promotes effective communication, increases motivation, and creates synergy (1+1>2) in teams and organizations that lead to safer and more effective actions. Everything is easier when teams and organizations have trust.

Real trust allows for a state of readiness in teams and organizations because members experience a sense of safety and confidence in each other. Do you have trust on your team, in your organization? If yes, how can you strengthen and maintain it? If not, how do you build it?

Build a relationship first, and trust will come.

Of Related Interest:

Relationship Before Opportunity. Dan Rockwell, The Leadership Freak
How to Build (or Rebuild) Trust. Michael Hyatt, Intentional Leadership

From the Works Archives: Firefighting-360: A broad look at better performance

A few years ago, I began writing a bi-monthly column for Fire Rescue Magazine that takes a broad look into ways to operate safer and better in complex and dangerous situations. It’s posted at While the content highlights firefighting, the context focuses on using human factor tools (situation awareness, task management, communication, decision making and teamwork) to bring an intricate system of people, practices, and equipment together when faced with challenging scenarios in high-risk environments.

Here’s the first of those Firefighting-360 columns that addresses our ability to juggle many things at once, sometimes leading to the unintended consequence of overloading our brains and paralyzing our decision making process. It was originally posted at on September 30, 2009.

Photo by Tim Olk

To do two things at once is to do neither.
—Publilius Syrus, Roman slave, first century B.C.

From Multitasking to Task Overload. For firefighters, the ability to do many things at once is crucial, but it’s easy to take it too far! What happens when we go into overload? Does multitasking muddle our brains? Read more…

Frictions: Uncertainties that complicate communication

FF360 Column  originally posted by FireRescue Magazine at on March 18, 2011.

By Billy Schmidt

Photo by Tim Olk

Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult.
–Carl von Clausewitz

Prussian military thinker Carl von Clausewitz, dead for almost two centuries, continues to be one of the most important strategic theorists of our time. His thoughts on how humans develop strategies are studied by military education institutions, business schools and other organizations concerned with human competition and conflict. Clausewitz used the term “frictions” to describe the uncertainties or the mechanisms that complicated warfare. Modern military officers most often refer to his concept of a general friction as the “fog and friction” of war.

Frictions are the constant stream of obstacles thrown in the path of progress. They can cause any number of unpredictable effects in any number of situations. Each friction, or challenge, becomes a diversion from the planned objective. In this FF-360 column, I’ll analyze communication frictions and how they hamper emergency operations—and how to prevent them and improve performance.

Read the rest of this column here.