Monday, December 31, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Looking Back at 2012

A lot of information has been shared via the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program blog this year. I thought I would share a few of the highlights and accomplishments with our readers. Of significance was the infusion of fire service videos and stories. We are beginning to share our stories and successes--to that this weary blogger is grateful!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Interconnecting to Make a Difference

I received the following comment from Debbie Wappula via our Facebook page:

"I work at a hotel. I had never dealt with a fire before and when we were home to almost 100 firefiighters over the month of October, I took it upon myself to learn everything I could as quickly as I could to help make the jobs of the overhead team a little easier...I took ICS 100, 700, and 800 online while they were here. I developed a hotel spreadsheet that the logistics guy requested when he was sent to NY for Hurricane Sandy...anything they needed, I became."

Debbie is an example to follow for our fire leaders. She willing went above and beyond her normal job duties to become a part of something bigger. Being in training, my office has addressed more requests to avoid the very classes that Debbie volunteered to take to learn more about our business. That is leadership!

Debbie in now a fan of our social media platforms and provides comments on our pages as well as supports other wildland fire partners. She embraced what many of us take for granted! Debbie became a part of our world when we entered hers. We are interconnected.

Nick Skytland, NASA, shares his experience of being a part of something bigger in an interconnected world. He shares wildland fire's connectedness with NASA during the Columbia Space Shuttle Recovery Operation. He also shares a national effort to "bring together citizens, software developers, and entrepreneurs from all over the nation to collaboratively create, build, and invent new solutions using publicly-released data, code and technology to solve challenges relevant to our neighborhoods, our cities, our states and our country."

Video Highlights:
  • We are more interconnected than ever.
  • Technology is shifting the way we look at our problems.
  • Many citizens want to participate in government.
  • Mass collaboration is possible today through technology.
Teamwork and collaboration are core principles within the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program (WFLDP). How can we come together to make the world a better place to live and work.

The NWCG Leadership Subcommittee wants you to be a part of shaping this country and the wildland fire service for years to come. Together with the private sector and this nation's citizens we can grow and learn and be better.

Through an informal partnership with Drexel University's LeBow College of Business students have become a part of government and the development of wildland firefighters across the nation. They saw the benefits of the Leadership in Cinema program and will begin populating our library with new and innovative leadership lesson plans. This is a win-win situation for anyone wanting to grow in leadership whether a wildland firefighter or not.

I have a few questions to ask of our readers:

For more information on the shuttle recovery effort, read "Searching For and Recovering the Space Shuttle Columbia."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Best Wishes for Happy Holidays

Whatever is good, whatever brings you joy...
May it be yours during this magical season
and throughout the coming year.
Have the best ever holiday season!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ready to Launch!

After nearly a year of work and consultation with the field, the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee (LSC) is prepared to launch a nationwide wildland fire leadership campaign. The 2013 campaign, Leading with Courage, runs between January 1 and November 30 with members of the wildland fire community working together to focus on a central leadership theme and begin the process of sharing leadership success stories and resources.

The success of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program continues to be support from the field. Therefore, all those familiar with the IGNITE the Spark for Leadership initiative are asked to be the hands and feet of the effort and spread the news of this effort like wildfire. What do you say readers? Can we do this? Can we create a movement that makes a difference in the program and the development of our fire leaders? Can you take what those who came before you created to the next level and beyond? What will your legacy be?

Campaign Intent

Task: Provide an opportunity for wildland fire service personnel to focus leadership development activities on a nationally-sponsored, centrally-themed leadership campaign and recognize local leadership participation efforts.

  • To foster a cohesive effort to promote leadership across the wildland fire service.
  • To provide a template that can be used to encourage leadership development at the local level.
  • To provide a mechanism to collect leadership best practices and share throughout the wildland fire service.
End State: Creation of a wildland fire service culture that willingly shares leadership best practices in order to maintain superior service-wide leadership.

2013 Wildland Fire Leadership Campaign - Leading with Courage Reference Guide

The campaign is
flexible. Local units and crews may use or adapt any or all materials contained within the Leading with Courage Reference Guide  or develop a program or activity spotlighting the campaign theme and the Wildland Fire Leadership Values and Principles. Campaign coordinators are encouraged to think outside the confines of the template and develop a program that meets local and individual needs.

