Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Announcing the Mann Gulch Staff Ride


On August 5, 1949, fifteen USDA Forest Service smokejumpers and a Helena National Forest fire guard were entrapped by a spot from a wildfire about 20 miles north of Helena, Montana. The fire eventually burned almost 4,500 acres.

A lightning storm started numerous fires on the Helena District of the Helena National Forest on the afternoon of August 4. The Mann Gulch Fire was detected at about 12:00 PM on August 5th on a day with record-breaking temperatures. At about 3:00 PM when the smokejumpers from the Missoula Smokejumper Base were circling the fire in a C-47 airplane the fire was estimated to be between 50 and 60 acres. The fire behavior at that time appeared fairly minimal and the jumpers expected to easily have the fire lined and under control by 10:00 AM the next morning.

The jumpers parachuted into a spot up canyon and at a lower elevation than the fire. During the time the jumpers gathered their gear and had a quick bite to eat the fire became more active. This inspired the foreman to get his crew down gulch so that they could attack the fire from the heel. Their approach was mid-slope on the opposite aspect from the fire, allowing the firefighters to keep an eye on the fire across the way. During their movement down canyon, a spot fire that was previously unseen on their side of the gulch made a rapid upslope and up-canyon run, cutting off their access to the anchor point. The fire overran and killed most of the firefighters. Two firefighters escaped by slipping through a small notch in the rimrock at the top of the ridge. The foreman lit an escape fire, an emergency survival technique the smokejumpers had not been trained in, in an effort to consume the fuels ahead of the approaching blaze. After trying unsuccessfully to convince his crew to enter the burned area with him, he then lay down in the blackened area as the flame front passed over. He survived.

Much controversy surrounded the incident with investigation into training, standard procedures, and safety practices. It received attention in the national media at the time and has continued to be of interest into current times:

  • The incident created interest in scientific study of extreme fire behavior and better methods of predicting potential blow-up fire situations. This interest resulted in the development of the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory.
  • It was one of the fires studied in the development of the Ten Standard Firefighting Orders.
  • There was speculation by some that the escape fire the foreman lit was the cause of the fatalities.
  • The incident received national attention and inspired a feature-length movie released in 1952 – Red Skies of Montana as well as an article in Life Magazine.
  • The story was researched and written about by Norman Maclean in Young Men and Fire.
The Mann Gulch Staff Ride resource is a product of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. Project team members were:

David Bihr – U.S. Forest Service, Missoula Smokejumpers
Marvin Carpenter – U.S. Forest Service, Helena National Forest
Jim Cook – U.S. Forest Service, National Interagency Fire Center
Dan Cottrell – U.S. Forest Service, Missoula Smokejumpers
Sue Curd – Bureau of Land Management, National Interagency Fire Center
Paul Fieldhouse – U.S. Forest Service, Northern Rockies Training Center
Angela Harvieux – U.S. Forest Service, Great Northern Fire Crew R1
Kelli Hochmuht - U.S. Forest Service, Great Northern Fire Crew R1
Colby Jackson – U.S. Forest Service, Missoula Smokejumpers
Bob Kambitsch – Bureau of Land Management, National Interagency Fire Center
Giselle Koehn – U.S. Forest Service, Great Northern Fire Crew R1
Lori Messenger – U.S. Forest Service, Missoula Smokejumpers
Bill Miller – U.S. Forest Service, Great Northern Fire Crew R1
Morgan Pence – U.S. Forest Service, Great Northern Fire Crew R1
Justin Underwood – U.S. Forest Service, Great Northern Fire Crew R1
Nina Walker – Bureau of Land Management, National Interagency Fire Center

A special thanks to the following individuals who were instrumental in their support of the development of the Mann Gulch Staff Ride:

Paul Chamberlin – Fish and Wildlife Service (retired)
Jeff Scussel – U.S. Forest Service, Northern Region Office (retired)
Dave Turner – U.S. Forest Service, Helena National Forest (retired)
Edmund Ward – U.S. Forest Service, Missoula Smokejumpers (retired)

Check out the Mann Gulch Staff Ride and other staff rides in the Staff Ride Library.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Canadian Wildland Firefighting in 4D

Science North, an agency of the Government of Ontario, is showcasing wildland fire, including an exhibit and 4D movie, Wildfires!

"Adrenaline rushes through your body as you witness the unfolding drama of Wildfires! A Firefighting Adventure in 4D. Feel the excitement as a ground crew, transported by helicopter into the remote wilderness, tries to contain the rapidly spreading fire. Ride along with the Air Attack Officer as operations are directed from a seat high above the blaze. Be the co-pilot in a CL 415 water bomber as it undertakes the difficult and sometimes dangerous mission of controlling a major forest fire from the air, swooping down to pick up a load of water and dropping it at the centre of the action. Experience Wildfires! in the Science North Vale Cavern."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Exposing Our Roots: 1999 - 2001

1999

2000

2001

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Invictus" is Here!


Thanks to the efforts of the Klamath Hotshots, another Leadership in Cinema lesson plan is available for your use in leadership development. The Invictus lesson plan chronicles Nelson Mandela's use of South Africa's national rugby team, the Springboks, to unite a nation.

Feel free to use the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program's Facebook page to discuss the movie and promote discussion across the program.

If you would like to create a lesson plan for the program, visit the Leadership in Cinema website.

You are a Leader 24/7

There is nothing worse than a hypocritical leader--one who does not lead by example.

After watching the video, consider the following:

  • Do you set a good example for others to follow?
  • What changes do you want to see?
  • What practices do you use as a leader to ensure that you are giving the most to your leadership position?
  • What can you share with other leaders about leading by example?



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Practice Makes Permanent"



Do you have "Dan days" built into your schedule?

Are you caring for yourself mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually?

Fireline Leadership Challenges:

  • Share your methods of "practice makes perfect" as a wildland fire leader.
  • Mentor someone.

Monday, December 5, 2011

An Enduring Leadership Legacy……….


Having just returned from the 2011 Fall NWCG Leadership Subcommittee meeting in Tucson, Arizona, I have been reflecting on my experience over the last five years as a member of the subcommittee. Specifically, how Committee Co-Chair Jim Cook will be missed as a result of his upcoming and well deserved retirement.

