Friday, October 24, 2014

Goombahs

Courage


GOOMBAHS
by Jay C Stalnacker

Growing up living on the other side of the tracks, I often ventured across for a slap of reality as just a few miles away there sat an entire city of epic poverty, unemployment and crime. I believed the world was no bigger than a few square miles of rusted steel mills and ugly “company houses” surrounded by middle class subdivisions. It was a place where the mafia and crooked unions destroyed an entire community and left wounds that would never heal. It was so bad that for a few years Youngstown, Ohio was known as the “murder capitol of America.” The unrelenting crime and unscrupulous leadership of our community eventually left generations of immigrants with nothing more than empty rusting steel mills and cracked brick row houses.

By the time I was old enough to understand what a “Youngstown tuneup” was, most of the crime families had been arrested or moved operation to another city, leaving only a wake of destruction. Looking back, as young boys there were really only a few types of heroes we had to admire: professional boxers, football players and crime bosses. Goombah’s like “mo man” Harris and “Charlie the Crab” and legends like Franco Harris and Ray Boom Boom Mancini filled both our dreams and nightmares. Little did I know that both provided an unattainable or misplaced example of leadership, but it was all we had.

As I grew older I began to understand who the true heroes were. They were the common men and women who suffered through the intimidation, bribery and destruction of their community and then moved to the suburban neighborhoods to raise their children hoping that we would have a better future than they knew each of us would most likely face.

It’s a sad, overwhelming enlightenment watching an entire community self-implode. As wild-eyed teenagers we would climb to the roofs of the rusted buildings and walk the empty train tracks always wondering what happened and how it happened so quickly. I witnessed my grandfather fall from a proud paycheck earning crane operator in the steel mill to a humbled security guard at a community college making minimum wage. The union leaders had destroyed his future by embezzling his pension and sending jobs overseas with greedy demands. These leaders put their own needs and desires above many countless others and the end result would be generations of unemployment and poverty that still exist today.

I truly believe that in the beginning the “families” had the right idea but unfortunately the wrong intentions. They wanted to protect the immigrant workers from the steel tycoons and for a while everyone was prosperous. But eventually their greed, selfishness and ignorance turned a good idea into something terrible.

Like these goombahs who almost destroyed a culture of people, how often do we see leaders take the selfish approach as they look for any opportunity to gain more power and control at all cost. They fail to recognize their short-term gain will only result in long-term failure. It’s so very easy have a good intention turn into a disaster because the leader is really focused on his goals and not those of the larger purpose.

Often in public safety we see egos, attitudes and insecurities destroy an organization or compromise the success of a mission. It’s no different in the private corporate world or even on the sidelines of a children’s soccer game. Great leaders somehow see through the immediate gain and recognition then inspire us to follow them past the attainable and towards the unforeseeable future. As Jim finished his sermon today he talked about Jesus the warrior returning home to gather his army to celebrate victory. But he also reminded us that until that day we will be endlessly tempted with money, sex and other worldly distractions that someday just will not mean anything.

It’s hard to look into the unknown future and then back at your current struggles maintaining hope and faith. My experiences as incident commander or operations chief on emergency incidents constantly remind me of this. Many times you have to look ahead and past the obvious which is very difficult when chaos, death and destruction stare you in the eyes. During the flooding, I had to make difficult decisions that would stop rescue operations because of the danger to the rescuers. Losing rescuers would only create more chaos and trying to find the fine balance of saving innocent lives versus losing rescuers' lives was a constant struggle. Many in our profession walk in thinking they want to be a hero, but when the choice of sacrificing their life for another’s is presented it's not so simple. Often they get tunnel vision and lose understanding of the bigger picture ultimately causing more harm than good. More often they freeze in place unable to make the choice before it’s too late. These decisions haunt you as a leader; and only through understanding that there is a larger goal, can you come out the other end in one piece.

It’s much like raising children and disciplining them for something they don’t understand fully but yet you know it’s best. There is no easy answer and no simple explanation. We as leaders must have character and wisdom, and our followers must have courage and humbleness. I think a lot about how better to close this gap with Aspen, Kim, my staff, friends and family. How do I both lead with wisdom and follow with courage? I find what works best is to ask the right questions at the right time. How did we get here? What are we trying to do? What do we want it to look like when we are done? Great leaders constantly ask these three questions to continually evaluate their end state and verify their objectives. Next time you have a tough conversation with your child, a subordinate or spouse try to slow down and ask yourself these questions. I’m sure you can look back as you read this and think of an instance you should have paused and answered these questions before you moved forward. Thinking about these questions first, your conversations will flow seamlessly and confidently as a leader who has vision for something greater.