IGNITE the Spark for Leadership Contest – From the Field for the Field
Throughout the nation, wildland fire leaders are building teams and developing their people using tools they have found or developed themselves. Imagine if our leaders and their subordinates shared their experiences and successes with each other. Consider the possibility of going to the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program website and having a ready-made palette of leadership development tools—items from the field for the field—from which to choose.

Using the spirit of healthy competition among wildland fire crews and personnel, the “IGNITE the Spark for Leadership Contest” is intended to be one of the mechanisms used to collect leadership best practices to be shared throughout the wildland fire service.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ready to Lead

Doomsday. 2012. End of the Mayan calendar. Zombie war. Apocalypse. Geomagnetic reversal or pole shift. Loss of biological diversity. Solar flares. Collision of Planet Nibiru. Black holes. Global warming. Arrival of the next solar maximum. Galactic alignment. Timewave zero. Alien invasion. Photon Belt. Supernovas. Web Bot project.

Doomsday, as a figure of speech, means a variety of things to different people. Leadership can also have different meanings, but can ultimately be defined as the art of influencing people in order to achieve a result. So, doomsday and leadership? All disasters and chaos require leadership to step up, push through and overcome obstacles to return a state of normalcy.

As a leader, you provide duty, respect and integrity as your values and principles. Duties include proficiency, sound decisions, follow through and development. Team building, providing information and looking out for your people creates respect. Integrity applies to taking responsibility, improving and setting the example.

Leadership is about doing the right thing including setting a vision, direction, goals and plans. Every person has some leadership qualities. Such qualities consist of self-confidence, professional competence, sound judgment and appropriate decision making, ability to communicate and leadership styles. Leadership styles range from telling others what to do, convincing others by analyzing the good and bad, consulting others to participate in the decision, and joining others in the consensus of the decision. When disaster strikes, a mixed-style of leadership may be the most useful approach.

Whatever doomsday you may or may not think may happen, leadership will be needed and leaders should be ready. Whether to lead a group through that zombie war, to safety or shelter from an asteroid collision or evade an alien invasion, you, a leader, will be needed. Prior to the chaos, figure out what kind of leader you will be and what qualities you can improve. Take on doomsday and be ready to lead…Others will follow…


Thanks to Jenn Smith, NWCG Leadership Subcommittee Communications, for this article.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Boise National Forest Job Opportunities


Thanks to Heath Cota, NWCG Leadership Subcommittee, and the Boise National Forest for this post.

Do Your Subordinates Have Alter Egos?

How many of you are as excited about going to work as Michael Kerr?
Some might say that having fun while working is unproductive and unprofessional. The wildland fire service is no different than other organizations. We want our employees to have fun doing their job while providing safety. What fun looks like may be different for everyone, but creating a culture where our employees like to come to work often results in higher productivity and increased morale. Take a look at a few examples where people make a difference, are more productive, and are having fun.

How does your unit or agency incorporate fun into the work environment? What can be done in the government culture to have fun and keep professionalism We would like to hear from you!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Don't Like the Answer? Don't Ask the Question!

A while back a friend told a story about a conversation she had with her husband. My friend asked her husband a question and didn't like the answer he gave her. His reply: "If you don't like the answer, don't ask the question."

How many times do we ask a question hoping to get the answer we want to receive? As leaders, we need to be willing to accept whatever answer we get to a question even if it isn't what we expected.

In the blog post "Don't Ask for Feedback Unless You Want It," Ron Askenas offers the following advice with regard to feedback:
  • Think carefully and consciously about whether you really want feedback, and why. If you truly think that you could benefit from someone else's thinking, then ask for it. But if you feel confident that what you are doing or thinking is already good enough, then it's okay not to ask. In other words, don't ask for input as social convention. Do it only if you mean it.
  • If you do ask for feedback, be prepared to seriously consider it. That doesn't mean that you have to do everything that's suggested, but you should at least listen and think about it. Then give the person who provided the feedback some acknowledgement or thanks for making the effort (and maybe even an explanation of what you've done with the input).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Vet Crews Taking Root in the BLM

2012 Accomplishment Story: National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) This year marked the start of something new as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) created five veterans fire and fuels hand crews in 2012. A veterans hand crew is a firefighting crew staffed completely or nearly completely with military veterans. Like any other crew, these crews train hard for the job of fire suppression. When they are not being used in fire suppression, the crews remain productive by doing fuels reduction projects.

