Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Courage to Face Your Fears

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Monday, February 25, 2013

The Courage to Let Go

General Stanley McChrystal was a powerful and effective leader during the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. However, he never got to see the mission to completion because of a failure of trust between himself and his commander-in-chief, Barack Obama following the release of a Rolling Stone article,"The Runaway General." President Obama accepted General McChrystal's resignation following the release.

McChrystal shares his thoughts about his leadership and the incident CBS's Sunday Morning that aired on Sunday, January 6, 2013.

Leading with Courage Challenge
  • Read the Rolling Stones article "The Runaway General."
  • Watch the CBS Sunday Morning video response with McChrystal.
  • Compare and contrast what you have read and watched with members of your team.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Washington on Civility & Decent Behavior

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, on President George Washington's birthday, we honor his legacy by revisiting our July 27, 2012, post "George Washington - Beyond Childhood Myths to Leader of People." We noted that George was known as a man of character undoubtedly influenced by 110 French maxims of his day: Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation. Here are a few wildland fire leaders might consider (note they are as Washington wrote them in his school book):

  • 6th Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.
  • 14th Turn not your Back to others especially in Speaking, Jog not the Table or Desk on which Another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.
  • 39th In writing or Speaking, give to every Person his due Title According to his Degree & the Custom of the Place.
  • 40th Strive not with your Superiers in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty.
  • [4]9 Use no Reproachfull Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.
  • [5]0th Be not hasty to beleive flying Reports to the Disparag[e]ment of any.
  • 56th Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad Company.
  • 58th Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for 'tis a Sig[n o]f a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion [ad]mit Reason to Govern.
  • 59th Never express anything unbecoming, nor Act agst the Rules Mora[l] before your inferiours.
  • 73d Think before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring ou[t] your Words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.
  • 74th When Another Speaks be attentive your Self and disturb not the Audience if any hesitate in his Words help him not nor Prompt him without desired, Interrupt him not, nor Answer him till his Speec[h] be ended.
  • 82d Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Carefull to keep your Promise.
  • 110th Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Ce[les]tial fire Called Conscience.
  • Foundations Magazine provides another look at the Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.

    Other References:
    Thanks to Heath Cota, District FMO on the Sawtooth National Forest, for this blog idea.

    Wednesday, February 20, 2013

    Are You Too Talented or Gifted to Lead?

    "Vision is the prism through which you must judge everything you do." ~ Robert Kaplan
    In his video "What Does a Leader Do," Robert Kaplan, Professor at Harvard Business School, shares his thoughts about the pitfalls of being  a talented and gifted leader.

    Video Highlights:
    • Leadership is about what you do as a leader.
    • The things that leaders do are complicated; they are more difficult the more talented and gifted you are.
    • The pitfalls of being gifted include:
      • Unwillingness to learn
      • Isolation
    • To avoid the pitfalls of the gifted:
      • Practice openness
      • Seek advice
      • Be curious
      • Admit your mistakes
    • Skillful leaders ask strategic key questions:
      • What is the vision?
        • How do you add value to others?
        • Based on what clear, distinctive competence?
        • Clearly articulate your vision.
          • Write it down
          • Over-communicate it
      • What are my priorities?
        • Develop as a function of your vision.
        • Identify a maximum of 3-5.
      • How do I allocate my time?
        • 70% of your time to your priorities
    • Leadership must be learned.
    *************************** Our intent was to provide the video, but the author has made this video private. Sorry for the inconvenience.

    Monday, February 18, 2013

    Honoring Presidents' Day

    In honor of Presidents' Day, we share the history behind the holiday and honor the leadership legacies of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. This last year we have showcased these two great leaders through the Professional Reading Program and our blog series "Leaving a Leadership Legacy." If you missed those self-development opportunities, be sure to visit them by clicking on their names above.

    History Behind the Holiday

    "Presidents’ Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government. Traditionally celebrated on February 22—Washington’s actual day of birth—the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other figures, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present." (Taken from

    A Look at Washington and Lincoln

    Who is your favorite U.S. president and why?

