If You Want To Change The World…

United States Naval Admiral, William H. McRaven, delivers sound advice in his commencement speech to the University of Texas Class of 2014. Below are the quick notes on what to do. Listen to the speech to find out why and how to do it.

  • If you want to change the world, start by doing the little things right: make your bed.
  • If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.
  • If you want to change the world, measure people by the size of their heart.
  • If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and move forward.
  • If you want change the world, don’t be afraid of the circus.
  • If you want to change the world, sometimes you have to slide down the obstacles head first.
  • If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.
  • If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest of moments.
  • If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.
  • If you want to change the world, don’t ever ring the bell.

Also, read the workingfirechief’s blog for his thoughts on “Changing the fire service for the positive and keep good traditions alive.”

How will you help change the world?

What’s Working? What’s Not?

Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons

Photo by Kim Fitzsimmons

Start, Stop, Continue is a well-known method for feedback that many organizations and teams use to gauge effectiveness. You simply ask:

  • What can we start doing that will make us more effective?
  • What can we stop doing that makes us less effective?
  • What can we continue to do that’s providing value to us?

Another, less formal feedback technique that is similar is called WWWN. It stands for What’s working? What’s not? It’s a simple, effective communication tool that can illuminate critical issues or operations for improvement while creating a learning culture of openness.

Give them a try. Which one works better for you?

Leadership Doesn’t Come From Behind the Desk

From the movie Beauty and the Boss, 1932.

From the movie Beauty and the Boss, 1932.

Recently, I listened, with great concern, to two different questions about the same subject, a failure to communicate. On one occasion, I was part of a management meeting where the attendees were asking, “Why don’t they understand what we are doing?” Another time, while talking to people I supervise, they asked, “What is going on?” This roadblock, or maybe wall, in communication is a huge problem and affects everything. So what can leaders (even a mid-level leader like me) do to break through this wall? You can increase your “face time” with your people and build trust; to show you care.

Leaders, you need to get out from behind the desk (and get away from the continuous meeting table too; by the way read this book: Read This Before Our Next Meeting) to visit, mentor and socialize with your people. Communicating in person, as opposed to email, memo, and policy has always been and still remains extremely important, even more so in today’s complex and fast-moving world.

Everyone has their idea for a definition of leadership. Books, articles, and seminars tell us that leadership is, “the ability of an individual to influence others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organization.” Here’s my take on leadership, “Leadership is influencing people to act by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while working to accomplish the mission and improving the organization.” That is not done from behind a desk or in a meeting.

Effective personal communication is no small task today, especially in very large organizations. With customer and community expectations increasing, issues with completing training and countless other factors, everyone feels a heavy burden, both physically and mentally, that no one is immune to.

Within our fast-moving culture, we have come to a crossroads with regard to communicating with our people. What happened to the talent of one-on-one, face-to-face mentoring? Email has made the communication process faster, but it’s hindered, to some degree, our willingness to get out from behind the desk and talk. It’s hard to show you care about them and are interested in their problems in an email. Relationships and trust are not created from emails!

I believe we need to put more emphasis on face-time communication. Technology (email, social media, videos, etc.) alone does not create change, relationships with people do (relationships provide purpose, direction, and motivation). Leaders, you must talk, talk, talk! And then listen, listen, listen!

Leadership involvement, getting out there and leading your people from the front will increase awareness and maximize performance. The ongoing demands of today’s world require that leaders communicate well and often. You cannot provide the right kind of leadership needed from behind a desk!

What needs to happen in your organization to improve communication? How can you help make it happen?

Improving the Operational Planning Process

Vintage Firefighters, 1879.

We are entering an era of “do more with less.” Yet, we are expected to remain efficient. Our organizational challenge is to save time, focus on the real issues, and effectively communicate the organization’s vision to our members. Not an easy task, and one that requires everyone to make it happen.

Read more here about how Improving the Operational Planning Process in the Fire Service. This is an article I wrote for Fire Engineering Magazine and was posted on August 1, 2011.

Speaking Up!

 

Photo by Tim Olk

Photo by Tim Olk

Leaders should build teams with people who have a proven willingness to speak their mind.

I love this quote from the latest On Leadership at the Washington Post: “If you have a yes-man working for you, one of you is redundant” (Avis CEO Barry Rand).

Decision making for organizations operating in complex and chaotic conditions emphasizes the importance of upward communication and dissenting opinions to arrive at sound strategic solutions. Most times the unwillingness to speak up is to blame for a failed objective; sometimes those failed objectives cause injury or death. It’s easy to believe we are leaders when everyone around us agrees with everything we say. Because a diverse set of opinions, and sometimes disagreement, are crucial for good decision making, we need strong leaders and followers who are willing to speak up, and then we need to listen to them.

How do we build teams with open communication lines in all directions? I’ll bet TRUST would help.

Read Saying no to ‘yes-men from’ On Leadership here.

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.


Frictions: Uncertainties that complicate communication

FF360 Column  originally posted by FireRescue Magazine at FirefighterNation.com 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.