Three of these vet crews are full 20-person hand crews, and they were put in place in Las Vegas, NV; Klamath Falls, OR; and El Dorado Hills, CA. Two smaller vet fire and fuels crews were started in Spokane, WA and Medford, OR. Along with virtually every other BLM firefighting resource, these firefighters had plenty to do in 2012…

Fire crews composed mostly of military veterans were stood up in California, Oregon and Nevada in 2012. Two members of the Lakeview veterans crew are shown at work at the Lava Fire, in southern Oregon, last July.
Vet crews are unique in that they take advantage of a largely untapped human resource: capable people recently out of the armed forces. With changing military missions, many new veterans are looking for solid and challenging job opportunities.

"Hiring recent members of the military is a natural fit for the BLM," said Howard Hedrick, deputy assistant director for BLM Fire and Aviation. "Veterans bring a whole set of positives to the firefighting job, including a team focus, discipline, and a capability for hard work in difficult conditions."

The BLM expects to hire 40 more veterans for fire and fuels work in Idaho and Montana in 2013—albeit in smaller, 5-person units. Veterans have served our country in the armed forces, and the BLM is pleased to give something back to them.


Reprinted from "The BLM Daily," December 12, 2012
National Interagency Fire Center

Lots of Fire…and Lots of Safety

By all accounts, 2012 was an incredibly busy fire season for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) firefighters. Wildfires blackened 3.3 million acres of BLM land this year—more than a third of all lands burned by wildfire this year in the entire country. BLM Districts in Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Idaho were hardest hit by wildfire.

BLM engine crews, hotshots, smokejumpers, helitack crews, and support personnel spent months on fires this year. In fact, BLM fire personnel (including casual fire personnel sponsored by the BLM) worked 6.5 million hours in 2012, which equates to an almost 20% increase in overall wildland fire suppression hours worked over a typical fire season. In short, we had a lot of exposure to risk in 2012.
BLM's overall fire safety record was good in 2012, despite one of the busiest seasons in recent years.
In spite of the increased exposure to risk, however, the BLM's accident frequency rate did not increase…

The BLM fire program did see an upswing in accident reporting and more attention to near-miss events, which culturally we view as a positive signal. And though we had our share of accidents, the number of accidents did not increase commensurate with the increased exposure to risk. Further, it is worth noting that the BLM had no ground firefighter fatalities in 2012.

BLM fire and aviation personnel do a lot of driving in support of our mission, so transportation is important aspect of safety. The BLM Transportation unit at NIFC, which provides transportation support nationwide, logged over 540,000 miles in 2012 without a serious accident.

No fire season is ever perfect from a safety standpoint and some significant accident situations did occur this year. However, decisive thinking and actions by firefighters prevented more serious outcomes in a number of instances. Overall, this year's indicators demonstrate a focus on safety and good risk management decision-making. As we continue to embody the principles of High Reliability Organizations, we are never satisfied with our accomplishments in safety; however, this year's safety record is worth noting and everyone who contributed to this year's safety achievements deserves some thanks and recognition.
Reprint from "The BLM Daily," December 5, 2012.
Let us tell the your agency's fire story by sending us your successes!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Growing the Organization by Breaking the Rules

From time to time, I write about innovation. When I do, I hear the cries of the masses tell me that the fire service doesn't innovate. Well, according to Carl Bass, those naysayers may be right. The fire service as a whole may not innovate, but the individuals it employs do. Check out the video and reflect upon how you as a member of the wildland fire service can be the movement of innovation to better the whole.

(Besides, Bass shares a lot of cool stuff that will change our world in the very near future..)