For those readers of this blog that are unaware, Jim was one of the principle founders of this committee and has been the "point person" that led the development of the NWCG leadership curriculum. The development and delivery of this curriculum has led to an organizational culture change that has positively benefited firefighters throughout the United States and Australia. Jim Cook, Paul Gleason, Mark Linane and other wildland fire service leaders turned the tragedy that was the 1994 South Canyon Fire into an opportunity for all of us to better understand the role that human factors play and how they affect critical decision making on the fireground.

I first met Jim Cook in 1985 when he was the Superintendent of the Arrowhead Hotshots and I was a Foreman with the Kern Valley Hotshots. As a result of our hotshot crews being two of the four Southern Sierra region Type 1 hotshot crews, we had many opportunities to work together locally, statewide and nationally. However, I lost touch with Jim and many other wildland fire service friends and co-workers after the 1990 fire season as a result of my being hired by the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. Over the next 10-15 years, we would on occasion run into each other at retirement parties (more like hotshot reunions) and training sessions. I was honored and felt privileged to have been asked by Jim to represent local government on the subcommittee and was even more humbled to step in behind former USFS Hotshot and current Santa Barbara County Fire Department Crew Superintendent Mark Linane.

Looking back, what I admired most about Jim as his career progressed and eventually took him away from leading hotshot crews was his passion for improving safety on the fireline and I'm not talking about through the traditional means of the day. He and other wildland fire service leaders were determined to empower first-level leaders by way of their understanding and applying time proven principle-based leadership concepts in a way that had not been attempted in the past. Out of this effort and over the years was born the L-180, L-280, L-380, L-381, L-480 and L-580 curriculum. The leadership curriculum now targets every level of organizational leadership…..from the first year firefighter to those leading and managing large organizations.

The NWCG Leadership Subcommittee is primarily charged with managing this curriculum in terms of assuring that new and/or obsolete material is updated, the lead instructors are of the highest quality, etc. There is no way of knowing for sure how many tragedies have been avoided over the years the curriculum has been delivered, but speaking for my own agency, I have several anecdotal instances where fire captains and battalion chiefs have shared with me decisions they made that contributed to the positive outcome of an incident and that may not have occurred without their having been provided the leadership training. I have many more stories of how the leadership skills they developed as a result of the training have led to positive non-emergency-incident related decisions being made as well.

While having dinner and beverages with Jim and the other members of the subcommittee the night before everyone traveled home to their home units, we asked Jim to share with us how many firefighters he estimated he affected over his career. He immediately went about figuring out the math specific to his time as a hotshot superintendent. As it ended up, this was several hundred firefighters. It was at his point that one of the more tenured committee members reminded Jim of all that had been accomplished as a result of his leading this committee since its inception........this brought about a more reflective pause. Ever the humble guy, Jim thanked everyone for their kind words, and as anyone that knows Jim would expect, he immediately began deflecting any praise for his efforts and began to focus all of us on how we need to continue to innovate and advocate for improved fire service leadership.

Lastly, I want to personally thank Jim for his friendship over all of these years and for also including state and local government fire service agencies in the leadership/culture change initiative. The excitement surrounding these training courses is spreading quickly as was experienced when first introduced to the wildland fire community many years ago.

Jim Cook will be formally retiring from the USFS in December 2011. His retirement party will be held on February 19 in Boise, Idaho.

Jim leaves an honorable legacy behind him and I'm confident that those that know Jim and read this blog may have an example or two that they may want to blog concerning some of how Jim and/or his efforts behind the development and implementation of the leadership curriculum may have affected them personally and/or those that they now lead or those they have lead in the past.

Thanks Jim!!!

Brian Fennessy
Assistant Fire Chief
San Diego Fire-Rescue Department

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

“We Will Never Forget You—Remembering Andy Palmer”


Submitted by Jim McMahill (Regional Fire and Aviation Management Officer, Midwest Region - National Park Service and NWCG Leadership Subcommittee NPS Representative) and the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center




This—wildland firefighter Andy Palmer’s tragedy—is the story of how we arrived at today’s Dutch Creek Protocol guidelines for emergency medical response and extractions.

Fireline Leadership Challenge:

  1. View the video and share this with your employees and incident management team members, either during your annual fire refresher or at your annual team meetings.
  2. After viewing, discuss the contents of the video, which challenges us with three questions we should ask ourselves each time we are weighing the decision whether or not to engage on a wildland fire incident.
  • What will we do if someone gets hurt?
  • How will we get them out of here?
  • How long will it take to get them to the hospital?”

This is the Wildland Lessons Learned Center's second presentation in this year’s “Firefighter: Remember This” video series. Check out the first, "Firefighter: Remember This - Engine Rollover: Why This Accident Started Months Ago."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Stanford's Guiding Principles

Mark Stanford is the Chief, Fire Operations for the Texas Forest Service as well as State representative on the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee.

Stanford’s Guiding Principles

Listed below are some principles that I use to guide me. Some are basic or intuitive while others were learned from mistakes, lapses in judgment or the school of hard knocks. Still others were picked up from people wiser than me and from a few mentors I was fortunate to have.

My core overriding principle is to know what you believe in. This is your foundation. This is your default in times of high stress or when serious decisions must be made quickly. Because of my role in the agency there have been many times when events occurred rapidly with possible severe consequences. I found myself having to react without the luxury of time and stasis to fully evaluate the situation to a comfortable end state. I think of this as a crucible where leaders are tested. I can’t imagine being in a situation like this without having and understanding my core values and beliefs.

Have situational awareness of who you are. Know your strengths and weaknesses and implement based on this knowledge. Own yourself.

Always, always try to do the right thing. Not only is it the correct way to live your life but people sense that this is your motivation. It will become part of your reputation.

Be more concerned about doing the right thing than about not being wrong. Own your mistakes. Most times others will know when you make them and attempts to hide or deny will only make you look foolish, petty and immature.

Tell the truth. Be honest in all your dealings both internal and external to your agency. I will omit information if required by confidentiality or if information will be disruptive to individuals or groups but never lie.

Indecision is a course of action; it is the decision to do nothing. You will be faced with situations that require a decision be made quickly. Make one. If it turns out not to be the best decision or just flat out wrong, observe, analyze, correct and move forward.

Allow your staff to make honest mistakes but insist that they learn from the experiences.

Know what is non-negotiable and what can be negotiated. Know why this is true.

Listen. Listen to your boss, listen to your personnel, listen to your cooperators, listen to your customers; listen, listen listen.

Try not to lose your temper. When you do, make sure it is for the right reason.

Work your boss’ problems. Seems like a simple concept but not really that common a trait. Become your boss’ go-to-person.