Spend some time slowing down, remember to ask yourself what it should and can look like when you're done, and I’m sure the result will be greater than your wildest dreams.

Jay C Stalnacker

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Jay Stalnacker is a regular blog contributor. Jay Stalnacker is the Fire Management Officer for the Boulder County Sheriff's Office. You can read more from Jay on his blog "The North Star Foundation." All expressions are those of the author.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Food for Thought - Preparedness

Fortune favors the prepared mind. – Louis Pasteur

Fortune favors the prepared mind. – Louis Pasteur

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#fireleadership #fireminis

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Powerful Speakers and Conscious Listeners Unite


Speaking Video Highlights
  • Avoid the seven deadly sins of speaking: gossip, judging, negativity, complaining excuses, exaggeration, and dogmatism.
  • Keep in mind the acronym HAIL when speaking:
    • H - Honesty
    • A - Authenticity
    • I - Integrity
    • L - Love
  • The tools below can increase the power of your speaking
    • Register (range of sound)
    • Timbre (character or quality or intensity)
    • Prosody (stress and intonation)
    • Pace (speed)
    • Pitch (tone)
    • Volume (capacity or magnitude)
"Every human being needs to listen consciously in order to live fully..." ~ Julian Treasure

Consciously Listening Video Highlights
  • We spend 60% of our communication time and only retain approximately 25%.
  • "We are losing our listening."
  • Five tools to listen better:
    • Silence - experience a few minutes a day in silence (or at least quiet)
    • Mixer - pick out sounds in a noisy environment
    • Savoring - savor the sounds
    • Listening positions - adapt your listening position to what is appropriate
    • RASA
      • Receive
      • Appreciate
      • Summarize
      • Ask

Monday, October 20, 2014

Food for Thought - Authentic Communication

The heart of communication rests in being authentic. – Lolly Daskal

The heart of communication rests in being authentic. – Lolly Daskal

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#fireleadership #fireminis

Friday, October 17, 2014

Leading from Behind

Sheep and sheepdog
(Not seen: the sheepherder. Photo credit: Jupiter Images)
Leading from Behind
by Bob Schoultz

Leading from behind? Isn’t that an oxymoron, like organized chaos, or a genuine fake? “Leading from behind” normally connotes a leader reacting to and being led by events rather than getting out in front of problems, setting objectives, and inspiring his/her organization to achieve great things.

I will make the case however, that the best leaders of the best organizations know that they are often more effective leading from behind, and “letting the dogs run.” They can, and do, lead from the front, when that is what the circumstances and the team demand, but they often prefer to plant themselves back in the crowd – watching others lead, and employing more subtle approaches to influencing events, rather than trying to always be in total control.

If a team is new and still defining itself, or if it is facing an urgent task, or if it is confused or struggling with internal conflict, there is clearly a need for strong lead-from-the-front leadership to develop positive forward momentum. But once the team is on track and performing well, leading from behind can increase momentum and develop long term and sustainable success.

When a team is “humming,” and everyone knows their job, when everyone is committed to a common vision and holds each other accountable to the mission, THAT’s when the best leaders exercise lead-from-behind leadership; they step out of the way and let things run. That doesn’t mean they disengage. They remain extremely engaged – by watching carefully, staying in touch with what is happening, providing support and insight as necessary, and making command decisions when command decisions are called for. They understand that it is easier to assess whether the team is moving out on the right azimuth when they can view the entire field.

When the team is working well, a lead-from-behind leader is able to look out beyond the next couple of ridgelines, consider how best to prepare the team for what might be coming, and how best to take it to the next level, when it is ready. And when it is ready, the leader knows it will probably be time to get out front again, to help the team create a new direction, a new vision, new commitment, and establish a new momentum, before once again, stepping to the side.

Letting a well-oiled team run, frees up the leader to serve the team beyond the boundaries of the team, to build credibility with other teams and higher headquarters, and to spend more time and energy looking at the broader context of the team’s mission. Management is left to the well-functioning internal mechanisms of the team.

Great leaders train and prepare future leaders. Lead-from-behind leadership allows the leader to look up and out, while giving junior leaders opportunities to lead, learn and grow. One of the best ways to build other leaders is to let them lead, and when designated leaders step out of the way, others can spread their wings, use their judgment, make decisions, and make mistakes. The lead-from-behind leader remains engaged by being available to coach, to make sure mistakes don’t take things too far off track, and to provide constructive feedback after the fact. Only by letting others lead can the leader effectively judge who has the most potential, and who is most ready to assume increased responsibility within the organization.

