Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Putting Yourself Out There

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The Hot Seat - Outside Our Comfort Zones

If you have participated in a tactical decision game (TDG), you know what it feels like to go outside your comfort zone and sit in the hot seat of decision-making in a simulated environment. You have "put yourself out there." Granted, you may have feared the criticism of your peers and facilitators, but the exercises were safe. A poor decision made during a sandtable exercise (STEX) can be erased with the swipe of a hand or a minor adjustment of the facilitator.

"TDGS provide a simple, adaptable, and effective method of repeatedly challenging a firefighter with tactical situations that include limitations of time and information. By requiring a decision regarding the situation and the ability to communicate it in the form of clear instructions, the firefighter will gain precious experience and skill in actual tactical decision-making.

There is no substitute for experience of the real thing, but it can be hard to come by and tragically unforgiving. Fortunately there exists a supplement to the school of hard knocks. Pattern recognition skills can be improved, and tactical decision-making can be practiced and refined. Tactical decision games (TDGS) are role-playing exercises designed to place individuals in some sort of decision space." (Taken from the "Design and Delivery of Tactical Decision Games" - TDGS/STEX Workbook.)

Beyond the TDGS

 As I mentor wildland fire leaders across the nation, I am amazed to see individuals with such "can-do" attitudes become less than when I suggest they move outside their comfort zones and appear on video, write a blog article, or become a Spark to ignite a passion for leadership in other students of fire.

Wildland fire leaders are a humbled mass when it comes to openly sharing our thoughts and feelings about the issues we face. Documenting and showcasing our leadership successes and mistakes has become a political hotbed, stifling the discussions that bring issues to light. We need confident, professional fire leaders who are willing to "put themselves out there" in order to grow the organization.

Hope is on the Horizon

Hope is on the horizon, however. Over the last couple years, I have seen groups like the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center (LLC) and our agency partners create a movement by showcasing wildland fire leaders and individuals stepping up to contribute to the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program (WFLDP) through the blog and participation in IGNITE the Spark for Leadership initiatives. Here are links to a few efforts:

A Personal Reflection

The WFLDP blog was started on August 27, 2009. If you go back to our first posts, you will see our modest attempts to "put ourselves out there." If you look closely, the author of the posts was ghost writer WF Leader. Our blogger lacked the confidence to identify self and feared failure. However, a small group of L-580 participants and fire leaders under the leadership of Bill Molumby led by example by writing about their Gettysburg Staff Ride experience. They were willing to lead, but the effort lost traction and few followed. "Putting themselves out there" on the world wide web meant people would see their work and, heaven forbid, comment on their posts.

In January 2010, after much contemplation, I decided that if the L-580 group was willing to post their names, I would drop the ghost writer facade and post as myself. My posts were short and predominately reposts of other topics or posts I had collected along my leadership development journey. However, over time, I became more comfortable with writing and slowly fear of failure diminished enough that I would write more often and eventually set up a regular schedule for my contributions and began to mentor others to contribute as well. Dropping the cloak of anonymity opened me up to criticism. I realize not everyone agrees with my posts, but I do know that I have provided an example by which other wildland firefighters can follow.

For Cramer fans from the television show Seinfeld, I am "out there and loving it." If I can do it, so can you.

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