Help others be successful. Not only is this a good thing to do, you will also develop allies. This includes your subordinates, peers, and individuals that are in support and administrative jobs.

People are your most valuable asset. You must do your best to understand your personnel; their needs and expectations, both personal and professionally. Communicate this in words and actions.

A challenge is to balance your personnel’s needs with agency missions and requirements. If you take the money, ride for the brand.

Try to be equitable with your personnel in praise, recognition, reward and discipline. This may be difficult to consistently accomplish due to personal bias and limited resources. Do your best and be open to feedback.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. Change is constant; embrace it. Become an advocate for change that results in positive effects. However, avoid change for change’s sake. It unsettles people.

Service. Give more than you take.

Be a lifetime leadership student. The road goes on forever.


LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE:

Mark shared his leadership values and principles. What are yours? Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts here!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

On behalf of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee, I would like to wish all readers a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. May each of you take this time to reflect upon all for which you are thankful.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Exposing Our Roots: 1997 - 1998

In 1998, the TriData Corporation completed the four-phase Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness Study.

  • Phase I -Identifying the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Issues Impacting Firefighter Safety
  • Phase II - Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness Study - Setting New Goals for the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Areas Impacting Firefighter Safety
  • Phase III - Implementing Cultural Changes for Safety
  • Phase IV - Developing a Cooperative Approach

Wildland Lessons Learned Videos - 10-Year Anniversary

Additional Events from 1999

  • The Safety and Health Working Team (now the Risk Management Committee) sponsors L-180 development.
  • A 40-hour leadership development training course is proposed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Help Wanted


This blog was created as an avenue for wildland fire leaders to share their experiences in writing. Unfortunately, few have contributed. The following Seth Godin interview conducted by Dan Cathy may provide some insight and encourage wildland fire leaders to use their written voice.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Communicating Across Generations


I recently had an encounter with a young man of about 13 years of age. I had given him answers for a Halloween station he was to facilitate. As soon as he attempted to read the paper I had given him, I knew we had a serious problem. A deep sense of fear overtook him and he handed the paper back to me saying he could not read what was written. I had used cursive writing instead of printing. Our ability to communicate had taken a direct hit.

While attending L-580 this past spring, a number of participants had discussed the coming trend of public school systems eliminating cursive writing from the curriculum. Little did I know that it would be only a few months until I encountered my first experience with this new barrier to communication.

The new generation firefighter communicates differently. Right, wrong, or indifferently, changes in communication methods generally require that the older generation adapt.

I enabled my young friend to succeed by printing my work; however, there may be times in the future where technological ineptness or other factor(s) may render me unable to communicate. I keep myself open to new ideas and methods; but, I may find myself in a similar situation as my young friend some day.

How do feel about the ever-changing face of communication? How are these changes affecting communication in the wildland fire service?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Exposing Our Roots - 1995/1996


Where were you in 1995? Some of you may have been employed in wildland fire and can remember focus on changing our culture. Every once in a while I think there is great value in "exposing our roots"--letting those new to the wildland fire service know where the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program (WFLDP) began. Over the next few weeks, we'll revisit our history.

A Glance Back at 1994

Thirty four lives were lost on wildland fire incidents in 1994. Fourteen of those fatalities occurred on South Canyon fire near Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

1995

The Missoula Technology Development Center (MTDC) hosts the 1st Firefighters Human Factors Workshop.

  • "To begin to address some of the human factors questions, experts in psychology, sociology, organizations, fire safety, and wildland firefighting attended a 5-day workshop in June 1995 to discuss ways of improving firefighter safety" (Finding from the Firefighters Human Factors Workshop, p. 3).

Smokejumpers and pilots participate in Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) training.

Following the deaths on South Canyon, the BLM commissioned the Firefighter Awareness Study--a four-phase study awarded to the TriData Corporation. Phase I - Identifying the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Issues Impacting Firefighter Safety was completed in 1996.

1996

The National Park Service develops and tests a human factors course. The WFLDP now administers L-180 - Human Factors in the Wildland Fire Service. The 2010 video component of L-180 is available on YouTube. The course is currently under development for online delivery.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

When Wrong Feels So Right

"I err therefore I am." - St. Augustine
In this blog entry, I share Kathryn Schulz's video from TED-Ideas Worth Spreading titled "On Being Wrong."



Monday, October 31, 2011

Endurance

(Paul Gleason and Jim Cook)

"I would like to challenge the contemporary thinking that something or someone has to be new to be good. We make a grave mistake when we look at the future with our backs to the past. The past is what brought us to where we are." - Ralph Shrader

I recently moved into a new office and had the opportunity to walk down memory lane as I sifted through my leadership files. One of the articles I came upon was “Ralph Shrader’s Leadership Test: Is Anybody Following?” as published on January 12, 2005, in Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program (WFLDP) is an example of an enduring institution found within the wildland fire service. Agency leaders tasked with maintaining the program have vowed to bring about cultural change through “innovation and adaptation, leadership that balances stability and change, and being committed to excellence” (Shrader, 2005).

The test of an enduring institution is whether or not it can survive through leadership turnover. The WFLDP has had many great leaders, including Paul Gleason who died in 2003 and Jim Cook who retires at the end of the year. Cook, co-chair of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee, has been a guiding force in wildland leadership development. Cook’s departure will affect the institution, but Cook leaves an enduring institution as his legacy. Cook's contributions and mentoring leaves successors well-equipped and prepared to carry the torch forward.

Here are some encouraging words for upcoming WFLDP leaders:

  • "The only way a next generation of innovators comes into existence is with the guidance and shaping of successful leaders who have gone before." ~ Gregg Fairbrothers, adjunct professor of business administration at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth speaking after the death of Apple's Steve Jobs.
  • "Level 5 leaders set up their successors for even greater success." ~ Jim Collins, from his book Good to Great.
  • "I don't have to do it alone." ~ Coach Jim Caldwell, answer to "How will you fill those big shoes?" following Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy's retirement.

Thanks for showing us the way and being such a great leader, Jim!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chilean Mine Disaster Revisited

It hardly seems like a year has passed since 33 miners were rescued during the Chilean mine disaster. The Washington Post's On Leadership contributor Melissa Steffan conducted a follow-up interview with Minister Laurence Golborne about his leadership under pressure during the crisis. I found his reflections in "One Year After the Chilean Mine Rescue, Minister Laurence Golborne Reflects on Leadership under Pressure" interesting in light of Monday's post.

