Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Consistency - A Key in Leadership Success

Keys to success
(Pixabay/Free Graphic Today)
A few years back when I was officiating college and high school basketball, I wasn’t considered the best—as a matter of fact I was yelled, screamed, and cursed at by the best of crowds. However, as voted on by the coaches, I was the most consistent referee during my time. There was never a school I couldn’t officiate in. Coaches knew that if I was officiating their game, I would be consistent with my calls.

I believe consistency in leadership is a real key to success. Some define a good leader as someone who can attract followers—and this rings true to a point. But a leader and followers need to know where they’re headed, or they’ll wander aimlessly. To find leadership success, you must be committed, pay attention to detail, and consistently stay focused on your end state. Without a steadfast sense of direction, your end state becomes blurred; and slowly but surely, you start to lose momentum.

In our fire culture, it’s difficult to know and portray all the details; but you should be able to paint a big picture of a road map for your team. This begins with any type of briefing, whether it’s at a morning briefing, a line briefing, or after initial size up during initial attack. Once you become consistent with painting the picture, your team will become more familiar with your intent and direction.

After a recent assignment as an Area Commander, I noticed many inconsistencies with direction, objectives, and strategies. These things should be the road map referred to for all to see and follow. However, because of different agency and resource values, not all the direction, objectives, and strategies will be the same. A good leader will bring focus with consistency to meet most of the needs of everyone. This is the reason that people will want to be a part of your team—or have you be part of their team.

My wife and I own several hundred head of cows and calves. Each has a brand that shows ownership and consistency. The brand never changes unless someone else buys or steals it away from you. As a leader, you have a brand—and for better or worse that brand should always be you. Over the past 30 years of my fire career, I believe I wear the same brand. Those that have worked around and with me know that I’m the same person whether things are going bad or going good.

I remember a time when a crew was headed home after a long assignment. I felt the need to stop and board the bus they were riding in just to say “thank you” for their hard work. Showing appreciation and gratitude to your team with just two small words goes a long way. I recently had the opportunity to say “thank you” to a group of expanded dispatchers—some who had been working for 39 days. By being a leader who stops to say thanks, you show that you know what is happening in your organization. As human beings, there is only one need in life other than oxygen and that is the need to be appreciated.

We all have days when everything goes wrong. Whether you lock your keys in your car, spill hot coffee all over your lap, or get in a fender bender, you need to check your mood at the door. Be consistent in who you are. My demeanor, attitude, expressions, and decision making rarely change. That’s the brand I wear.

Everyone who knows me knows I believe in transparency and open communication because a leader can accomplish much more with a team that fully understands its direction and the leader’s expectations. Open communication has become extremely helpful in my career, especially in the development of people. When you say you have an open door that means the door is always open.

It’s important to stay calm, especially during strenuous situations. If people have to walk on eggshells around you, that’s a signal to check your emotions and mood. Your team should consider it predictable and consistent that you’ll handle the situation with a level head. Many times, I have gone to sleep in my tent when I knew all hell was breaking loose and by morning fire would be scattered from one side of the mountain to the other. In these situations, you have to embrace the fear and assure people that things will be alright.

In my life I have been fortunate that I’m not a grey kind of person. For better or for worse, I have been deemed black and white. But I am consistent that way. Not wishy washy—that’s the call I made and that’s the call I will make consistently. If someone travels with the ball, fouls someone, steps on the line, or makes other infractions, I have to make the call every time. Consistency is the key!

About the Author: Rowdy Muir is the U.S. Forest Service Flaming Gorge District Ranger, L-380 Lead Instructor, and former Type 1 Incident Commander.

We thank Rowdy for his regular blog contributions. All expressions are those of the author.

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