Thursday, April 28, 2011

WLFDP Joins Facebook

After months in the approval process, the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program (WFLDP)has joined Facebook. This social media tool will be a powerful tool to reach the new generation firefighter.

A big shout out to Jenn Smith, NIFC External Affairs and NWCG Leadership Subcommittee advisor, for giving wildland firefighters yet another tool to share leadership successes and innovations.

Help us out by becoming a fan of the page by clicking "Like."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Two More Chains" Launched

The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center recently launched a new quarterly publication called Two More Chains.Articles in the spring 2011 issue include:
  • "So You Call for a Medivac. . ."
  • "Ground Truths: Digging Through Incident Reviews" by Travis Dotson
  • "One of Our Own" by Sarah Cuddy
  • "Shop Talk: Tips to Improve Radio Coverage with Your Handheld"

Take a moment to check out this valuable information.

If you have any questions about Two More Chains, please contact: Paul Keller,, 503-622-4861.

Monday, April 25, 2011

North Zone Fire - Winner of the 2010 Lead by Example Award

Congratulations go out to North Zone Fire Management from the Black Hills National Forest. They are the winner of the 2010 Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award for mentoring and teamwork.

Citation letter excerpt:

"North Zone Fire Management employees have risen to the challenge of building leadership—not only within their own organization but also throughout the wildland fire service as a whole. In 2010, the crew came together to create 10 lesson plans for the Leadership in Cinema program that showcase leadership lessons found in the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers. Members of the crew were also instrumental in revitalizing the briefing and intent tool in the Leadership Toolbox. Thinking beyond themselves, the crew attempted to raise more than $10,000 for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation through various fundraisers. North Zone Fire’s efforts through mentoring, teamwork, and giving of selves are examples of duty, respect, and integrity."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Those Who've Gone Before Us

As a believer that leaders are born not made, I agree with the authors of "Lasting Leadership: Lessons from the 25 Most Influential Business People of Our Times" when they say, "people who choose and are determined to become influential business leaders can benefit from observing other leaders and using their observations to nurture their own leadership style."

The authors identify eight attibutes of leadership, most of which apply to wildland fire as well:

  • They are able to build a strong corporate culture.
  • They are truth-tellers.
  • They are able to find and cater to under-served markets.
  • They can "see the invisible."
  • They are adept at using price to build competitive advantage. (In our case, adept at being innovative in the face of budget shortfalls.)
  • They excel at managing and building their organization's brand.
  • They are fast learners.
  • They are skilled at managing risk.
The Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program showcases former wildland leaders. At the present time there are 11 interviews students of fire can review in Leaders We Would Like to Meet. Take a moment to get to know these leaders.

Leadership Challenge from Leaders We Would Like to Meet

The intent behind this collection of interviews is to begin recognizing those that have spent their career providing exemplary leadership to firefighters and capturing their lessons for future leaders. If you are interested in interviewing someone for this feature, click here to review the interview guidelines. After reviewing the guidelines, contact a member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee for further information.

Monday, April 18, 2011

2010 Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award Winners

The Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award is presented by the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee to remember Paul Gleason's many contributions to the wildland fire community and recognize individuals or groups that exhibit the same spirit and dedication to leadership...those who lead by example. This national recognition will acknowledge those in the wildland fire service who exemplify the wildland fire leadership values and principles.

On behalf of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee, I'm proud to announce the 2010 winners of the Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award. This year two individuals and one group received the award:
  • Thomas Taylor - Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest, US Forest Service
  • Jason Fallon - Colorado Fire Management District, US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • North Zone Fire Management, Black Hills National Forest, US Forest Service

Additionally, a posthumous award was presented to the family of Budd Moore, former Director of Fire and Aviation for the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Region.

In the coming weeks, we'll showcase the winners and their leadership accomplishments.

If you know someone who you believe is worthy of the award or want more information about the award and past recipients, visit the Wildland Fire Leadership Development website.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Being Mindful of HRO

How mindful is your agency or crew?

It has been a while since we touched upon the concept of high reliability organizations (HROs) and with the fire season upon us, new as well as returning wildland firefighters should use this opportunity to touch upon HROs. An article by Keith Hammonds on Fast titled "5 Habits of Highly Reliable Organizations" provides leaders with an easy-to-understand tool with which to brief their crews.

Here are Hammond's twist on Karl Weick's five habits of highly reliable organizations:

  1. Don't be tricked by your success. Be preoccupied by your failures.
  2. Defer to your experts on the front line.
  3. Let the unexpected circumstances provide your solution.
  4. Embrace complexity.
  5. Anticipate--but also anticipate your limits.

