Thursday, December 13, 2018

IGNITE: A Leader's Integrity

Followers assess their leader's integrity every day. If people believe a leader has integrity, they can accept other weaknesses and help compensate for them. - Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 59  [Photo: Donna Thompson/Alaska Fire Service] (Helicopter with sunset behind)


Followers assess their leader's integrity every day. If people believe a leader has integrity, they can accept other weaknesses and help compensate for them. - Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 59
[Photo: Donna Thompson/Alaska Fire Service]

IGNITE: Offer Alternatives

Merely complaining without proposing an alternative offers nothing. - Jacque Fresco (look at a retardant drop from the back)

Merely complaining without proposing an alternative offers nothing. - Jacque Fresco

[Photo credit: Kyle Miller/Wyoming IHC]

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Words of Wisdom

(Credit: Tumisu/Pixabay)
From time to time, our readers and followers find issue with our blogs and posts, especially when the quote comes from someone who has found their actions to less than stellar. I understand the frustration, but I also know I need to cite the words that I choose. I could make the citation smaller, but I give full credit to the person cited.

Monday, December 10, 2018

IGNITE: Buying In

People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. - John C. Maxwell  [Photo: Kari Greer/USFS] (leader sharing the vision with the crew)
People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. - John C. Maxwell

[Photo: Kari Greer/USFS]

Thursday, December 6, 2018

IGNITE: One Person Can Make a Difference

One person can make a difference and everyone should try.   - John F. Kennedy (firefighter looking into a forest ablaze]
One person can make a difference and everyone should try. - John F. Kennedy

[Photo credit: Kari Greer/USFS]

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Smooth Transitions


A_bad_day_for_the_ego_is_a_good_day_for_the_soul.jpg

As we approach the end of the calendar year, many will attend gatherings to honor fellow co-workers moving into a new phase of life—retirement. In many cases, retirements mean vacancies to be filled, yet another new phase of life. Just like fire operations, handling the transition is critical. We may only have one shot to do it right.

Monday, December 3, 2018

IGNITE: Leaders are Learners

The best leaders are life-long students of leadership. - Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 60  Photo credit: Ben Eby (firefighter on the fireline)

The best leaders are life-long students of leadership. - Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 60

Photo credit: Ben Eby

Thursday, November 29, 2018

IGNITE: Anger and You

"Anger is never without reason,  but seldom with a good one." Benjamin Franklin (Fire whirl picture taken from the air)
"Anger is never without reason, but seldom with a good one." - Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

When Luck Runs Out

Collage of "another way" signs
(Credit: Geralt/Pixabay)
What does a well-founded risk decision look like?
By Mark Smith, Mission-Centered Solutions
©Mission-Centered Solutions Version 7 FINAL (16 June 2017)

[Mark Smith has been presenting Luck Runs Out (What does a well-founded risk decision look like?) at IMT meetings, safety summits at wildfire academies, etc. Where The Big Lie was more a problem statement, Luck Runs Out is meant to focus on actionable, practical steps forward for IMTs and Agency Administrators. The above information started not as an essay but as a handout to go with presentations.]


This paper is the result of an ongoing dialog around risk I’ve had within the post-Yarnell Honor the Fallen group. One member posed the rhetorical but critical question: “Should we be risking lives for suppression efforts or not?“ That prompted my response in The Big Lie essay on the levels of risk I think wildland firefighters operate in routinely, and how we could be more intelligently accepting that risk.

Monday, November 26, 2018

IGNITE - What do you see?

It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see. - Henry David Thoreau  [Photo credit: La Grande IHC] (Trees covered with fire retardant)


It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see. - Henry David Thoreau

[Photo credit: La Grande IHC]

Thursday, November 22, 2018

IGNITE: Grateful


Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart. - Seneca

A special shout out to all those who are supporting incidents across the globe. We are grateful for your service. To all our followers, thank you for your continued support. We couldn't do it without you.

[Photo credit: Kyle Miller/Wyoming IHC]

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Body Talk - What are you saying?