Here are a couple of nuggets:

  • Establish a relationship based on trust and truth.
  • Hundreds of people working together can make miracles.
  • Leaders must learn how to listen, how to listen to people and then make decisions.

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge

Melissa Minister Golborne a few questions. Reflect upon your leadership and share your answers to similar questions below by commenting on the blog.

  • What lessons have you been able to take away from your wildland leadership experience over the last year?
  • What does good leadership mean to you?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Drifting Away

"Building the team" is a guiding principle of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program. So, how do you know when your team begins to drift apart? Jesse Lyn Stoner presents the following warning signs of team drift in "Diagnose and Cure Team Drift," a blog entry on the HBR Blog Network.

  • You leave meetings feeling like they've been a waste of time, or you decide to stop having team meetings because they're not productive.
  • You have to redo work or discover there's been duplication of efforts.
  • There is increasing interpersonal conflicts within the team.
  • Team members don't have access to the information they need to do the job right and end up having to redo work.
  • You are inundated with day-to-day demands. Everything is a priority.
  • Crisis management has become a way of life. As soon as one problem is solved, another appears.
  • Your team is not getting the recognition and respect it deserves from the rest of the organization.

What can you do to build the team? Here is some sound advice from Leading in the Wildland Fire Service.

Fire leaders set the stage by creating an environment in which cohesive teams thrive: establishing a foundation of trust, enabling healthy conflict, requiring commitment, setting an expectation of accountability, and bringing focus to the team result.

Trust

Leaders start by building a foundation of trust in teams.

  • Communication is the key to building trust.
  • Communicate openly with teams and make sure to convey the essence of your values, mission, and vision.

Healthy Conflict

Leaders create teams that engage in healthy conflict.

  • Enable a dynamic exchange of ideas, the voicing of diverse viewpoints, and, ultimately, innovative solutions.
  • Focus on the what not the who.

Commitment

Leaders create teams committed to the mission.

  • Seek input and delegate appropriately
  • Involve team members from the start and actively solicit contributions
  • Make people responsible, give them enough authority to accomplish their assignment, and hold them accountable.

Peer Accountability

Leaders create teams in which team members hold each other accountable.

  • Set the example by demonstrating that team members can hold us accountable.
  • Encourage peers to give feedback on our own performance in meeting stated goals.

Team Results

Leaders create teams that focus on the team result.

  • Articulate a clear end state
  • Specify success criteria so that team members can turn intent into focused and decisive action.

Resilience

Leaders create an atmosphere that fosters resilience: teams taht can bounce back when problems or errors threaten cohesion and synergy.

  • Establish and expectation that people at all levels communicate effectivly by practicing the Five Communications Responsibilities.
  • Communicate clear leader's intent, making sure all team members understand the end state and the objectives needed to reach the end state.
  • Define roles and responsibilities so all team members have a clear picture of what they are supposed to do and how they fit into the bigger picture.
  • Track situation status so team members understand what progress has been made and can alert others when deviations occur.
  • Develop contingency plans to extend decisional space. Maintain the advantage over the environment by planning for error or unexpected evetns and calculating responses in advance.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Food for Thought and Discussion

So, here is a video that should promote thought and discussion about female leadership. Submit a comment or better yet, wildland fire female leaders, send a video message sharing your advice.

Jane Harman's Advice for Female Leaders, On Leadership.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Women of Wildland Fire

A soon-to-be blog contributor sent me a link to an article from The New York Times titled "No Longer is Leadership a Man's Club" that spawned the next blog series.

I am fortunate to have worked with some wonderful women during the 27 years I've been involved with wildland fire. These courageous women cleared the path in a male-dominated culture and profession. The leadership legacies of these women have changed our culture.

Over the next few weeks, I'd like to showcase female leaders of fire. Therefore, I need your help.

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge

Do you know of a female leader who has helped shape your career and contributed to wildland fire? Share your stories and comments with each other by commenting or submitting a full blog entry.

Featured Story

I'll begin the discussion with an all-women wildland Apache 8 firefighting crew from the White Mountain Apache Tribe: the Apache 8. These women were featured in a documentary called Apache 8 by Sande Zeig, producer/director, with funding from Native American Public Telecommunications and the National Geographic All Roads Project.

Additional resources about Apache 8:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Success or Failure


Here is a leadership challenge for readers.
  1. Watch the following short video: http://www.thestrangestsecretmovie.com/
  2. Post comments and participate in dialogue with one another about setting goals and whether or not goal setting has helped or hindered your leadership development. Are you nurturing successes or failures? Share your stories here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Anointed Ones

As someone who develops training and workforce development products, I cringe when I hear that budget cuts and workforce reductions are being considered. Training is often the first thing cut and the last thing added during tough financial times. I applaud those fire managers that invest in their subordinates because it is the right thing to do--even in the tough times.

A few years ago, I started addressing difficult situations by posing the following question: Does this situation represent an obligation or present an opportunity? A lot of managers view training of their subordinates as an obligation. Leaders know that developing their subordinates for the future is a duty and look for opportunities in the midst of financial hardships. Good leaders find the way.

Nearly as bad as the manager who cuts training is the manager who develops the rare few--the anointed ones. I found an interesting post on the Leading Blog referencing Rajeev Peshawaria, author of Too Many Bossess, Too Few Leaders.

"Peshawaria raises an important question: 'Does it still make sense to identify a few, anoint them as high potentials, and invest disproportionately in their development? As leaders, we are not good stewards of people if we don’t give everyone a 'similar development diet' and let the 'cream rise to the top on its own'."

The blog goes on to say "Peshawaria asks, 'What if the world changes in ways that require a totally different type of potential in five years compared with the benchmarks used to identify today’s high potentials? What about late bloomers—those who may not show early brilliance, but might become very valuable later on? And what about the negative impact on the morale of those not chosen as high potentials? It might be time to rethink the ‘best practice’ of identifying and developing a pool of high potentials.' Amen. Then too, we also might want to rethink what it means to be a leader and stop developing functional leaders and instead develop true leaders that can lead in changing contexts. That’s an entirely different focus."

Monday, October 3, 2011

In the Face of Fear

"Fear destroys peoples dreams, it destroys our minds and bodies, it stops us in our tracks like a huge lion in your pathway. Fear stops us from taking the action we need to take in order to be all that we can be. Our potential is so much more than we sometimes perceive." ~ Greg De Tisi.
I remember a time when the slogan "Fear This" could be found on t-shirts and bumper stickers. After 9/11, fear again became a commonly used term. Terrorism has changed our way of life. We realize we have always been, and will forever be, vulnerable.

