Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Professional Reading Program - How do YOU use it?

A while ago the WFSTAR program came to the WFLDP Professional Reading Program and asked if they could help us broaden our reach by featuring the program in the annual fire refresher video series. This is the result.

Professional development is an essential part of a wildland firefighter’s job. The goal of the WFLDP Professional Reading Program is to provide a set of tools to firefighters and leaders. The books found in the Professional Reading Program list are tools that can be used to sharpen our skills and help us become better firefighters and leaders. But, like any tool, they are only useful if they are being used.

In the early parts of my career, there weren't a lot of entertainment options available while out and about. Cell service was minimal if you had a cell phone, and there certainly weren't any games or apps on them. No browsing Facebook on your iPad, no watching cat videos on your Kindle. There were always books floating around, cribbage boards were almost mandatory on crew trucks and in bunkhouses, and hacky sack was a main attraction whenever you had more than four or five firefighters standing around waiting for whatever. So a lot of people read in those slow times. I knew a lot of people that carried a book in their line gear. Now, not so much. Some people still read, but more are sucked in by the wide array of entertainment options on our devices. I know I get sucked into the mindless browsing during slow moments.

It's definitely not as easy to make time for reading and reflection as it was twenty years ago. Technology has provided us with a huge number of distractions. But at the same time, technology has given us tools to make reading and reflective thought easier as well... e-readers, audiobooks, TED talks by authors, even podcasts all can deliver the ideas found in some of our leadership titles.

It's a challenge to make time to read, and reflect on it, but it really is a critical part of personal development, for leadership and followership both. The important part is not to simply read and move on, it's to take the time to reflect on the ideas in the book, and how they apply in your situation. Books like Yes to the Mess and Turn the Ship Around don't really have a direct, one-to-one relationship to fire leadership, but the ideas about leadership, organizations, and individual behavior do relate to what we do on a daily basis.

I challenge everyone to pick a book from this years list, read it, listen to it, watch some TED talks about it, think about the ideas presented in it, and how they can apply in your organization. I also challenge folks to take it one step further, and identify which ideas you can put into practice in your day-to-day activities, and do it. Step out and take action on the things you find valuable from your reading and reflection. Leaders are Readers!

Until next time...

For more information on the WFLDP and the Professional Reading Program, check out the website and the tools available there.  

Justin Vernon is a regular guest contributor on our blog. Justin works for the United States Forest Service and is a member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee as the steward of the Professional Reading Program. Check out his Chasing Fire blog. All expressions are those of the author.

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