Smiley faces with different facial expressions(credit: Free Graphic Today/Pixabay)
Communication
(Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 22)

Communication is the primary tool for establishing an effective command climate. The ability to communicate effectively is universally rated as one of the most important leadership behaviors. Communication is the foundation upon which we build trust and enable our teams to develop cohesion. Effective communication is a two-way process. Good leaders actively listen to build trust with others.

Monday, November 19, 2018

IGNITE: Get Your House in Order First

In order to lead others, you must first have your own house in order.- Eric Skinseki & Frances Hesselbein,  authors of “Be, Know, Do”  [Photo credit: Kari Greer/USFS] (fire burning through pine cones)
In order to lead others, you must first have your own house in order.- Eric Skinseki & Frances Hesselbein, authors of “Be, Know, Do”

Thursday, November 15, 2018

IGNITE: Leadership does not exist in a void.

Leadership does not exist in a void.    Doris Kearns Goodwin (hotshot crew hiking up a hill)
(Photo: La Grande IHC)

Leadership does not exist in a void.   
Doris Kearns Goodwinœ


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Accountability or Leadership?

Hand shake -- one with gloves, the other without gloves
(Courtesy of the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center)
You can hardly look around and not find someone bending or breaking a "rule." Whether it is someone running a stop sign or not wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE), the "offender" has an excuse.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

IGNITE: Formation of Character


It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. Abigail Adams (Helicopter working a large fire)
[Photo: Union IHC]
It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed.
Abigail Adams

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Are you boring or optimal?

Collage of pieces of paper with the word "option" on them
(Credit: Geralt/Pixabay)
My husband and I devote at least one night a week to date night. Date night typically includes dinner, a movie, or concert. As you might guess, we ask ourselves if we should go to someplace new or a favorite. My husband is a proponent of new things and limiting return visits. I tend to go with what I like and trust. Therefore, our pre-dinner decision making can cause a little grief. If we go to the same place, are we in a rut and boring?

In his TED Talk “3 ways to make better decisions—by thinking like a computer” cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths gave me practical strategies for making better decisions for future decisions of this nature:
  • Explore – Try something new and learn from it.
  • Exploit – Use the information you already know is pretty good.

How might you relate this the explore/exploit method to repetitive decisions on the fireline? What are the pros and cons of this method?

Leader Down - Step Up and Lead

Characture walking up stairs made of the word START
(Photo: Geralt/Pixabay)

You and your team are working dutifully on an incident. As part of Team Bravo lead by one of the service's greatest leaders, you and all those around know you are in good hands. Your leader is well-respected both on the line and outside fire operations. There isn't a part of duty, respect, and integrity that isn't reflected in your leader.

Today is a normal day on the line, until.... (aren't those words found all too often in our accident reports). Something happens to your great leader, putting them out of commission. The specifics behind the event are not important. Your beloved leader is incapacitated and cannot lead. What next?

The answer to this question depends on what your leader and your team did prior to the event. Is there someone able and willing to step up and lead? Has your team conducted pre-mortem exercises to ensure continuity of operations?

Leadership during crisis is not how someone wants to become a leader. The reality is many individuals become leaders because of a void in leadership. The make the decision to lead!

Continuity of operations is critical within the wildland fire service. Our leaders have a duty to ensure that those below them are prepared in the event they become incapacitated. Closely related is decentralized command through a bias for action where those under our command can make decision without approval from above—not freelancing. We are all leaders at all times!
"Hard training is the solemn duty of trainers and leaders every day." - Jacko Willink
No team wants to train for the loss or injury of a team member, especially their leader; but we MUST.

The Authority to Lead versus the Decision to Lead
(Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, pp. 5-6)

The authority to lead is established by law. Whether this authority is based on federal, state, or local law, we are legal agents exercising authority on behalf of our organizations.

The ability to lead is a different matter; it is something that cannot be legislated. To be effective, leaders must earn the trust and respect of others. A leader’s journey is a perpetual cycle of acquiring, shaping, and honing the knowledge and skills of leadership. The leadership journey is never finished.

Once we commit to becoming leaders, our focus is no longer ourselves. Fire leaders assume the serious responsibility of putting others into harm’s way and for making decisions that profoundly affect citizens, communities, and natural resources.