But should fear impair our ability to act? The heroic efforts of those unselfish Americans on United Flight 93 during that fateful day in September 2001 showed that fear could be realized and turned into a powerful positive action. Their actions to bring down the terrorists in power of the aircraft may very well of saved the lives of many Americans.

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a dear friend about how fears effect decision making. She mentioned that most often fear is located in our blind spots. Confronting our fears could very well open doors of opportunites that we felt were previously closed.

In yet another conversation, a coworker and I discussed the recent movement of firefighters commited to balancing work and family. He suggested that this movement may have an adverse effect on the fire organization. He contends that leaders may be becoming more content with their present jobs and becoming less likely to move up the ladder and into much needed upper level leadership positions.

I'm not sure if the last conversation was about contentment or fear. I've talked with quite a few fire leaders who've indicated that they could never fill the shoes of those who came before them.

What are your fears? How can you turn them into a positive action?

Additional information and reading:
Johnathan Fields on Uncertainty - an interview with Steven Pressfield

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jarhead

Thanks go out to Tim Bartlett, Humboldt-Toiyabe NF, for adding another lesson plan to the Leadership in Cinema library. The Jarhead lesson plan provides a new format that local units may want to use to submit a lesson plan for another movie (including those already in the library).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lessons of Leadership from Coach Pete

A few years ago I had the opportunity to hear Boise State's head football coach Chris Peterson speak at a motivational seminar. Although I am a member of Bronco Nation and respect Coach Pete, anyone who heard his talk understands why Boise State is among the top teams in college football. Coach Pete is a quality leader who leads by example and asks that those under his direction follow suit.

Here are a few nuggets that I pulled from his presentation:

We have to be abnormal.

  • How do you set yourself apart from others?

Coach Pete says that we become abnormal by:

  • Simplifying our life.
  • Setting high standards.
  • Developing a quality work ethic.
  • Being disciplined.
  • Showing integrity (integrity always trumps loyalty).
  • Being committed (stick with your choices).
  • Being honest (free from deception).
  • Exhibiting humility (low ego and no sense of entitlement).
  • Being courageous (follow your conscience instead of the crowd).
  • Showing respect (treat all like they are important).
  • Have patience (show self-control).
  • Forgive (let go of resentment).

He also talked about creating the Bronco culture. His philosophy includes:

People

  • Building a culture starts with people.
  • Know your missions and goals.
  • Have total buy-in.
  • Drive to be the best.

Unity

  • Trust each other.
  • Control ego.
  • Candor and friction are good if ego is in check.

Responsibility

  • No one area is more important than another.

Creativity

  • Eliminate staleness and stagnation.

Competitiveness

  • A competitive spirit is good.

Enjoyment

  • Appreciate the struggles and setbacks.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Leadership Moment - Stuart

Leaders are required to confront their subordinates. Here is short clip from the movie Gettysburg where General Robert E. Lee confronts subordinate General J.E.B. Stuart after he fails to fulfill his calvary duties.

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Ability, Motivation and Attitude"

by Chris Widener

"Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it." —Lou Holtz

There are three primary aspects of your life that will determine whether or not you are successful in your endeavors. You will not be successful if you have only one or two. You must have all three working together. Consider them like the three legs of a "stool of success."

Ability—the level at which you are able to actually do things; your skill level. If you have a high level of skill, that's good. And the better you get, the better it will be for you. To the degree that you can perform your actions at higher and higher skill levels, the more and more success you will find in your chosen field.

Motivation—the level at which you are able to find "a reason to act." This is the internal drive that you find that enables you to exercise your abilities. To the degree that you can find a way, or ways, to keep yourself motivated, you will see yourself right in the thick of things, carrying out your actions to the best of your abilities and succeeding accordingly.

Attitude—the mental state you have while carrying out your actions to the best of your ability. It is the way you view the world around you and choose to see it, either positively or negatively. To the degree that you can maintain a positive attitude about yourself, others, and the circumstances you find yourself in, you will see yourself achieving greater and greater things.

"But Chris, can't I get away with just two?"

No.

What if you have high skills and motivation but a rotten attitude? People will stay away and hinder your success. What if you have a good attitude and motivation but poor skills? People will like you, maybe even root for you, but go to someone else for the skills they need. What if you have great skills and attitude but no motivation? Well, you'll be sitting on the couch like a lazy slug while the go-getters are out there making your money and achieving your dreams!

No, it takes all three. So let's ask some questions:

Ability: How highly skilled are you? Is your skill level holding you back? How so? What could you achieve if you just took your skills to the next level beyond where they are right now? How would improving your skills improve the bottom line of your success?

Motivation: How motivated are you? Why do you answer that way? What would your spouse or close friends say? Would they say you are as motivated as you say you are? Why or why not? Why do you have the level of motivation that you have? What could you do to find a higher level of motivation? What would happen if you became super motivated for the next period of your life. What great things would happen?

Attitude: Do you have a good attitude or a poor one? How would you rate yourself? What about when things go wrong? Are you more of an optimist or a pessimist? What would happen if you took your attitude to the next level for the next 60 days? What if you just chose to have an incredible attitude? What would be the ramifications?

"The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what a man or woman is able to do that counts." —Booker T. Washington

This is so true. People will judge you on what you accomplish, not what you know or what you talk about. In fact, if you know a lot or talk a lot but do not accomplish anything, people will wonder what happened. So the question is whether or not you will take the actions necessary to deliver on your potential. To do so, you will need to focus in on the three legs of the stool of success: Your ability, motivation and attitude.

Take some time this week to give some serious thought to these three areas. Your success depends on it! And when you have done some reflection, put the conclusions you come to into action!
____________________

Reproduced with permission from Chris Widener's Ezine. Chris Widener is an Internationally recognized speaker, author and radio host. He has authored over 450 articles and more than ten books, including a New York Times and Wall Street Journal Best-seller. He has produced over 85 CDs and DVDs on leadership, motivation and success In addition to being a featured contributing editor to the Jim Rohn One-Year Success Plan, Chris is a regular guest speaker receiving rave reviews! Chris demonstrates a style that is engaging and versatile while providing life-changing principles of leadership, motivation and success. If you would like to order Chris' products, including his Newest Release, The Art of Influence, as well as The Angel Inside, The Image, Live the Life You Always Dreamed Of or to book him to speak at your next event, go to http://www.chriswidener.com or send an email to speaker@chriswidener.com or call 877-929-0439. Also - to subscribe to Chris's free Ezine, send a blank email to subscribe@chriswidener.com

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Leadership Moment - Civil War

Civil rights riots are occuring across the globe. Take a look back at our own history. Leaders rise to the challenge of promoting change, but do followers always know what their leaders are fighting to accomplish?