    Friday, February 15, 2013

    Failures as Learning Opportunities

    Today's blog comes to us from Chris Graves, Training Captain/Paramedic of the Reno Fire Department. Chris has put together a short lesson on "Failures as Learning Opportunities" by benchmarking the healthcare industry.

    Paul Iske on Brilliant Failures in Healthcare
    • Watch Paul Iske's TEDxMasstricht video "Brilliant Failures in Healthcare."

    Video Highlights:
    • No progress without failures.
    • In a world as complex and dynamic as ours, not everything is predictable.
    • To find new ways for value creation, the approach of trial and error is sometimes the only way to make progress. However, often people are stimulated to reduce risk and to hide mistakes.
    • Share your failures at the Institute of Brilliant Failures.
    The Institute of Brilliant Failures Culture Checklist
    The Institute of Brilliant Failures is in the process of developing a "Brilliant Failures Culture Checklist." Review the checklist and observe the simple relationship to principles of high reliability organizing.  The checklist will be built "around the following three key organizational development themes related to a "Brilliant Failure Attitude:"
    1. Easing off the 'control button.' Control tends to suppress evolutionary, spontaneous processes. The windows of opportunity that arise are left unexplored with no option to capitalize on their potential. To counter this organizations need to examine where they could control less and navigate more.
    2. Encouraging the right type of risk taking. Many organizations, and employees, tend to play safe, to stay in their comfort zones. As a result they take implicitly or explicitly take at the low end of the risk-return trade off. To counter this organizations need to examine where, and what type of risk taking, they want to encourage.
    3. Recognizing the value of, and learning from, failure. Many organizations tend to either brush failure under the carpet or punish those responsible. In this respect the brilliant failure attitude is: 'there is no such thing as failure only feedback.' Organizations need to put processes in place to recognize the value of 'failure' and maximize the learning from this.
    (The information above was taken from the Institute of Brilliant Failures website.)

     Brilliant Failures Case Studies
    • Read the Institute's brilliant failures case study analyses. (Each follows a familiar format reminiscent of AARs. The identification of intent was the set-apart from the AAR standard four questions.)

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    MAKERS: Women Who Make America

    You won't want to miss this groundbreaking documentary of women telling their story to air on February 26, 2013 on PBS. Check out the trailer below!
    MAKERS: Women Who Make America will tell this remarkable story for the first time in a comprehensive and innovative three-hour documentary for PBS, to air in early 2013. Built on the extraordinary archive of stories already completed for, the film will feature the stories of those who led the fight, those who opposed it, and the unintentional trailblazers -- famous and unknown – who carried change to every corner of society.  (Excerpt from

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    Monday, February 11, 2013

    BLM Smokejumpers Receive “Al Dunton Award”

    BLM firefighters Ben Oakleaf and Chris Swisher have much in common.

    They're both BLM smokejumpers. They both worked on the Midnight Suns Interagency Hotshot Crew in Alaska. They're both highly respected in smokejumping circles. They're both described by their supervisors as having a great work ethic and outstanding attitudes. They've been good friends for about a dozen years, when they met while working as hotshots.

    And they were both surprised when they were named winners of the "Al Dunton Award," which honors the late BLM pioneer in fire and aviation management…

    "It was a surprise," says Swisher, who jumps out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska. "I didn't know anything about it until I was told that I won."

    "I didn't even know I was nominated until the jumper manager called me into his office and told me. I was very surprised," says Oakleaf, who is part of the Great Basin smokejumpers, based in Boise, Idaho.

    Part of the reason Swisher and Oakleaf were nominated is due to their work in combining the first-year smokejumper training. For a dozen years, the Alaska and Great Basin rookie jumpers trained separately. That didn't seem the best way to teach the ropes to the new jumpers, Swisher and Oakleaf thought.

     "Combined rookie training was done in the past. There's been talk about it through the years, about doing the training that way again," Oakleaf says. "We both have great respect for the two BLM smokejumper bases. We thought combining the training would be a good thing to do."

    Smokejumper management agreed and Swisher and Oakleaf were given the challenging assignment to make it happen.

