DON’T FORGET WHERE YOU CAME FROM
When we start out in emergency services, the first couple of years are overwhelming: the shift days, the community and, most importantly, the crew members. Go back to your first day on the job; you get to the station, you do your daily chores, you train and then….you wait. You wait with your heart in your throat, anticipating that first alarm. Then, when you least expect it….DING! Your heart races, you rush to the truck, get ready, hop in and the sirens and radio chatter consume all of what you hear. This experience, doing everything you can to save a life, gives you a feeling that you simply cannot describe. The best part is, you can’t wait to do it again.
As the years pass, you gain more experience. The calls range from insane to funny to tragic. The adage of “Just when I thought I have seen it all” comes into play more and more; sometimes more than you like. With all this experience, you receive a gift that seems to be glossed over; a family. I know many who are reading this may be married or single, with or without children, and have other familial responsibilities, but, the men and women you work with become family. How can they not? You agree to risk your life with them and without hesitation. That’s commitment.
Now that you have years under your belt, you may begin to think about becoming an Officer. It doesn’t matter the rank, being an Officer is very difficult. However, it does not have to be if you remember where you came from. I bet if I ask every single one of you, “How were your officers?”, not many of the answers would be similar. Hence the reason for this message to all Officers and the men and women in supervisory positions.
The process of becoming an Officer is stressful; between the testing and interviews, it’s lengthy. However, the reward is not just the salary or the shield you wear on scene; it is getting to lead your peers in crucial moments. It is making sure they have everything they need, giving them the time and attention they deserve, and giving them guidance on making sure they are successful. Successful staff stems from exceptional leadership. In some cases, Officers let the power of being in charge blind them; they forget their humble beginning.
What looks good on paper many not always be the solution. When I first became Lieutenant, I was so nervous. I repeatedly asked myself, “Am I strong enough to lead this crew?”; “Is the crew going to respect me and my decisions?". These questions, no matter how hard I tried, plagued me throughout my tenure all the way to Captain. The one question that I left out, that is so important and often overlooked is, “Can I be there for my crew in ANY situation?".
We all have had our share of Officers that we deem “power hungry”; those who have become completely different people after promotion; there is a way for this to NOT happen. No matter the situation, you always need to make yourself available to your crew. Remember, this is a family and you need to treat your crew as you would your own family at home: See how they are. Ask if they need anything. Train them. Guide them. Looking after your crew builds rapport and most importantly, trust. Officers tend to forget their humble beginnings. They get the title and it turns into more of demands versus dialogue. (i.e. - “Do this, Do that, because I said so….”). I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be stern and decisive; I’m saying that if you want to increase productivity, remember the beginning of YOUR journey.
Be an officer when you have to be; be a friend at the right moments. I always used to tell my crew at the end of every meeting, “The only way you get written up is if you put me in the position to do so." You carry the responsibility of making sure that everyone in your crew goes home safely. Always know your crew on both a professional or personal level. Take care of them and give them the tools to succeed. Be a guiding force and pass on the lessons you have learned along the way. Lead by example, take care of your team and their performance will be exceptional. Remember where you started. Remember what you needed.
For more information and instructions, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.