Monday, September 12, 2011

Katrina versus Irene--Did FEMA Learn?

Over the last few weeks, leaders from across the nation have faced many crisis situations including historic wildfires, hurricanes and flooding. As Hurricane Irene set her sights on the East Coast, I reflected upon the government's response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Would Hurricane Irene release her wrath upon a still recovering New York City, most specifically Manhattan? Had the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) learned from the disaster experienced with Hurricane Katrina?

I recalled an earlier blog post showcasing an Washington Post's On Leadership interview with Craig Fugate, FEMA Director, regarding lessons learned from the Hurricane Katrina response. View for yourself whether Fugate responded to Hurricane Irene as he said he would after Hurricane Katrina.



I was intrigued by some of the recent public responses to Hurricane Irene. After the Hurricane Katrina disaster, I was amazed to hear the assertions that the government's response to Hurricane Irene was excessive, namely those inconvenience by evacuations in the New York City area. Just as with Hurricane Katrina, the full extent of the disaster was felt long after the hurricane passed. Historic flooding has been a life-changing event for many. Would those inconvenienced had the same response if New York City had taken a direct hit? Did what became a practice drill prepare those residents for a future event or will complacency reign?

As fire leaders, we must look at every incident as an unsual event and plan accordingly. There is no place for complacency in our decision making.

Additional reading:
FEMA Ready to Lead Through the Storm?, Jena McGregor, On Leadership, August 26, 2011.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lessons Learned from Columbia

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The wildland firefighting community played a large part in the Columbia space shuttle recovery efforts. Paul Keller, writer/editor for the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, and Tom Iraci, photographer, chronicled the USDA Forest Service's role in the recovery efforts in a publication titled Searching for and Recovering the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Staying true to the NWCG's Leadership Subcommittee's goal of benchmarking organizations, fire leaders might find the recent addition to the Leadership in Cinema program appealing.

A lesson plan was created to complement NOVA's 2008 documentary Space Shuttle Disaster. Space Shuttle Disaster is a behind-the-scenes look at the space shuttle project. “It offers a penetrating look at the history of the shuttle program and the political pressures that made the shuttle a highly complex engineering compromise, which fell short of its ambitious goal to make space travel routine, cheap, and safe.” (NOVA)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Greetings


"Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country." - Department of Labor website

On behalf of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee, I would like to thank all wildland fire service employees for their hard work and dedication. Happy Labor Day!span>


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Leadership Minute

Here is a short video from a well-known company regarding leaders. Enjoy!



**This is not a product endorsement.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Put Down that Mobile Device



As our country and world cries out for quality leadership, I seem drawn to the topic of command presence. Followers are crying out for leaders they trust and respect. Are you one of them?

A few years ago, I attended a prestigious leadership conference for corporate executives and leaders. The venue was small, and the attendees were some of the best and brightest this country had to offer. Not surprisingly, however, many of the attendees spent most of the day heads-down focused on their mobile devices and less on the speakers. The first speaker addressed the issue, but admitted there was little that he could do to control the behavior. Very few of the attendees put down their mobile devices and listened.

As I sat in that room that day, I realized that even the best of best leaders need to work on their command presence--most importantly their literal presence when interacting with others. If these leaders could behave in such a fashion to some the most well-known leadership experts in the world, I wondered if they would do the same during meetings with their subordinates. Additionally, would they allow their subordinates to do the same, creating a culture of inattention and disrespect?

My impetus for this entry came from Nilofer Merchant's HBR Blog Network article titled "It's the Leadership, Stupid." Nilofer discusses "how small actions lead to big outcomes." At a time like this, we don't need leaders who "check out."

Read for yourself what Nilofer has to offer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Followers Step Forward

A leader cannot lead if there is no one to follow. As leaders around the world struggle to maintain power and influence, followers are in a great position to make a difference.

Hear what Jean Lipman-Blumen has to say about the importance of followers in "The Art of Followership: How Great Followers Create Great Leaders and Organizations."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Reflection - The After Action Review


When was the last time that you referred to the After Action Review tool on the Wildland Leadership Development Program website?

"An After Action Review (AAR) is a professional discussion of an event, focused on performance standards, that enables firefighters to discover for themselves what happened, why it happned, and how to sustain strengths and improve on weaknesses."

The AAR tool in the Leadership Toolbox provides access to "Tips for Conducting AARs," a chainsaw AAR, and other AAR References. An additional reference that you may gleen some information from is a recent article by Billy Schmidt titled "How & Why to Conduct an Incident Debriefing."

When it is time for you to conduct an AAR, refer to the Incident Response Pocket Guide, p. xii.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Leadership Thoughts for the Day

Every once in a while people like to gather leadership quotes. Here is a video I found on YouTube that showcases some great leadership quotes. I've included them below the clip for those who don't have access to the video.


  • If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader. (John Quincy Adams)
  • Example is leadership. (Albert Schweitzer)
  • One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. (Andre Gide)
  • Leadership is action not position. (Donald H. McGannon)
  • Don't wait for your ship to come in, swim out to meet it. (Unknown)
  • Most things are difficult before they are easy. (adapted from Thomas Fuller)
  • Authority is a poor substitute for leadership. (John Luther)
  • Honor people and they will honor you. Fail to honor people and they will fail to honor you. (Lao Tzu)
  • The more you say, the less they [people] remember. (adapted from Francois FeNelon)
  • Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. (General George Patton)
  • Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow. (Plato)
  • Many people [a man] would rather you heard their [his] story than granted their [his]request. (Phillip Stanhope)
  • Real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination. (Unknown)
  • Leaders don't force people to follow, they invite them on a journey. (Charles S. Lauer)
  • If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever. (St. Thomas Aquinas)
  • A leader is someone who believes in you and gets you to believe in yourself. (Steven J. Stowell)
  • Leaders make the impossible possible. (Unknown)
  • Leaders consider the past, evaluate the present, and create the future. (Unknown)
  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. (Aristotle)

Monday, August 15, 2011

When No One is Watching

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. - Helen Keller

When I'm not working, I do a tremendous amount of volunteer work. There have been times when I took on a little too much and neglected self. Recently when I felt a bit overwhelmed, a friend told me, "we love you for who you are, not what you do." She was referring to my intangible attibutes: character.