    The combined rookie training took place in April of 2012 in Alaska. By all accounts, it was a huge success. Combined training is again scheduled for April of this year, in Idaho.

    "They were analytical, deliberate, mutually respectful of one another's opinions, and ultimately convincing that the timing was right to give this combined effort another shot," says Hector Madrid, manager of the Great Basin smokejumpers. "They developed guidelines, the training syllabus, a logistics plan and selected a cadre that shared the same viewpoints about rookie training."

    The effort proved worthwhile, according to Bill Cramer, Alaska smokejumper manager.

    "The end result was that we had a strong group of first-year jumpers who came ready to contribute. The training could not have been done any better," he says.

    Great Basin jumpers often help Alaska jumpers in the spring, the peak of the northern fire season. In turn, Alaska jumpers often "boost" firefighting efforts in the Lower 48 during July and August, when the fire season is busiest in the West.

    Having the same training and familiarity with one another is a big advantage.

    "The more we know each other and about each other, the more seamless it is when we integrate the crews," says Oakleaf.

    But it was more than the combined rookie training that distinguishes Swisher and Oakleaf. Their supervisors say the two excel in every aspect of the smokejumping program.

    "He seeks challenges, he accepts responsibility, he always looks for ways to improve," says Cramer of his colleague Swisher. "That's what resonates with me. It's not just what he did in 2012, but the way he continually performs his job.

    "He's humble, without reason to be," Cramer adds. "From his perspective, he just shows up and tries to do his job the best way he can. He doesn't think he's anyone special."

    Madrid is equal in his praise of Oakleaf.

    "Ben's strength is that he leads by example. No matter his experience, he's never been above or beyond doing a task. He has great firefighting and jumping skills. He's the full package," says Madrid. "His attitude is second to none. He's never in a bad mood, never had a bad moment, no matter the situation."

    The "Al Dunton Award" was established last year. Dunton was a rookie smokejumper in Fairbanks in 1967. He managed the smokejumper base there from 1972 through 1984 and remained active in fire management throughout his career. Much of BLM's success in fire management can be traced back to Dunton's work and innovations. The award was established by the interagency smokejumper base managers and the National Smokejumper Association, with the support of Al Dunton's wife, Mary, and other family members.

    Last year's BLM winner was Gary Baumgartner.

    The respect level is high between the award recipients.

    "On a personal note, (organizing) the combined rookie training was fun to do with Chris. We've been good friends now for a long time," Oakleaf says.

    "I think there are more worthy people than me," says Swisher, "but I'm glad that Ben was chosen."

    Says Cramer of the two, "I wish we could put them in a copy machine and duplicate them. Of course, if we did, the rest of us might be out of a job."

    Reprint from "The BLM Daily," February 4, 2013.

    Friday, February 8, 2013

    Inspiring Others

    Lessons in Mindfulness from Sherlock Holmes

    If you have been in the wildland fire service for a while, you know about Ted Putnam (US Forest Service).  Ted was a change agent for wildland fire and left an incredible legacy following his retirement in 1998. Dr. Ted Putnam held a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Montana. His research and contributions to learning psychology and decision theory within the wildland fire service have helped shape the organization. His work on human factors was critical to changing our culture following the Dude and South Canyon incidents.

    Ted was a huge proponent producing mindful leaders. Check out Big Think's Lessons in Mindfulness from Sherlock Holmes: a look at mindfulness through the eyes of a Sherlock Holmes analogy.

    Additional Resources:

    Thursday, February 7, 2013

    Texas A&M Fire Service and Fort Hood Unite


    (Photo credit: Texas A&M Forest Service. Pictured from left are Fort Hood Fire Chief Billy J. Rhoads, Col. Matthew Elledge, TFS Director Tom Boggus and TFS Fire Chief Mark Stanford)
    Feb. 5, 2013 – KILLEEN, Texas – Texas A&M Forest Service and Fort Hood military base entered an agreement Monday that will provide a faster and more efficient response to wildfires.