When I was younger, I made the mistake that many young leaders make: I believed my role was to always be out front. And like many young leaders, I enjoyed the spotlight, the authority, and the ego satisfaction of being in charge and “making stuff happen.” For most of us, this is probably a necessary phase in our development as leaders, but I’ve seen far too many leaders never get beyond this phase. When the leader is always out in front, others who might be very capable and ready, are not leading, and opportunities for them to grow and develop are missed. The team becomes completely dependent on the leader’s energy, drive, and ambition. That is not good for the long term development of the team and its people.

Later in my career, I struggled to back off my tendency to always jump out front, and I tried to step back more, and let the organization evolve. I realized that if my team expected me to always take charge as problems arose, they would simply sit back and wait to see what I decided. That was not what I wanted. I had to learn that it was not about me – it was about them. I was THEIR leader; they were not MY troops. There is a big difference.

Through trial and error, reading, and watching other leaders succeed and fail, I discovered that in great organizations, great leaders are often leading from behind. To outsiders, it is not always clear how great leader’s influence with subtlety, insight, and example. In his seminal work Good to Great, Jim Collins describes these leaders as “Level 5 Leaders.” Harvard’s Joe Badaraccco praises such selfless leaders as “non-heroic” leaders. One key NSW leader speaks of leading with “humility, integrity, and transparency.”

Great leaders like to step out of the spotlight and put the spotlight on others in their organization. In doing so, they become more a part of the organization’s collective “We.” They use the collective “We” and “Our” in most discourse, and avoid excessive use of “I” and “my.” When the leader is constantly saying “We,” and acting in a “We” way, those on the team begin to believe in ‘We” and commit to the larger “We,” rather than simply, to the leader.
“With the best of leaders, when the work is done, the project completed, the people all say, ‘We did it ourselves.’” (Tao Te Ching)
Great leaders know how to balance leading from the front and leading from behind. While they certainly know when and how to get out front and push, they also know when it is best to step to the side, let things evolve on their own, let other leaders emerge, influence subtly, and lead quietly, from behind.

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Bob Schoultz (retired Navy Seal commander, Adjunct Professor for Masters of Science in Global Leadership program at the University of San Diego, and certified NOLS instructor for L-380) is a regular WFLDP blog contributor. Check out this and other articles on Bob's blog, "Bob Schoultz's Corner."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Food for Thought - No Limits




We have to go for what we think we're fully capable of, not limit ourselves by what we've been in the past. ~ Vivek Paul

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Unlocking the Hidden World

Perception plays a vital role in a fire leader's decision-making process. How well perception matches reality is called Situation Awareness. How much do we really see? How closely do we dissect a situation before making a decision? Are we open to what is or could be? How much do we NOT know or see about the world around us?

Louie Schwarzberg takes TED Talk viewers to where technology, art, and science intersect in order to see a hidden world. What we don't see can have a profound impact upon what could be.



Leadership is about innovation. As a fire leader, being able to see beyond what is apparent and having the courage to go beyond comfort zones opens our organizations to possibilities we never thought possible.

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge

Discuss the following questions with your team:
  • What are you doing within your organization to innovate? 
  • How do you ensure that perceptions meet reality?
  • Do you challenge the status quo?
  • What mechanism do you have to expose the hidden elements within your decision-making process?


Monday, October 13, 2014

Food for Thought - Do the Right Thing


In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.
–Theodore Roosevelt

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Friday, October 10, 2014

The Mad Scientist

Mad scientist
(Photo credit: Jupiter Images/ThinkStock)
The Mad Scientist
by Jay Stalnacker

I sat looking at the back side of Pikes Peak as I was suppose to be working on an entry in my journal for a leadership course I was attending. The setting was beautiful; we were situated in a outdoor conference facility in the Rocky Mountains.

The course agenda included the typical self awareness surveys and basic leadership styles theories. As the course progressed, it became more of a somewhat uncomfortable reminder for me of what I’m suppose to be correcting in my leadership behaviors and of the influence both our successes and failures have on those working for us. My personality assessment once again highlighted both my detrimental commanding style and visionary inspirational methods. By the end, I was wondering if who I am as a leader is good or bad and if all these years of training, learning and practicing have resulted in anything positive.