Leadership is a tough choice. Leaders choose to sacrifice their own needs for those of their teams and organizations. They routinely face situations and makedecisions that others criticize and second-guess. Leaders take risks and face challenges every day.

So why do we choose to lead? We lead because leading is where we make a difference.
Fire leaders bring order to chaos, improve our people’s lives, and strengthen our organizations. Leading enables us to leave a legacy for the leaders of the future so that they can take our places well prepared for the road ahead.

These are the rewards of leadership. Their effects will be seen and felt long after our careers end.

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge - Digging a Little Deeper
  • Read The Dichotomy of Leadership by Jacko Willink and Leif Babin. Part II, Chapter 5 - "Train Hard, but Train Smart" inspired this post.
  • Develop and implement a pre-mortem training plan that includes a vacancy of leadership.

About the Author: Pam McDonald is a writer/editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.

Monday, November 5, 2018

IGNITE: Self-Leadership

The first person you lead is you, and the first organ you master is your mind. - John Maxwell  [Photo credit: Zephyr Fire Crew] (firefighter looking out upon the horizon with tool in hand]
The first person you lead is you, and the first organ you master is your mind. - John Maxwell
[Photo credit: Zephyr Fire Crew]

Thursday, November 1, 2018

IGNITE: Seeds of Commitment

Orders and commands don’t plant the seeds of commitment; leadership does. - Frances Hesselbein & Gen. Eric Shinseki, authors of BE •  KNOW• DO  [Photo credit: Entiat IHC] (rainbow amidst a storm)

Orders and commands don’t plant the seeds of commitment; leadership does. - Frances Hesselbein & Gen. Eric Shinseki, authors of BE • KNOW• DO

[Photo credit: Entiat IHC]

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Can't see the forest for the trees...

Forest of trees in the late fall; some leaves have fallen.
(Photo: JPlenio/Pixabay)
Ponder the following phrase: "can't see the forest for the trees."

The Urban dictionary provides this meaning to the phrase:

When you are too close to a situation you need to step back and get a little perspective. When you do you will notice there was a whole forest you couldn't see before because you were too close, and focusing on the trees.

Simply that you have focused on the many details and have failed to see the overall view, impression or key point.

Monday, October 29, 2018

IGNITE: Lessons through Embers



Old fires carry embers that can turn to flame and teach new lessons to later generations. John Maclean (house with a mountain of fire behind it)
Old fires carry embers that can turn to flame and teach new lessons to later generations.
John Maclean

Thursday, October 25, 2018

IGNITE: Handling Errors

Two elements of successful leadership: a willingness to be wrong and an eagerness to admit it. - Seth Godin  [Photo credit: Kari Greer/USFS]
(Photo: Kari Greer/USFS)
Two elements of successful leadership: a willingness to be wrong and an eagerness to admit it. - Seth Godin

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Path of Self-Leadership

(Photo: geralt/Pixabay)
Since the early 2000's, the wildland fire service has had access to a leadership development program. Prior to the establishment of this program, leadership development was likely more reliant on your supervisor’s ability to plan for your progression, circumstances that would lead to leadership moments and other activities outside of work that would lead to leadership experience.

Monday, October 22, 2018

IGNITE: Smoothness in the Transition


The smoothness of turn taking is a powerful indicator of  cohesive group performance. - Daniel Coyle (three dozers on a ridgeline)
The smoothness of turn taking is a powerful indicator of cohesive group performance.  
Daniel Coyleœ

Thursday, October 18, 2018

IGNITE: The Robe of Responsibility

(Photo credit: Kari Greer/USFS)

The cloak of leadership is not the mantle of comfort, but rather the robe of responsibility.
Henry Ford

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Just Breathe

words of mindfulness woven into brain connections
(Photo: johnhain/Pixabay)

We have all been there—you have a mind full of "stuff" and a decision or two or three to make. Maybe you are tired, hangry, fires are active across the area, and/or communities are threatened. Maybe it is your house that is threatened and your loved ones evacuating while you battle the fire. You are at or beyond the worst-case scenario; you have some critical decisions to make and ethical dilemmas to resolve.