    The agreement allows the state agency and military officials to communicate and assist each other directly, rather than involve numerous entities and follow time-consuming procedures.
    Prior to the agreement, TFS requested resources through the Texas Divi­­sion of Emergency Management, which in turn, would apply for assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA then had to request assistance from the U.S. Department of Defense, which would fill the request for Fort Hood.

    “In emergency response, it’s critical to be swift and efficient,” said Texas A&M Forest Service Director Tom Boggus. “This agreement goes a long way toward helping us better protect lives and property.”
    (Photo credit: Texas A&M Forest Service)
    Under the terms of the agreement, TFS and Fort Hood can cooperate and collaborate on wildfire suppression, training and prescribed burning. It also allows TFS to house vehicles and heavy firefighting equipment on the military base – standing ready to help Fort Hood in the event of a wildfire on the base. And the area has seen its share of wildfire; almost 19,000 acres burned there during the 2011 wildfire season.
    (Photo credit: Texas A&M Forest Service)
    State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, said he’s pleased to see the agreement come to fruition.

    “This is a prime example of how different agencies came to the table, rolled up their sleeves and went to work to find a solution that would best serve the citizens of Texas,” Aycock said.

    Beyond Fort Hood property, TFS will now be able to directly request firefighting equipment, personnel and resources from Fort Hood Emergency Services Division to any point within a designated response zone.

    Contacts: III Corps and Fort Hood Public Affairs Office
    254-287-9993/0106 or 254-449-4023/5298

    Steven Carter, Regional Fire Coordinator

    Texas A&M Forest Service Communications

    Reprinted from Texas A&M Forest Service official website.

    Wednesday, February 6, 2013

    Innovation in the Rainforest?

    by Bob Schoultz
    I was recently invited to speak at a 3 day workshop on innovation entitled ‘Rainforest Architects,’ sponsored by Greg Horowitt and Victor Hwang, partners and co-founders of T2 Venture Capital, and co-authors of the book The Rainforest – the Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley. The conference sought to build on the themes of the book, which examines the metaphorical contrast between the well-manicured order of the plantation, and the chaos of the Rainforest. The plantation represents our disciplined, ordered, and (relatively) well organized economy. Break-through innovations have been the equivalents ofweeds that have somehow been able to flourish– weeds that traditional businesses and organized economies normally reject. “While plants grow most efficiently on farms, weeds sprout best in Rainforests.”

    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    Saving Private Ryan

    (Photo credit: Kenny Dodge at
    Our partners at Drexel's LeBow College of Business have finished their winter course and are in the process of finalizing a series of lesson plans for the Leadership in Cinema program. Their second installment is "Saving Private Ryan." Check it out in the Leadership in Cinema LeBow College of Business library today!

    Holding It Together

    Monday, February 4, 2013

    Finding Calm During the Storm

    (Photo credit: Like a Butterfly blog)
    "If you do not pay attention to what has your attention, you will give it more attention than it deserves." ~ David Allen
    I recently went through a health crisis. I had been through the same scare three times before, but this one seemed more dire. With each test the tensions built, the crisis became deeper. However, amidst the chaos, I had the opportunity to find a profound peace like none before. In "The Art of Stress-Free Productivity," David Allen speaks about how crisis evokes serenity--a point where you are fully present and at peace in the midst of a crisis.
    Choosing "Leading with Courage" as the theme for the inaugural Wildland Fire Leadership Campaign was purposeful. Days of crisis are ahead. Fire leaders will be placed in tough positions and asked to carry their organizations through the rough waters ahead. It may be quite some time before the crisis subsides, so what tools can we give our leaders to develop the "art of stress-free productivity"?

