Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Leadership At All Levels

Redding IHC Buggy Rollover FLA cover
(Redding IHC Buggy Rollover FLA cover)
“I hadn’t even touched base with my family yet and it was already out there (on social media.)” - Phil
Point #1: When chaos enters the scene, every person on the team is a leader. Be ready to act.

On Tuesday, April 30, Redding IHC's Buggy B was involved in an accident with an oncoming vehicle, resulting in a rollover of the buggy and injury to several crew members.
  • Inside of the sliding C-21B buggy time slowed down – one of the crewmembers recalled, “I was having whole conversations in my head.” Another remembered, "for me there was denial – like, there’s no way…” The driver recalled, “you hear stories about this but it never happens to you…thinking that pretty much the entire time.”
  • “Even though it’s [the truck] on its side, everyone was kinda sitting there – calm. This is really weird…just like the medical scenario we had been through the week before.”
We may think "this" will happen to us, but life happens. We train so we are ready when chaos arrives. Therefore, be fully present and engaged during training. Prepare for the day when you need to jump into action. Redding IHC had just gone through a medical training scenario; training became their reality.

Point #2: Leadership is about others.
  • For those in the back of the buggy, the urge to get moving came from the need to care for their crewmembers. Immediately, they reverted to their training and began to treat the most severely injured.
When chaos arrived, team members jumped into action to take care of the injured. Some worked through their own pain to provide for the needs of others. Situations can be overwhelming, but securing frames in our memory beforehand helps our brain engage and focus when the real event occurs.

Point #3: Duty, Respect, and Integrity Apply to All of Us

  • We need to evolve our etiquette to keep pace with our technology. Phil was unable to let his family know that he was ok before the news was out on social media. Someone, in their desperate search for ‘likes’ announced to the world the worst news a family should ever receive. “One thing that really chapped me, I hadn’t made contact with anyone in my family yet, and there’s already stuff out there (on social media) I know my Mom goes to worst case scenario and I hadn’t been able to get in touch with them.” 
  • Due to social media coverage within the first thirty minutes of the incident, NOPS was inundated with phone calls. “People want, and sometimes need, information. We totally respect that. But our job is to provide intelligence and not to reiterate what we are hearing from unconfirmed sources. Valuable time is consumed on phone calls with those wanting information that could be spent validating the situation with those who are actually on scene. 
Technology and its users failed during this accident. Radios didn't work properly. People shared the information on social media platforms. We can eventually fix the communication problems with the radios, but we cannot fix the users.  Common sense and compassion should guide your decision to post. Put yourself in the position of the family, would you want to hear about an accident or death involving someone you love via social media? Some may answer with a resounding "yes" to this question; but consider your position to be in the minority and err on the side of caution. Choose the difficult right over the easy wrong; pause before you post.

Tips for Social Media Ethics and Etiquette

Here are some tips into social media ethics and etiquette from the Redding IHC Buggy Rollover Facilitated Learning Analysis:
  • Golden rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.
  • Social media is not agency notification. Consider delaying posts involving injuries and/or fatalities to allow time for families to be notified through agency channels.
  • Not all ‘news’ is verified. Consider the source of the information and review accuracy before posting.
Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge - Digging a Little Deeper

  • Review the "Levels of Leadership" (Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, pp. 22-23).
  • Know the responsibilities for your level.
  • Know the responsibilities for the level above and below (if there is one) your level.
  • Be fully present in training exercises. Know how to act.
  • Don't assume you will not be involved in or witness an accident. Be ready when the time comes.
  • Pause before you post on social media.

Levels of Leadership

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.

Those in the role of a follower have a number of responsibilities: to become competent in basic job
skills; to take initiative and learn from others; to ask questions and develop their communication skills.

Leaders of people have increasing challenges. They accept responsibility, not only for their own actions, but for those of their team. Leaders of people 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.
For a leader of leaders, the distance between the leader and the led increases the challenges of leading. Subordinate leaders frequently work in other locations, so face-to-face communication is not always possible.

As a result, the circumstances for building trust are more complex; but even so, the trust must withstand the pressures of time and distance, enabling leaders to confidently communicate intent and delegate responsibility. These leaders act as the 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.
For leaders of organizations, the challenges grow to looking both more broadly and further ahead. These leaders manage the most complex and high-profile emergency incidents.
Our organizational leaders plan for future operations as well as mentor promising people for key roles in our organizations. They represent the face of the wildland fire service to cooperators, stakeholders, and the general public. Decisions made by these leaders have significant and far-reaching effects.

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. 

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