Monday, October 15, 2018

IGNITE: From Weakness to Strength


Build your weaknesses until they become your strong points!
Knute Rochne

Thursday, October 11, 2018

IGNITE: Leadership Demands Restraint and Consideration

Leadership demands periods of restraint and consideration.  Harry M. Kraemer ("If it's not safe, don't do it" sign)
(Photo credit: La Grande IHC)
Leadership demands periods of restraint and consideration. - Harry M. Kraemer

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Confessions of an Information Junkie

(Photo credit: SCY/Pixabay)
I have a confession to make. I am an information junkie. If there is something to learn (that interests me), I jump in (until another squirrel runs by, that is). Over the last few years, that was politics. I became a newsfeed junkie and found myself losing all objectivity. The pursuit of truth became my addiction. Then it happened, I realized truth was what others wanted me to believe. I had to take action.

Monday, October 8, 2018

IGNITE: Taking Care of Your People

Being a leader is about taking care of your people. - John Canley, Medal of Honor Recipient  (circle of crew member in discussion)
[Photo credit: Ventana Handcrew]
Being a leader is about taking care of your people. - John Canley, Medal of Honor Recipient 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

IGNITE: Say "NO" to the Status Quo

A leader who loves the status quo soon becomes a follower.   -John Maxwell  [Photo credit: Entiat IHC] (hotshot crew hiking up hill)
A leader who loves the status quo soon becomes a follower. - John Maxwell

[Photo credit: Entiat IHC]

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Eustress Me Out

(Photo credit: Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay)
Does thinking about stress, stress you out?

Stressed out is frequently referred to as a negative experience. However, stress can actually have a positive effect. Positive stress is called "eustress" while negative stress is called "distress." When taken to the extremes, either of these stressors can affect the human body.

Monday, October 1, 2018

IGNITE: Living Relationships

"Culture is a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal. It's not something you are. It's something you do."  - Daniel Coyle  (Wildland firefighters in communication with one another.)

"Culture is a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal. It's not something you are. It's something you do." - Daniel Coyle
[Photo credit: TJ O'Neill/Prescott IHC]

Thursday, September 27, 2018

IGNITE: A Way of Thinking

Leadership is a way of thinking, a way of acting and, most importantly, a way of communicating. - Simon Sinek  [Photo credit: Asheville Hotshots] (hotshots communicating with one another)
Leadership is a way of thinking, a way of acting and, most importantly, a way of communicating. - Simon Sinek


[Photo credit: Asheville Hotshots]

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

IGNITE: Humility in Fire

The best leaders are not in the business for personal glory or iron-fisted control.  - Joe Scherrer (wildland firefighter cold-trailing)
[Photo credit: Kari Greer/USFS]
The best leaders are not in the business for personal glory or iron-fisted control.
Joe Scherrer œ

The Art of Leading Up

The magic of leadership was best captured by Lao Tzu: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” This is the art of leadership at its best: the art that conceals art. - Michael Shinagel
For quite some time, I have been pondering the following question (even before all the unrest in fire and politics): How do you deal with a poor leader?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Teach Them to Fish

Asian boys spearfishing
(Photo credit: sasint/Pixabay)
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime
Chinese Proverb

Leaders help their people grow by mentoring and sharing experiences. Mentoring them begins their journey from followership to leadership. Fire leaders coach and then step back to allow people to take on new responsibilities. Providing the opportunity to test new waters and try new behaviors is important in developing people for the future.

Monday, September 17, 2018

IGNITE: All Jobs Matter

Great leaders don’t embrace only the jobs that will get them a lot of attention; rather, they’re willing to do whatever it takes to advance the greater cause.  - Perry Noble (firefighter with helicopter in the background)
(Photo credit: Union Interagency IHC)
Great leaders don’t embrace only the jobs that will get them a lot of attention; rather, they’re willing to do whatever it takes to advance the greater cause. - Perry Noble

Thursday, September 13, 2018

IGNITE: Resilience - The Ultimate Team Result

The ultimate team result is resilience: teams that can bounce back when problems or errors threaten cohesion and synergy. - Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 55 (firefighters resting on rocks)
(Photo Credit Josh Neighbors/South Dakota Wildland Fire
The ultimate team result is resilience: teams that can bounce back when problems or errors threaten cohesion and synergy. - Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 55

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

“Survive and Thrive - You Matter - You Are Not Alone - Help is Available”

Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK (8255)

One of the most meaningful things in safety work is helping others stay injury free, both physically and mentally. One of the hardest parts is bringing up difficult conversations and hard truths, but it fulfills the meaningful part that drives me.

