Are You Reinforcing Bad Behavior and Poor Performance?
My blog post for August 23, 2023, was Know Your Team and Look Out for Them.1 I addressed the fact that familiarity of your team members increases the:
- Knowledge of the skills, talents, and gifts of your team.
- Knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of your team.
- Knowledge of what your team can and cannot accomplish.
I also wrote about the advantages of knowing your team, which are:
- Increased unity and team cohesion
- Increased trust
- Increased efficiency, effectiveness, proficiency, and professionalism
As a battalion chief, I often heard company officers say, “I’m taking care of my people.” That’s great…when the crew is doing what they are supposed to do.
However, when one or more of your crew members are not performing to standards or creating a disciplinary problem, supervisors must be careful of how they apply the phrase “taking care of people.”
All too often, “taking care of people” means covering up or making excuses for poor performance and bad behavior. Why do company officers take that route?
- The fear of being the bad guy.
- The fear of ridicule by others because the company officer didn’t protect the thin blue line.
- Company officers who have a lack of confidence in their leadership abilities.
Pushing the problem up hill
Company officers who fall into the previous categories tend to push the problem up the chain of command because they do not want to handle the issue. This may mean:
- The next level supervisor feels obligated to handle the issue and robs the company officer of the opportunity to learn and develop their leadership skills and abilities.
- The company officer loses respect from the crew and peers because they did not have the courage to address the problem.
- The pattern of pushing problems up the chain of command will continue unless stopped by a higher-level officer.
Have courage to act.
I have always been amazed at company officers who have no problem facing dangerous, chaotic emergencies such as fires, rescues, haz mat incidents, etc., but when dealing with a personnel problem, the emergency scene courage vaporizes like smoke rising into the air. Suddenly, there is an overwhelming desire to turn the head, hope the problem goes away, or hope the battalion chief will handle the problem. Hope is not a course of action.
Have the courage to act and if you are not sure what to do, then seek advice, but handle the problem at the lowest possible level. Remember, handling the problem does not mean covering up the problem because you are “taking care of your people.” This only reinforces bad behavior and poor performance, and it diminishes your authority as a company officer.
A safe environment
Promotions in the fire service bring about daunting challenges. You prepare for emergencies, but how prepared are you for the leadership challenges? Do you have a coach or mentor? Do you have someone who can help you develop without fear of ridicule or having your comments placed into an evaluation?
I’m a certified coach and long-time member of the fire service who brings experience and training to your table helping you develop and hone the necessary skills to be a successful fire officer. Visit my website, take command of your career development, and join Tailboard Talks: Tailboard Talks – Fire Officer Leadership Academy.