Recommended Reading

A few interesting blogs that came across my laptop this month.

Safety Culture. Pam McDonald – Wildland Fire Leadership: Exposing Our Roots

  • Firefighter Awareness Study
  • Phase I -Identifying the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Issues Impacting Firefighter Safety
  • Phase II – Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness Study – Setting New Goals for the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Areas Impacting Firefighter Safety
  • Phase III – Implementing Cultural Changes for Safety
  • Phase IV- Developing a Cooperative Approach
  • Lessons Learned Videos – 10 Year Anniversary

Decision-Making. Michael Hyatt’s Intentional Leadership – The One Habit of Every Effective Leader

This is a guest post from Jeff Gions that begins with a great quote from Dave Ramsey:

“I make a decision, and if it’s the wrong one, I make another one.”

Adapting to a Situation. Law Enforcement & Security Consulting – Mental Toughness And …. The Power to Adapt

Living and working in our complex world often requires that we quickly adapt to a person or situation. There are many thoughts and questions that will create frictions (obstacles or breakdowns) that delay decision making. What tactics can we use to overcome them?

Decision making is closely tied to awareness and adaptability, and both are needed to build a safe and effective organizational culture.  More decision making explorations to come at my Firefighter-360 column.

Current Explorations: November 2011

Thomas Lorimer, 1941, Lewis & Clark, An Evening Reading

My current explorations trying to make sense of our challenging world.

Reading ….

My ongoing fascination with our choice-making behaviors (how and why we do what we do) and the role that time plays in our choosing has lead me to an interesting book: TEMPO: Timing, Tactics and Strategy in Narrative-Driven Decision-Making, by Venkatesh Rao. On the fire ground (a complex and dangerous environment), tempo (time) is an unknown and uncontrollable element, like the weather, that influences our decisions and drives their outcomes. More to come when I finish the book.

Research ….

Rapid Intervention

I joined a team of firefighters researching Rapid Intervention Procedures and Equipment for emergency operations, asking the question: “Are we ready?” Everyday firefighters (and many other professions too) combat dangerous situations putting themselves in harm’s way. Everything, from buildings to automobiles, to machinery to people is getting more complicated. And while personal protective equipment, training and education is getting better, firefighters will always be at risk for the unexpected event such as a natural or man-made disaster, mechanical failure, or human error. Rapid Intervention is that process used by firefighters to facilitate rescues when an emergency occurs. Our team’s goal is to raise the awareness of unexpected events and increase the level of readiness and response when they do happen. I’m currently reviewing reports and projects from the National Fire Academy. Much more to come as this will be a long-term adventure.

Impressions and Lessons from Washington's Mount Vernon

George Washington's home at Mount Vernon, Virgina

I recently spent a day exploring George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate in Virginia. I toured his home, walked his gardens, and visited his tomb where I had the rare opportunity to read his Prayer For His Country. Some assorted impressions and lessons from my visit.

After visiting Washington’s home, and seeing first-hand where and how he lived and what he thought was important, I’ve come to the conclusion that character was his single most important quality as a leader. Washington decided early in his life that his social behavior, his ethics and integrity, were essential for everyday life. His character, I believe, is what carried him through a life of leadership that continues to encourage us today.

As always, I found a good book to read. The Unexpected George Washington: His Private Life, by Harlow Giles Unger, provides personal insights into Washington’s life as a private man and as a leader that I had never read in other materials.

Of Related Interest:

Solid Debriefings: What did we do?

My July 2011 column at Fire Rescue Magazine on FirefighterNation:

How & Why to Conduct an Incident Debriefing

Done right, incident debriefings capture vital information for how we can improve our performance

By Billy Schmidt
Published Friday, July 22, 2011

My last several Firefighting-360 columns have focused on communications. The last part of an effective fireground communication cycle is the mission/task debrief. Debriefs are an essential part of learning, improving and identifying how human factors affect our actions at every incident.

Firefighters were born to talk, and that’s how they should conduct a debriefing: listening and talking to each other in an open and frank manner. The discussion is conducted as soon as possible after the event, sometimes right there on the apparatus tailboard before the team leaves the scene. This is where they can learn about their strengths and weaknesses, and create a clear vision of their future needs. Debriefing an incident or training event can also generate valuable lessons learned that can be institutionalized into future operations.

Read the rest of the column here.

More of Billy Schmidt’s Firefighting-360 Column at FirefighterNation

Start Before You're Ready!

Nike was right, we should “just do it!” Resistance is a huge roadblock in the path of our progress. It prevents us from bringing ideas to life or sometimes just plain having fun. Steven Pressfield knows this and that’s what his recently released book, Do the Work, is all about. The book begins with this, “On the field of the Self stand a knight and a dragon. You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon.”

I downloaded a Kindle version of the book and read it fast, just as Seth Godin suggested in the Forward (Godin also talks on his blog about how ‘shipping,’ delivering work on a deadline, is key to success). Then I purchased it on iTunes and listened to SP read his own words; even better.

Go here to read more from Pressfield about staying stupid, trusting the soup, and starting before you’re ready.

WHY: A Simple Approach to Leadership

There are leaders, and there are those who lead. Leaders who start with WHY have the ability to inspire others.