Here are some highlights from the video:

Innovation is Not...
  • Invention
  • Scientific Discovery
  • Mathematical Proof
Innovation is...
  • Innovation is the process by which we change the world.
  • Innovation is about making things better in significant and meaningful ways.
  • Innovation is the practical application of ideas and technologies to make new and better things.
  • Innovation is hard.
  • Innovation requires taking chances.
  • Innovation requires challenging those things we think we know with certainty.
  • Innovation is about taking risk and breaking the rules.
Bass's Reflections
  • Nearly every company he knows wants to be innovative
  • Innovation is fundamentally not a corporate phenomenon.
    • Companies aren't particularly good at taking risk and breaking rules. They are good at making rules and minimizing risk.
  • Innovation is done primarily by individuals.
    • Companies need to hire the right people.
  • We need innovation to solve the grand challenges of our civilization.
Five Trends Affecting Innovation:
  1. The Age of Access and Experience
  2. Business Un-usual
  3. Digital Fabrication
  4. The Rise of Information
  5. Infinite Computing

Friday, December 7, 2012

Making Sound and Timely Decisions

Making Sound and Timely Decisions (Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, pp. 30-32)
To make sound and timely decisions, fire leaders assess the situation, seek out relevant information, weigh options, make judgments, and initiate action as required to create a positive outcome within inevitable time constraints.

The cornerstone of good decision making is good situation awareness. Leaders can increase their decision space by attaining and maintaining good situation awareness. Decision space is simply the amount of time that a decision maker has for considering options before reaching a required decision point.

Leaders can optimize their decision space by using time efficiently. Seeking advance information in new situations or utilizing standard operating procedures for routine tasks are examples of techniques that make good use of available time.

In the wildland fire environment, decisions have serious consequences and often can have life-or-death implications for others. With so much on the line, we have a responsibility to understand the decision-making process—the components, the flow, the effect of time—and to develop the skills and confidence that enables us to make the best decision possible with the information and time available.

Decision-Making Skills for Fire Managers from David Garvin
Prescribed fire and fire use managers had the privilege of hearing from decision-making expert David Garvin, Harvard Business School professor and author of Learning in Action (recommended read in our Professional Reading Program).  Share this video with your fire team today!


Thanks to the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center for sharing this presentation with all of us.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

LBE Deadline Approaching!!

The deadline is quickly approaching for this year's Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award. Visit our website TODAY!

Monday, December 3, 2012

No Time for Leadership--I'm Fighting Fire

Imagine my shock this summer when I spoke with four hotshots crews as they passed through the mobilization center at NIFC and one crew member stated, "We don't have time for leadership, we're out fighting fire." Leadership is not something we fit into our busy schedules. Fire leaders make time for leadership--not only for themselves but for those they lead and serve.

Had this been my only experience that day, I might have considered it an isolated incident. Unfortunately, few knew about, few had attended any leadership training, and even fewer jumped at the chance to take a leadership pamphlet. What bothered me most was that some looked over their shoulders at their supervisors as if to gain permission to take one. Others came to me, ever so shamefully, to whisper, "I'll take one of those." Leadership development should be accessible to all and encouraged by every wildland fire leader in the organization because every individual has a leadership responsibility.

Levels of Leadership (Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, pp. 22-23)
Leaders provide purpose, direction, and motivation to those they lead. Although these leadership requirements are similar for the leaders at different levels of an organization, the challenges faced and the perspective required to meet the challenges are considerably different at each level.

  • To become competent in basic job skills.
  • To take initiative and learn from others.
  • To ask questions and develop communications skills.
Leaders of People
  • Accept responsibility not only for their own actions but for those of their team.
  • Act to develop credibility as leaders: placing the team ahead of themselves, demonstrating trustworthiness, mastering essential technical skills, and instilling the values of the organization in their teams.
Leader of Leaders
  • Build trust.
  • Act as a conduit between the organization and the people on the ground, interpreting the vision into mission, translating abstract ideas so that subordinate leaders can take definitive action.
Leaders of Organizations
  • Manage the most complex and high-profile emergency incidents.
  • Plan for future operations as well as mentor promising people for key roles in our organizations.
  • Represent the face of the wildland fire service to cooperators, stakeholders, and the general public.
Next Steps
Leadership development does not have to be conducted in a vacuum. The Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program offers a wide variety of resources for all levels of leadership. Therefore, become a part of something bigger and embrace, including the blog and Facebook presence.

In 2013, we will roll out a leadership campaign intended to bring all units across the nation together with a common purpose for leadership development. Stay tuned for more information!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy Holidays

May you celebrate
this beautiful season
with joy in your home,
peace in your world,
and love in your heart!