Thursday, November 8, 2018

IGNITE: Formation of Character


It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. Abigail Adams (Helicopter working a large fire)
[Photo: Union IHC]
It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed.
Abigail Adams

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Are you boring or optimal?

Collage of pieces of paper with the word "option" on them
(Credit: Geralt/Pixabay)
My husband and I devote at least one night a week to date night. Date night typically includes dinner, a movie, or concert. As you might guess, we ask ourselves if we should go to someplace new or a favorite. My husband is a proponent of new things and limiting return visits. I tend to go with what I like and trust. Therefore, our pre-dinner decision making can cause a little grief. If we go to the same place, are we in a rut and boring?

In his TED Talk “3 ways to make better decisions—by thinking like a computer” cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths gave me practical strategies for making better decisions for future decisions of this nature:
  • Explore – Try something new and learn from it.
  • Exploit – Use the information you already know is pretty good.

How might you relate this the explore/exploit method to repetitive decisions on the fireline? What are the pros and cons of this method?

Leader Down - Step Up and Lead

Characture walking up stairs made of the word START
(Photo: Geralt/Pixabay)

You and your team are working dutifully on an incident. As part of Team Bravo lead by one of the service's greatest leaders, you and all those around know you are in good hands. Your leader is well-respected both on the line and outside fire operations. There isn't a part of duty, respect, and integrity that isn't reflected in your leader.

Today is a normal day on the line, until.... (aren't those words found all too often in our accident reports). Something happens to your great leader, putting them out of commission. The specifics behind the event are not important. Your beloved leader is incapacitated and cannot lead. What next?

The answer to this question depends on what your leader and your team did prior to the event. Is there someone able and willing to step up and lead? Has your team conducted pre-mortem exercises to ensure continuity of operations?

Leadership during crisis is not how someone wants to become a leader. The reality is many individuals become leaders because of a void in leadership. The make the decision to lead!

Continuity of operations is critical within the wildland fire service. Our leaders have a duty to ensure that those below them are prepared in the event they become incapacitated. Closely related is decentralized command through a bias for action where those under our command can make decision without approval from above—not freelancing. We are all leaders at all times!
"Hard training is the solemn duty of trainers and leaders every day." - Jacko Willink
No team wants to train for the loss or injury of a team member, especially their leader; but we MUST.

The Authority to Lead versus the Decision to Lead
(Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, pp. 5-6)

The authority to lead is established by law. Whether this authority is based on federal, state, or local law, we are legal agents exercising authority on behalf of our organizations.

The ability to lead is a different matter; it is something that cannot be legislated. To be effective, leaders must earn the trust and respect of others. A leader’s journey is a perpetual cycle of acquiring, shaping, and honing the knowledge and skills of leadership. The leadership journey is never finished.

Once we commit to becoming leaders, our focus is no longer ourselves. Fire leaders assume the serious responsibility of putting others into harm’s way and for making decisions that profoundly affect citizens, communities, and natural resources.

Leadership is a tough choice. Leaders choose to sacrifice their own needs for those of their teams and organizations. They routinely face situations and makedecisions that others criticize and second-guess. Leaders take risks and face challenges every day.

So why do we choose to lead? We lead because leading is where we make a difference.
Fire leaders bring order to chaos, improve our people’s lives, and strengthen our organizations. Leading enables us to leave a legacy for the leaders of the future so that they can take our places well prepared for the road ahead.

These are the rewards of leadership. Their effects will be seen and felt long after our careers end.

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge - Digging a Little Deeper
  • Read The Dichotomy of Leadership by Jacko Willink and Leif Babin. Part II, Chapter 5 - "Train Hard, but Train Smart" inspired this post.
  • Develop and implement a pre-mortem training plan that includes a vacancy of leadership.

About the Author: Pam McDonald is a writer/editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.

Monday, November 5, 2018

IGNITE: Self-Leadership

The first person you lead is you, and the first organ you master is your mind. - John Maxwell  [Photo credit: Zephyr Fire Crew] (firefighter looking out upon the horizon with tool in hand]
The first person you lead is you, and the first organ you master is your mind. - John Maxwell
[Photo credit: Zephyr Fire Crew]

Thursday, November 1, 2018

IGNITE: Seeds of Commitment

Orders and commands don’t plant the seeds of commitment; leadership does. - Frances Hesselbein & Gen. Eric Shinseki, authors of BE •  KNOW• DO  [Photo credit: Entiat IHC] (rainbow amidst a storm)

Orders and commands don’t plant the seeds of commitment; leadership does. - Frances Hesselbein & Gen. Eric Shinseki, authors of BE • KNOW• DO

[Photo credit: Entiat IHC]

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Can't see the forest for the trees...

Forest of trees in the late fall; some leaves have fallen.
(Photo: JPlenio/Pixabay)
Ponder the following phrase: "can't see the forest for the trees."

The Urban dictionary provides this meaning to the phrase:

When you are too close to a situation you need to step back and get a little perspective. When you do you will notice there was a whole forest you couldn't see before because you were too close, and focusing on the trees.

Simply that you have focused on the many details and have failed to see the overall view, impression or key point.

Monday, October 29, 2018

IGNITE: Lessons through Embers



Old fires carry embers that can turn to flame and teach new lessons to later generations. John Maclean (house with a mountain of fire behind it)
Old fires carry embers that can turn to flame and teach new lessons to later generations.
John Maclean

Thursday, October 25, 2018

IGNITE: Handling Errors

Two elements of successful leadership: a willingness to be wrong and an eagerness to admit it. - Seth Godin  [Photo credit: Kari Greer/USFS]
(Photo: Kari Greer/USFS)
Two elements of successful leadership: a willingness to be wrong and an eagerness to admit it. - Seth Godin

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Path of Self-Leadership

(Photo: geralt/Pixabay)
Since the early 2000's, the wildland fire service has had access to a leadership development program. Prior to the establishment of this program, leadership development was likely more reliant on your supervisor’s ability to plan for your progression, circumstances that would lead to leadership moments and other activities outside of work that would lead to leadership experience.