Watch Simon Sinek’s TED presentation on how great leaders inspire action.

Decision by Data

We seem to place a lot of importance on data (numbers, charts, graphs, etc.) these days. We tend make many decisions by comparing numbers and graphs from spreadsheets or charts. We ask ourselves, “What does it show me today?” Or sometimes, we look for what we want it to show us. We ask the data to help us prove our point.

Is data enough to tell us what’s going on, or what may happen? What do the numbers really mean? What do the charts and graphs really show? Should we just make our decisions based on data?

There may be more than meets the eye when it comes to numbers, pie charts or graphs. We should always step back and take another look at the intent and purpose of the data we are gathering. Following are a few good questions from the Root Cause Analysis Blog to help keep us on track when using data in our decision-making equation:

  • Where did the numbers come from?
  • What were the numbers originally designed to measure?
  • Are these numbers the same set of behaviors and tasks or are they independent?
  • Were the numbers created with limited bias and not driven by a reward or discipline factor?
  • Are these numbers occurring frequently or is this intermittent and infrequent data?
  • Finally, do you understand your numbers and does the boss know what the numbers mean when you show the charts and trends or lack of trends?

Using data can help us make more effective and efficient decisions, but the quality of those decisions is based on the first step: defining the problem to be solved. Data helps us ask the right questions; it does not provide the answers. We should use data for what it is, a part of the decision-making equation combined with listening to the input from the people on the front lines, the most important part of the decision equation.

Making decisions based on data is very common for all of us. But does the data tell us everything? Does the data show all of the variables or impact on the organization, process, or our people? What is our purpose for collecting the data and how do we intend to use it? How do we conclude that the decisions made were effective and efficient for the people, the organization, and our purpose?

Of Related Interest:

Humility and Leadership

Harry Truman once said, “You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit.”

Here’s great advice from the Leadership Freak on an important element of leadership…… Humility!

I’ll never forget G.J. Hart’s observation about high potential leaders, “I can usually tell if they have the humility to make it.”

Humility yields success; arrogance blocks it. One source of arrogance is too much knowledge.  However, there’s something that matters more than knowing. It’s practicing what you know. Putting knowledge into practice tests, reveals, and establishes true knowledge. Practicing knowledge helps produce humility.

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” Goethe

Read the Leadership Freak’s take on Leading yourself into Humility here.

Credibility: It's What You Do, Not What You Wear

General Eisenhower is an excellent example of a trusted leader who cared about his troops. Here he is talking to paratroopers in Newbury, England before D-Day Operations. June 5, 1944. (Photo from Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum Homepage)

The fire service, like the military, the academic and business world, puts strong emphasis on credibility. Many fire service members stress the importance of symbols, such as bugles, badges, medals, patches, and lately, letters following a name (EFO, PhD, etc.). Even wearing a T-shirt or sporting a decal on an automobile some believe provides them with “automatic” credibility. Not true. It’s not what you wear, but what you do that gives you credibility. Let me explain.

Badges, medals, patches, and other displays of technical expertise or promoted status are important, but unfortunately these symbols do not necessarily translate into creditability. Titles or holding positions of authority may initially bring credibility, but may erode over time, based on the leader’s actions. Real leader-credibility takes time to build and is taken from personal action.

Credibility, I believe, comes from a leader’s ability to build trust, garner confidence, and inspire those they work with. It provides leaders with real influence, not just position or rank.

How do leaders build credibility? First, you realize that your hard work is only part of the equation. You can work as hard as you want to establish credibility, but it’s the people you work with (followers) who will ultimately decide how much of it you have. And it can change daily, or even by the minute. I’ve read where Lou Holtz, former football coach, uses a very simple, but effective way, to evaluate a leader’s credibility. He asks the following three questions:

1.      Can I trust you? Everyone is watching and listening to you. Do your words match what you do? If they don’t, people will not have confidence in you or trust you. They want to know the “why” behind the decisions you’ve made. They want to know that their leader is motivated for organizational gain, not personal gain.

2.      Are you committed to excellence? Setting, demanding, enforcing, and following high standards, or expectations, will equate to higher credibility. Again, actions are more powerful than words.

3.      Do you care about me? Your credibility is based on your relationship with the people you lead. They will evaluate you both as a leader and a person. They want to know that you care about them. A commitment to people contributes to real credibility.

Your credibility plays a large role in your leader-ability. But it’s a fragile thing; easily damaged by one small miss-judgment. Leaders must work hard, every minute, to maintain and preserve their credibility.

How do you see your credibility as a leader? Better yet, how do the people you lead see your credibility?

Of Related Interest:

Servant Leadership and Power in Position-Led Organizations

Are you a leader or just a Boss?

Listen to William Wallace (Mel Gibson) say: “Men don’t follow titles, they follow courage.”

Great Leaders Have Emotional Control

Read the Leadership Freak’s conversation with Jay Elliot, author of The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation, where they talk of leaders controlling their emotions. Too much passion, or compassion, will overrun people. Elliot says that great leaders exercise control over their emotions, have passion for what they are doing, and have enthusiasm for what others are doing.

How can leaders control their emotions?