Hammond provides examples that all levels of your fire organization will understand as well as a short quiz to gauge the mindfulness of your organization.

Additional Resources:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Conflict Among Leaders

I wrote this post quite some time ago. Ironic that it may post automatically during a government shutdown where executives leaders cannot agree on a budget."

My time in fire has allowed me the opportunity to work for one specific agency yet be involved with interagency cooperation. Leadership in an interagency environment is difficult at best, and I've seen quite a few clashes in leadership--whether between a leader and subordinate or among organizational leaders trying to maintain loyal to their agency while trying to meet the goals of the combined organization.

I found a great article on leadership clashes on Knowledge @ Wharton called "Clash of the Titans: When Top Executives Don't Get Along with the Team." Causes for such clashes may include personality differences and conflicting visions or agendas. The authors of the article provide insight into this type of leadership conflict and provide a couple tools organizations can use to assist their leaders. As we enter a period of rapid retirement in the federal workforce, these tools could prove invaluable to fulfill the wildland fire service mission.

Executive Coaching

  • Determine the real causes of conflict.
  • Reestablish trust between team members.
  • Repair or build relationships.
Here is a video from leadership expert John Baldoni about peer coaching.

Getting It Right the First Time

  • Hire the right leader.
  • Know your candidates.
  • Include lower level leaders who are familiar with the organizations culture in the interview process.
  • Select the candidate that "will bring both vision and an ability to work on a team."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What’s Fear Got to Do With It?

We welcome a new contributor Jeremy Bennett to the blog. Jeremy is the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Regional WUI and Prevention Specialist, Midwest Region and BIA representative to the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee.

A Lesson from Fear

What motivated me to write this? For many years I have been writing short stories in my journal (not imaginary stories, but significant events in my life, questions, experiences, and expressions of gratitude), documenting my ideas and thoughts, which to me, seem profound lessons or moments of understanding. I enjoy writing (when I can get my thoughts to come out like I think them in my head), and have a deep aspiration to someday write a book. I have also received great feedback from my annual Christmas letter (often bringing family members and friends to tears) and other “stories” I have written. But there has always been something holding me back, a fear that I don’t exactly know the origin of. It is a fear of being judged, a fear that what I say or write is not good enough. Whatever the cause of this fear it has held me back, it has blocked me from sharing my ideas and stories which may have impact on someone else, passing on information that could be useful to someone.

Fear is a very powerful negative emotion. Fear can inspire people to do bad things, it breads ignorance, can be a huge motivator, but also can cause paralysis or inactivity. Overcoming fear, to turn away from fear and ignorance, is an important step for a developing leader. It is often noted that we fail at the fringe of our experiences, accidents and fatalities are often tied to “missing slides,” not having the experience to make timely or adequate decisions. Think about what you are not good at, what makes you uncomfortable, what are your own weaknesses, and the things or situations you want to avoid. Many of these are somehow tied to a fear of some sort, at some level. Many times this fear is the root of our failures.

Writing this brief blog article is for me overcoming a fear that has been blocking me. I can thank a guy by the name of Tim Ferriss and a video I stumbled across of him telling a story about his own fears and his process for overcoming them. This story inspired me, it motivated me, and gave me enough confidence to turn fear in to a learning opportunity (turning a negative into a positive and using this as a powerful learning experience).

My plan is to write a series of articles or stories about my journey (thus far) towards becoming a “student of fire.” I hope to inspire some thought in others about what it means to them to be a student of fire. More to come…the pressure is on!

What fears are holding you back? Face those fears and expand those fringes of experience.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Show Them You Care

Here is an amazing example of leadership in action from an interview that Dr. Useem, a valued Wharton School partner, conducted with Charles Elachi, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director in "Capturing the Spirit of Opportunity: Leadership Lessons from the Mars Missions."
"Another important factor is that employees must really feel that they can rely on your leadership. I do care about the employees, and they see it. I go out of my way to meet with them. I made a resolution that every year, every employee would have a chance to meet with me, even though we have 5,500 employees. I line up meetings with groups of employees every week. They know I care and want to hear their concerns. Whenever I get any input from employees, I assure them that some action will be taken. The action might be that I don't agree with them, and so we may not make any changes, but they always get a response."
  • As our wildland fire employees return to the job, what do you plan to do this season to show your subordinates that you care? Share your ideas here.
  • Do you put more effort into caring for permanently employed subordinates than you do your temporary workforce?