Monday, July 16, 2012

USFS's KSC Stresses L-280

Forest Service Practice #12-9-28
Followership to Leadership

Intent of Use:  Participate in a two-day leadership course that teaches fundamental leadership principles to participants and allows them to practice those skills in a Field Leadership Assessment Course.
Applicability:    Agencywide
Key Words: leadership, followership, course, fire, development, training, curriculum, obstacles, exercises, communication, teamwork, command
Description of Practice:
The Followership to Leadership course (known as L-280) is an introductory leadership course offered by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG), a group designed to coordinate programs of participating wildfire management agencies. L-280 is designed as a self-assessment opportunity for individuals preparing to step into a leadership role. Subject areas include the art of leadership, foundations of leadership, transition challenges for new leaders, adaptive leadership, team cohesion, ethical decisions, the after action review, and putting it into practice through the Field Leadership Assessment Course (FLAC).

While L-280 was originally intended for those seeking leadership positions in fire management, Randy Skelton is now taking this course to all Forest Service employees seeking leadership positions or currently holding key leadership positions. Skelton is the Forest Service representative to the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program (WFLDP), which seeks to emphasize the vital importance of leadership concepts in the wildland fire service by providing educational and leadership development opportunities. He has led L-280 courses for forest leadership teams, which consist of the Forest Supervisor, primary supervisors, office staff, and District Rangers, in a number of forests around the country. In spring of 2012, he led two courses at two national forests which brought in 60 participants combined.This brings the total of Natural Resource Professionals who have completed L-280 to 120 particpants.

L-280 is a two-day course, consisting of one day of classroom instruction followed by a second day in the field with participants working through a series of problem solving events in small teams of four to five. The course typically runs from 8 am to 5 pm each day. In addition, participants are expected to complete about two to four hours of pre-course work. This includes becoming familiar with the material for NWCG’s L-180 course on Human Factors in the Wildland Fire Service and reading the book, “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun”, by Wess Roberts. After completing the prerequisites, each participant is asked to answer three questions designed to make the participant reflect on his or her own leadership style, strengths, weaknesses, and reasons for wanting to be a leader.

Classroom instruction on day one teaches participants basic concepts and theories of leadership. The day is divided into one-hour units. The units are: Welcome/ Introductionss/ Expectations, The Art of Leadership, Foundations of Leadership, Follower to Leader – The Transition, Adaptive Leadership, Team Cohesion, Ethical Decisions, and Putting it in Practice (which introduces what will be done on day two). For each unit, there is a brief lecture with a PowerPoint presentation, handouts for participants, and activities such as group discussions or analyzing scenarios.

Day two of the L-280 course is a Field Leadership Assessment Course (FLAC). The FLAC is a problem-solving course for small teams conducted in the field. It is intended to help individuals improve their leadership abilities and teamwork skills by giving them the opportunity to apply lessons from the classroom instruction in order to assess the degree to which they possess positive leadership traits. The FLAC is comprised of several different exercises, however the following are typically used for the Natural Resource Professionals: Jug Hook, Minefield, Spider Web, Toxic Barrel, and Lego. Groups of five participants must complete each exercise, while taking turns being the leader and the follower for each exercise. Instructors observe the groups as they complete each exercise and provide feedback on their leadership style and skills. Descriptions for each exercise are given below:
·         Jug Hook. The followers are blindfolded and each has an end of a rope that connects to one hook. The leader, who is not blindfolded, must vocally guide the followers to hook four jugs and move them to designated locations. The purpose is for the leader to clearly communicate to a small group his or her intent while working through visual barriers and to build an element of trust in a short amount of time.
·         Minefield. The followers are blindfolded. The leader, who is not blindfolded, must vocally guide the followers through a ‘minefield’ of 20 obstacles to safely reach the opposite side of a field. This exercise is designed to promote the use of a command voice and increase attention to detail.
·         Spider Web. All members must pass from one side of a web to the other, without touching the web. The leader, while working with the others, provides guidance. This exercise helps build teamwork.
·         Toxic Barrel. All members must transport a barrel from one location to another, using only one hand each and three lengths of rope which are five feet long. The leader, while working with the others, provides guidance. This exercise also promotes teamwork and problem-solving.
·         Lego. The leader views a Lego structure (made of 10 to 12 legos of assorted size and color). The leader then walks 10 feet away and tells another team member how to make the same structure. That team member walks 20 feet away, and tells the remaining team members how to make the structure, who must then try to replicate the original structure with identical Lego pieces. This exercise is designed to teach participants attention to detail as well as communication skills.

The lead instructor for the L-280 course is the person who coordinates the sessions over both days. This person should meet the minimum qualifications and instructor certification guidelines listed in the NWCG’s Field Manager’s Course Guide. This means having an accepted formal instructional training (i.e. state fire training certificate, college teacher’s credential, college education courses, NWCG’s Facilitative Instructor course, etc.) and 80 hours of successful fire service instruction. The lead instructor is usually assisted by a cadre of instructors, who should be familiar with L-280.

Critical Success Factors:
·         Lead Instructor. A lead instructor must meet the qualifications of being a lead instructor, listed above. The lead instructor is responsible for organizing the 2-day course and overseeing the cadre, explained below.
·         Cadre of Instructors. The classroom portion during the first day of the course is best handled with a cadre of two or three instructors. The FLAC portion of the course will require even more assistance; it is therefore recommended to have a total of six to seven instructors on hand for the second day. The cadre should coordinate responsibilities with the lead instructor.
·         Small class size. The ideal class size is 25 participants. This allows five groups of five participants to complete the FLAC portion of the course. This number is small enough for the cadre to assess all the participants thoroughly and fairly while still having enough people in each group to make the exercises meaningful to the participants.
·         Prepares Forest Service employees for new leadership positions, both formal and informal
·         Improves communication between fire leaders (leaders in the area of fire management) and forest leaders (district rangers or forest supervisors) in the Forest Service, by training non-fire employees on leadership terminology and skills that fire employees use frequently.

Ideas for Wider Use: L-280 was designed for fire management employees. However, it is applicable to any employee in the Forest Service currently holding or seeking a leadership position. Skelton has also conducted L-280 sessions at fire departments across the United States, and therefore sees the applicability to other organizations, not just the Forest Service.

Costs: There is usually little to no cost for the facility to hold L-280s, as the classroom portion is usually held in a Forest Service facility or a local college or high school and the FLAC portion is held in an open field. There are costs associated with the materials needed for the course. These include posters, markers, and the printing of handouts for the curriculum for day one, and ropes, hooks, jugs, blindfolds, soccer cones, string, a 30-gallon drum, and Legos for day two. Skelton estimates all of these materials to cost about $800 to $1000.

Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program:
Followership to Leadership (L-280):
National Wildfire Coordinating Group:

Point of Contact:
Randy Skelton
Deputy Fire Staff Officer
Region 4
Office: (208) 634-0746

Compiled June 2012

1 comment:

Randy Skelton said...

Thanks for posting Pam. It is very rewarding to share how we train leaders in Wildland Fire with Agency Administrators and Natural Resource Professionals.