Character, according to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, is defined as "one of the attributes of features that make up and distinguish an individual." Leadership experts differ on what makes up leadership character but most refer to one's values and principles.

As found in Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, "Character is the foundation of command presence. All people reveal their character in every interaction, and character shapes and permeates a leader's command presence."

If you are like me, your values and principles change as you experience life. Are you the same person when you are alone as when others are watching? Do others see the "real" you.

So what does right look like as a wildland fire leader? Leading in the Wildland Fire Service and our Values and Principles provide insight for our leaders. Like a fingerprint, character is unique to each individual. What you deem right may not be exactly what another deems right. However, this publication provides the basis from which all fire leaders can develop. If you are a wildland fire leader and don't have a copy of this publication, download it today.

In January, I brought you the leadership series "Leading in the VUCA Environment" by Col. Eric Kail, course director of military leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Col. Kail has a new six-part series on the Washington Post's blog titled "Leadership Character." Take a moment to read what Col. Kail has to say about leadership character. Here are links to the first half of his series. As others become available, I will provide the links.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Always Remember

This Saturday marks the 5th anniversary of the 2006 Krassel Helicopter incident. On August 13, 2006 at approximately 1730, helicopter N355EV, a Eurocopter AS 350 B3 under contract to the Forest Service by Evergreen Helicopters, Inc., crashed on the Payette National Forest 18 miles west of Yellowpine, ID. The Pilot, Quinn Stone, 42 and three Forest Service employees (Michael Lewis, 37-Assistant Helitack Manager; Lillian Patten, 32-Wildland Firefighter; and Monica Zajanc, 27-Wildland Firefighter) on board were fatally injured.
For those who have not seen this site: Always Remember provides a permanent location to collect, organize, maintain, preserve, and share current and historical incidents in which wildland firefighters lost their lives, to remember our fallen firefighters, their contributions, and the lessons learned from their lives or in their passing.
This site is another great "tool" to add to your leadership toolbox; this site is a great compliment to the Wildland Fire Staff Ride Library as well as the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center.
The challenge during, and after tragic events...is not letting their lessons get lost in history. WE must be vigilant in keeping their lessons alive for those who follow in their (our) foot steps. We are human, we are fallible, and we will continue to make mistakes at critical moments in time in a very dynamic environment. Some will be fatal, some serious, and some will simply be "near misses"...it's up to us to learn from those mistakes and teach these valuable lessons. WE must do better at being there for the next generation of firefighters. Not just being there, but passing on the wisdoms we've come to know.
The core to everything we do as Fire Service professionals is to never forget the firefighter on the ground...do not let the "administrivia" of today's fire management world drive you away from staying engaged at every level of your fire organization.
"ALWAYS REMEMBER"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Do You See What I See?



















Look closely at the picture above. Do you see what I do?

My husband and I recently took a vacation with friends to Bryce Canyon National Park in Southern Utah. On our first day in the park, we opted for the shuttle tour led by a jovial man named Spike.

Spike was well versed about the history of the canyon, including how weather events help shape the Clarion formations into beautiful fins, windows, spires and slot canyons. Along the way Spike would point to a hoodoo and ask if we could guess what animal or person could be found in the rock formation. Each of us had our own idea of what was found within the formation. Spike would then tell us the name the park rangers had given the formations. On more than one occasion, Spike really had to work to get tourists to "see" the object found within the rock. A few formations were a real stretch of the imagination. Do you see the hunter (Elmer Fudd) in the picture above?

One person's perception may not be another's reality. Just as with the hoodoo formations, one person may see something that another cannot. Leaders who believe that their own perception is the one and only risk creating a warped sense of reality. They may never "hear" what their subordinates are telling them.

The impetus of this entry came from an article on Leading Blog titled "Who's the King?" The author provides a parable about a lion and his quest to determine who is the king of the jungle. Read for yourself how some of us "reshape feedback until it supports what we want it to mean."

What do you see in this picture?





















How about a poodle?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Briefing and Intent Revised

A few weeks ago, members of the Briefing and Intent Revision Task Group uploaded new information to the Briefing and Intent webpages.

The "History" page provides a look into briefing through lessons learned from the military. Also included is the evolution of the briefing checklist that is found in the Incident Response Pocket Guide.

Included in the update to the "Types of Briefings" page are the four steps of a briefing as well as a document explaining the different types of briefings: information, mission, decision, and staff.

Under "Briefing References," readers will find numerous articles and documents to assist them in furthering their skills. Listed below are a few references:

Friday, August 5, 2011

Remembering Mann Gulch and Iron 44

Today we reflect upon those 13 firefighters who lost their lives on the Mann Gulch fire in Montana in 1949 and 7 firefighters in California in 2008.


Mann Gulch:
Stanley Reba; Silas Thompson; Joseph Sylvia; James Harrison; Robert Bennett; Newton Thompson; Leonard Piper; Eldon Diettert; Marvin Sherman; David Navon; Phillip McVey; Henry Thol, Jr.; and William Hellman http://www.nifc.gov/safety/mann_gulch/index.htm


Iron 44:
Shawn Blazer, Scott Charleson, Matthew Hammer,
Edrik Gomez, Steven Renno, Bryan Rich, and David Steele

Photo credit: Grayback Forestry

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Shared Purpose

Four-star General Stanley McChrystal shares what he learned about leadership over his decades in the military. How can you build a sense of shared purpose among people of many ages and skill sets? By listening and learning -- and addressing the possibility of failure.

General Stanley McChrystal is the former commander of U.S. and International forces in Afghanistan. A four-star general, he is credited for creating a revolution in warfare that fuses intelligence and operations.

Why You Should Listen to Him (taken from a TED video)

“With a remarkable record of achievement, General Stanley McChrystal has been praised for creating a revolution in warfare that fused intelligence and operations. A four-star general, he is the former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan and the former leader of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which oversees the military’s most sensitive forces. McChrystal’s leadership of JSOC is credited with the December 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein and the June 2006 location and killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. McChrystal, a former Green Beret, is known for his candor.