At some point, Kerry the lead instructor, talked about "discretionary productivity." In other words, what truly gets done by your folks when your gone and out of the office. A better question he asked was, "how long is your shadow?" What is the positive influence you leave out front and behind your leadership?

As a young boy, I remember sneaking into my grandfather's garage and rummaging through the dust covered tools boxes, playing with grease-dipped tools and crawling all over the old trucks and cars. My grandfather was a self-made man. He worked many years on the railroad, eventually retiring and starting numerous small business adventures. Used car sales, appliance repair and artistic inventor were all some of the careers he had tried. He grew up in a time when you learned to make things from nothing, turning garbage into gold. His garage was a magical place for me. A mixture of a dirty Santa’s workshop and mad scientist lab.

Often I would just sit and watch him from afar as he cussed, grumbled and threw tools at the wall as his inventions and repairs caught fire, exploded and at times shut power down to the entire neighborhood. Sometimes he would let me hold a wrench as he tightened a bolt or crawled into a engine compartment to loosen a nut. After hours of "fixing," we would be called inside via the "intercom" he had installed between the shop and the house. My grandma would shout, "Stanley, get in here… it’s getting late and we all want to eat dinner." He and I would wash our greasy hands in a bucket of gasoline then go inside and enjoy my grandmother's cooking.

My grandfather's shadow was long--it covered my whole being. I never realized how much until later in life as I found my own passion for inventing, building and creating gave me a feeling of gratitude and self worth that nothing had ever provided. Later and as a young man, I would eventually watch my grandfather suffer a stroke and die of cancer. My last memory was helping him change his clothes with my mom and grandmother as he laid dying on the couch in the living room. He died a short time later. Soon I would leave for college, eventually returning to find his shop and it’s magical contents had been sold to the highest bidder at local flea markets. Some distant relatives convinced my grandmother they could make her a fortune. I returned to find the entire shop destroyed. I was devastated. I gathered a few things that they had not yet come back for and sadly walked past the wash can of gasoline for the last time as my grandmother called me in for dinner.

As I matured and found great value in my own ability to build, invent and make trash in treasure, I have never forgotten the happiness my grandfather and I shared working together out in shop. His passion and work ethic has helped me move through life with a better understanding of what it takes to create something. As a husband, father and leader I look at each of these roles in the context of an artist, inventor and repairman. I look at my faith and marriage as the shop or building that holds all of my tools. It’s my foundation and provides a safe place to experiment, make mistakes and create magic. Without God and Kim, I would be nothing and have nothing. Her love, support and encouragement, like my grandmother on the intercom, is my constant call to come in from the work and sit down and have dinner. God’s blessing of my many gifts allows me to speak, write, draw and create. No matter what fire I’ve started or power outage I caused,she always welcomes me home. God has given me the fortitude to move forward even when everything explodes.

As a father, I am a creator and repairman. Obviously, I cannot take full credit for the miracle of Aspen; but I can say that everyday I feel more responsible to help her invent a future and create a vision for life. A child is like one of my grandfather's inventions: beautiful, scary, powerful and amazing. My job as a father is to constantly troubleshoot and when needed make repairs.

As a leader, I feel more like an inventor. My role is to provide vision, direction and purpose and then let the follower develop and perfect. As at times my grandfather was a “mad scientist,” I feel that passion and energy is needed to lead. Some have said you have to be crazy to want to lead, and I somewhat now believe that this inventor spirit is a required element in leadership. It’s that every present optimism and resilience inventors have that makes them move through failure and adversity to eventually find success. This inventor's spirit is a key to leadership not often captured in lectures, assessments and surveys.

As a I glanced back up watching the sunset over Pikes Peak reflecting on the last three days of class and how much I had enjoyed the instruction, I realized it was because Kerry was able to combine not just the academic theories but as a self-made man, had also brought a contagious and adventurous inventor's spirit to our class. This combination of fundamental science sprinkled with an inventor's magic truly is special. If we as leaders can harness just a little of each our inventions, we just may end up making a difference someday. By sustaining, maintaining, repairing and never giving up, we can help make our spouses, children, friends and those we lead not only useful but also uniquely special.

Jay C Stalnacker
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Jay Stalnacker is a regular contributor to this blog. Reprinted with permission by Jay Stalnacker, FMO Boulder County Sheriff's Office, from his blog "The North Star Foundation." All expressions are those of the author.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Food for Thought - Doing the Right Things

Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things. – Peter Drucker

Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things. ~ Peter Drucker

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