November 2019 Issue Number 232
Is a monthly electronic newsletter which links current events and issues to the daily challenges faced by fire and emergency services managers. Current topics in the areas of leadership development, workplace diversity, change management, and conflict resolution will be discussed.
I hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
Let me know what you think! If you'd like to subscribe to the newsletter, please enter your email address in the box below.
enter your email address
Now available! On
the Line: Women Firefighters Tell Their Stories by Linda
F. Willing. This book features interviews with over 35 women
firefighters from the United States and Canada. The book is available
from major online booksellers, and signed copies may be ordered through this website.
Fire-Rescue International will take place in Phoenix, AZ August 19-21, 2020.
Women in Fire will hold an international conference in Spokane, WA September 23-26, 2020.
The Power of the Inside-Outsider
In decades of working with fire departments around the world, I have frequently asked the question: "How well prepared are new company officers for their role when they first take that position?" The answer I have universally heard is: Not very.
The problem usually isn't technical skills. New officers are most often experienced firefighters who have had years to hone skills in firefighting, rescue, EMS, and specialized response. Instead, new officers often struggle with the more personal side of the job: giving feedback, resolving conflict, discerning developing problems, listening effectively, seeing the big picture.
New officers frequently get some kind of training to prepare for the position, but it might be focused on specialized areas of the job, such as how to write reports or call for additional resources at a large incident.
Years ago, I asked a number of officers from a large urban fire department, "What was the hardest part of becoming a new company officer?" Without exception, they responded, "Finding the balance between being in charge and being one of the guys."
Of course it is important to be part of the crew, but being too close carries risks. People who are too much on the inside sometimes lose sight of the context of what is happening around them, and how they are contributing to it. This has manifested in officers doing bad things-- engaging in hazing, allowing unprofessional behavior to become normal.
This is where those members who are both insiders and outsiders may have an advantage. For firefighters who are different in some way, being a complete insider has never been an option. This can cause some feelings of alienation at times, but when becoming an officer, it can also provide critical perspective for that new role.