Are You An Obstacle?

Clear the path for your people to succeed

dilbert-removing obstacles

What stands in the way of your firefighters doing their job? Take a minute and look at your fire department; the rules (policies and procedures), how your firefighters learn (training), how they work (teamwork), and what they have to work with (tools, equipment, and facilities). Now take a look at you, their leader. Does your fire department and your leadership provide a clear path for your firefighters to work safely and effectively (don’t confuse effective with efficient). Are they able to achieve the organization’s objectives, and just as important their personal goals?

How can you, their leader, remove the obstacles that clutter their path to success?

Picture their workday: A workplace full of modern technology that can be confusing and sometimes difficult to operate. Policies telling them what they can’t do and procedures telling them how to do everything. Training and continuing education pulling them in different directions. Individuals with personal agendas or a lack of passion for the job. Facilities, tools, and equipment that must be inspected and maintained. And then there is you, their leader, and your requirements and expectations. There’s more to learn, more to do, and less time to get all of it done.

How can you help your firefighters get past all of those obstacles and accomplish their goals? And the Department’s goals?

As their leader, your goal is to ensure your firefighters’ safety and enhance their performance while enriching their personal satisfaction by focusing on their motivation, and all of this while completing your fire department’s mission. Your challenge is to use a leadership style that best meets their motivational needs, one that makes the path to their goals clear and easy to travel through coaching and direction.

Simply put, the role of the leader is to provide the necessary information, support and resources over and above those provided by the fire department to ensure both your firefighters’ personal satisfaction and a safe and effective performance. As their leader, you must work with your firefighters to define goals, clarify the path to reach those goals, clear the obstacles from that path and then provide the support needed to accomplish the goals.

A firefighter’s day is filled with many obstacles: responding to emergency calls, training requirements, rules and regulations, station and equipment maintenance, new technology, and many other potential hurdles. Don’t be one of those obstacles.

Clear the path for your firefighters by carefully assessing each of them and their tasks and then choosing an appropriate leadership style to match. As a leader, I always tried to remove myself as a fundamental part of the equation, so that the great people on our team could do their very best work without me getting in the way. Getting out of the way was hard to learn, because self-awareness is really tough to develop.

Remove obstacles for your team, for your staff, and by doing so you’ll remove obstacles for yourself as well. Imagine that.

The Forces of Motivation

What motivates us today? Do carrots and sticks motivate us? How about a ROWE (you’ll have to watch the video to learn what this is)? Or is the secret to high performance and satisfaction as Daniel Pink says, “our ability to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves in the world?” Watch Pink in this video as he examines the puzzle of what really motivates us today.

What really motivates you or your team? Does real, lasting motivation come from the outside (extrinsic) or the inside (intrinsic)?