    Video Highlights:
    • "Crisis can produce a kind of calm that is rare to find sometimes. Why? It demands it!"
    • All other issues are put on the back burner, allowing for the individual to be fully present.
    • Getting something done is about appropriate engagement.
    • Crisis forces us to be appropriately engaged.
    • Get comfortable with paradoxes:
      • Paradox #1: In order to manage all the complexities and stuff of your life, you need three core principles that you understand and apply:
      • Paradox #2: The initial moves and behaviors and best practice of this may very likely feel awkward, unnatural, or unnecessary.
      • Paradox #3: Some very specific but seemingly mundane behaviors when applied produce the capacity for you to exist in a kind of sophisticated spontaneity.
    •  Things to consider and what to do:
      • Time is not the issue.
        • Increase your psychic bandwith--space to think--so that your creative energies can emerge.
      • Mess is cool.
        • However, if you're already in a creative mess, you have no freedom to make one.
      • Lessons from nature:
        • Lesson #1: Flexibility trumps perfection.
        • Lesson #2: You need the ability to be able to shift your focus rapidly in, out, up, and down quickly and present with each shift.
        • Lesson #3: Be able to put your focus exactly where you need it and the way you need it: focused attention
      • Keys to success:
        • Key #1: Capture your thinking, then notice what you'll notice.
        • Key #2: Make outcome/action decisions, then notice what you'll notice.
        • Key #3: Use the right maps, then notice what you'll notice.
    Check out "Deep Psychology: The Quiet Way to Wisdom" by Ted Putnam, U.S. Forest Service (retired) and winner of the Paul Gleason Lead by Example award.

    IGNITE the Spark for Leadership today!

    Friday, February 1, 2013

    Digging Deeper: Human Factors - TriData Report

    “There seems to be an increasing awareness towards taking problems seriously and dealing with them properly.” ~ Survey participant

    As we dig a little deeper into the Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness Study, we examine "Human Factors" findings from Phase I. Is this still true today or have we been successful to change our culture? Do we still have work to do?

    Human Factors (taken directly from the study)
    Many psychological factors play a key role in firefighter safety. First is how people cope with being in the presence of danger over the course of many fires. There were split opinions about whether complacency or denial of dangers set in over time, and whether the “can do” attitude led to unnecessary risks. The consensus was that there probably was at least a non-trivial fraction of firefighters who needed to have their attitudes changed.

    A more widespread concern was the difficulty in dealing with a large number of fire orders and watchouts, and the need to reduce their number and improve their clarity. The LCES (Lookouts, Communications, Escape routes, Safety zones) short checklist drew much praise.

    There was a large consensus that although much of current training was very good, there was not enough realistic training at every level. There is a demand for more scenarios, more field training, more training of decision making under stressful conditions, more use of video, and more use of simulations. The decline in experience has put a large premium on increasing the realism of training.

    Crew dynamics and especially crew cohesiveness were not rated as highly important by most of the firefighters interviewed and surveyed, relative to many other issues. This was somewhat puzzling in light of the importance given to this subject in firefighter fatality investigation literature, and in safety literature in general. However, many aspects of crew dynamics came up under other guises, such as concern about the increasing number of crews comprised of people who do not know each other, and the importance of having a crew supervisor who was a good people manager and communicator. Many of those interviewed who had read Ted Putnam’s work on crew decision making under stress referred to it, and expressed a belief that it was on target. Firefighters may be unaware of the importance of this issue, perhaps because it is a problem mainly in extremis, in the last minutes before an acute situation hits home. Therefore it is rarely experienced as a problem, and "They do not know that they do not know, " said one senior fire manager. Some feel that more attention should be given to keeping crews out of harms way, rather than deciding what to do when they are already in acute danger.

    Other human factors issues thought important were:
    • Rampant fatigue, with pay incentives that exacerbate the problem. Working too many consecutive hours, hiding fatigue to get better or more assignments, not having crew fatigue levels checked after arrival at a fire, and lack of adequate rest opportunities were all frequently cited aspects of the problem.
    • Personnel practices that do not provide incentives to retain experienced personnelPersonnel practices that do not provide incentives to retain experienced personnel.
    • There is a firefighting community acceptance of the need for good physical fitness, yet there is acceptance of many who are not fit, primarily for some Type II crews. Also, there is questionable validity and honesty of the step test procedure.
    A Look Ahead

    In our next installment, we'll look at Chapter 4 of Phase I: Organizational Culture.