After McChrystal graduated from West Point, he was commissioned as an infantry officer, and spent much of his career commanding special operations and airborne infantry units. During the Persian Gulf War, McChrystal served in a Joint Special Operations Task Force and later commanded the 75th Ranger Regiment. He completed year-long fellowships at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1997 and in 2000 at the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2002, he was appointed chief of staff of military operations in Afghanistan. Two years later, McChrystal was selected to deliver nationally televised Pentagon briefings about military operations in Iraq. From 2003 to 2008, McChrystal commanded JSOC and was responsible for leading the nation’s deployed military counter-terrorism efforts around the globe. He assumed command of all International Forces in Afghanistan in June 2009. President Obama’s order for an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan was based on McChrystal’s assessment of the war there. McChrystal retired from the military in August 2010.”

"One of America’s greatest warriors."
----Secretary of Defense Robert Gates


Wildland Fire Perspective
As we reflect on all the losses we've experienced in the month of July…think about what the General has to say about "Shared Purpose". How is our environment similar to those who are serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere abroad? The wildland fire environment changes rapidly, our troops and fire ground leaders must have the ability and empowerment to act with speed and focus, positioning, and simplicity. Our environment evolves faster than people have time to reflect or react…

Leading a dispersed force in the wildland fire environment occurs daily for us…what techniques or technology do you use to communicate and empower your people? How do you build their confidence, trust and faith in you as a leader when you do not have the ability to be face to face during daily operations? How do you empower your people to take advantage of "merging opportunities"?...or as Col. Eric Carlson states, "Fleeting windows of opportunity".

How do we/ you lead a group of firefighters with the current generational differences…or "gap"? Our firefighters have changed…they are smarter, stronger, quicker and need more information…

One question that Gen. McChrystal asks during his speech is similar to the one the "Commander" (Jim Cook) asks during Redding IHC's annual staff ride of the 1994 South Canyon fire: “Where were you in 1994? How many people were fighting fire in 1994?” This year…the answers were similar to what Gen. McChrystal found out….."sir, I was in the 6th grade!" So, where were your firefighters in 1994? Where were they in 2001? It is the 10 year anniversary of the 30-mile fire…how many of your firefighters even know about the 30-mile Fire, or the South Canyon fire?

Similar to our Armed Forces of America (God Bless and thank-you for your service), we are operating a force of firefighters that must have a sense of shared purpose and shared consciousness...they have a different skill set (digital media) that we must capitalize on and which we can learn from this generation.

Through all this, we must also be mindful of the cumulative pressure on ourselves as leaders as well as our fire ground leaders. WE must watch out and take care of each other. We are in the business of Growing leaders and we must give back as our predecessors did for us…get engaged at the entry level, get engaged at the junior leader level, get engaged at the senior leader level…never lose sight of the most important asset the wildland fire service has….our firefighters.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Blink!

"...the real chicken is the one who doesn't blink." - Ron
Ashkenas

I've been drawn lately to the writings of Ron Ashkenas, managing partner of Schaffer Consulting and HBR Blog Network contributor. Last week, Ashkenas wrote a piece titled "Why Leaders Play Chicken." He contends that a lot of adults are playing a public version of this children's game and that the "outcome is rarely optimal."

The recent political climate and stress on the economy have caused a lot of unrest in the wildland fire service. Lines have been drawn, timelines have been established, and cuts have and will continue to occur. This is a time to collaborate and compromise like never before to meet our missions.

We must lead by example. Playing a game of chicken will undoubtedly have unintended consequences--most likely to the teams for which we are responsible.

Read for yourself "Why Leaders Play Chicken."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Too Much of a Good Thing

The wildland fire service has been deemed by many a high reliability organization (HRO). For those less familiar with HROs or those wanting to share the information with new members of the organization APMAdvisor.com has a great article called "Characteristics of the High Reliability Organization - How Does Your Organization Measure Up?"

Karl Weick and Kathleen Sutcliffe suggest that high reliability organizations (HROs) share the following characteristics:

  • Preoccupation with failure
  • Reluctance to over simplify
  • Sensitivity to operations
  • Deference to expertise
  • Commitment to resilience

"Deference to expertise is the focus of this blog with information taken from Managing the Unexpected by Weick and Sutcliffe as cited in a Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center's HRO Stories article titled "Morning Briefings: Boring or Effective? How Our Conversations at Briefings Can Reinforce Deference to Expertise."

“Deference to expertise pushes decision-making to the field level, migrating decisions both up and down, reducing the consequences of errors in decision-making. Decisions migrate around HROs in search of a person who has specific knowledge of the event. Deference to expertise is as much collective as it is individual.”

“Expertise is relational. It is an assemblage of knowledge, experience, learning and intuitions that is seldom embodied in a single individual. And if expertise appears to be confined to a single individual, that expertise is evoked and becomes meaningful only when a second person requests it, defers to it, modifies it or rejects it.” They also write, “Expertise resides as much in
relationships as in individuals, meaning that interrelationships, interactions, conversations and networks embody it.”

A Word of Caution

Ron Ashkenas wrote an article called "The Dangers of Deference" for the HBR Blog Network. Although this article talks about "deference to authority" where subordinates defer to hierarchical authority. I found the word of caution that Ashkenas provides about overly deferential cultures useful. Ashkenas says, "There's nothing wrong with a certain amount of deference in organizations. But when a culture becomes overly deferential, it can lead to frustration, resentment, and bad decisions."

Resources:

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Teaming" is "Winning"



A true success of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee (LSC)is the use of our support cadre--also referred to as our "eyes forward" cadre. Randy Skelton, Dupty Fire Staff on the Payette National Forest, is the LSC's Support Cadre Coordinator. These men and women come together to complete a task or project and then disband when finished. This grassroots effort has proven quite effective for the program.

Recently, Karl Moore, Forbes magazine contributor and professor at McGill and Oxford Universities, interviewed Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School, regarding the death of teams.

Edmondson believes that teams are being replaced effectively by "teaming." To Edmondson, "teaming is a verb, teaming is a skill, teaming is an activity." "Teaming" is the LSC's support cadre.

In "HBS's Amy Edmondson on the Death of Teams," Moore and Edmondson discuss how organizations and employees may have to adapt to adapt to embrace the "teaming" way of doing business.

Here are some interview highlights from Edmondson:

  • We're going to have to get better at learning how to quickly relate to people we don't know; learning how to trust them, learning how to share our knowledge, extract their knowledge, synthesize it, even though we come from very different backgrounds, different expertise areas and so forth.

  • Trust must be built quickly.

  • Team building will be conducted in the context of doing the work itself.





If you are unable to access the YouTube video, the interview transcript is available in Forbes' online article "HBS's Amy Edmondson on the Death of Teams.