Monday, September 10, 2018

IGNITE: Vision with Action

Vision without action is merely a dream.  Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.  - Joel Barker  [Photo credit: Entiat IHC] (Wildland firefighters consulting map)
(Photo credit: Entiat IHC)
Vision without action is merely a dream. 
Action without vision just passes the time. 
Vision with action can change the world. 
- Joel Barker -

Thursday, September 6, 2018

IGNITE: Like Stars

If you treat your subordinates as stars, they will work to fulfill that expectation. - Sherman Morrison (nighttime sky with wildfire)
(Photo: Kyle Miller/Wyoming IHC)

If you treat your subordinates as stars, they will work to fulfill that expectation.
 Sherman Morrison œ

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

When Beliefs Become Reality

Pygmalion Effect: People will adapt their behavior to meet an expectation.
There is an old saying that "garbage in = garbage out." I became familiar with this phrase learning while programming computers. The concept can also work with leadership. "Leadership gets what it emphasizes." (Coach Chris Petersen) As leaders, our influence can have huge impacts on those we lead. Our perceptions of those we lead and the actions we take because of those beliefs are powerful forces. As humans, what we think of ourselves can easily be what we are or become.

Monday, September 3, 2018

IGNITE: No Work Is Insignificant


  “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.  (American flag with wildland fire in the background)
No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
 Martin Luther King, Jr.
[Photo credit: Globe IHC]

Thursday, August 30, 2018

IGNITE: Outside the Comfort Zone

(Photo: Mesa IHC)

There's no growth in the comfort zone.
Jocko Willink œ

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Thinking About Thinking

By Special Collections, Lehigh University Libraries;
Chrétien Frédéric Guillaume Roth [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
When everything is connected to everything else, for better or worse, everything matters. - Bruce Mou

Some of you can remember the days when the gadget you wore on your wrist ONLY told you the time of day. You even had to know how to tell time by the position of the hands on the face of the dial. Nowadays, we have the likes of a supercomputer (back in the day) on our wrist or by our side. These advancements in technology necessitate we think about thinking.

Monday, August 27, 2018

IGNITE: Lessons of the Past

(Photo credit: James Bradford/Cedar City IHC)
The past teaches us the lessons we need to gain momentum to move forward. - Lolly Daskal

Thursday, August 23, 2018

IGNITE: The Great Outdoors

(Photo credit: Mike Monaghan/Zephyr Fire Crew)

“All those hours exploring the great outdoors made me more resilient and confident.”
David Suzuki œ

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Firm Foundation

elements of a mission-driven culture: service for the common good, high trust state, pursuit of truth, form and function defined by the end state, individual initiative, and continuous improvement
When I was a child, I learned a song about a wise man building a house upon a rock to provide a sturdy foundation and protection when the rains came down and the floods came up. The foolish man built his house upon the sand. You can imagine what happened to his house. This analogy can easily be extended to the leadership environment. What is the purpose (foundation) upon which you are building your team? Why are you doing what you are doing? 

The Wise Leader
  • Is proficient in his/her job, both technically and as a leader
  • Makes sound and timely decisions
  • Ensures that tasks are understood, supervised, and accomplished
  • Develops his/her team members for the future
  • Knows his/her team members and looks out for their well-being
  • Keeps his/her team members informed
  • Builds the team
  • Employs his/her team members in accordance with their capabilities
The Foolish One
  • Is not fit for duty, lacking the capacity to lead
  • Makes decisions by him/herself without input from their team
  • Has no faith in their team's ability and either micromanages the team or is completely hands-off
  • Looks out for self only
  • Keeps information to themself
The purpose behind our actions is cornerstone of our leadership framework. Unfortunately, not every team's why establishes a sturdy foundation. Gather your team together and talk about your why. Is your foundation built on rock or sand?


About the Author: Pam McDonald is a writer/editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.