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Home>Topics>>FDIC 2010 Keynote: Cheryl Horath

FDIC 2010 Keynote: Cheryl Horath

Wed, 21 Apr 2010|

Division Chief of Training Cheryl Horvath for the Northwest (AZ) Fire District speaks about leadership during her FDIC 2010 keynote.



You know fire engineering has been very fortunate to have a great many friends who -- -- research complicated topic. President help us navigate. Some very difficult topic and friends have always given a good applied and advice and reliable information. Among those good friends as today's keynote speaker. When master if you could help us to better understand women's issues she was there. When asked to share -- wisdom with a broader audience began -- wildly successful fire -- -- and radio program the connection. When I asked her if she could help to better understand the report card on women and and fire and emergency services again it was there. She was gracious enough to keynote the FDIC online. And today I know she's going to amazed to light and fire you. Here's an update on -- -- -- already extensive career. -- -- Horvath is division chief of operations in the northwest district. Of that two honors on the north -- fire district two runners on apologized. Northwest fire district is the largest district in Arizona. And it covers a 140 square miles with nine fire stations and a population of -- 120000. And in the fire services 1992. Working -- full time structure. In Illinois -- she her and she also served as the union president before yours she's a full time instructor for the Illinois fire of institute. Shall Horvath -- the president trustees on the board of the international association. Of women and emergency services. And this past summer Cheryl worked with other local women firefighters to coordinate a -- fire camp and to. Cheryl serves in laurel girl -- count the board of directors and board member of the southern Arizona mental health center. -- on their board of directors well I don't know how she finds time to do all these incredible things. And still do all she does the fire service and support all of us should -- -- engineering FDIC. And everyone -- -- a tremendous inspiration to me over the last several years watching her build coalitions and help all to become. Better acquainted with everything that's going on in the fire service uses a wonderful great friend. That's my tremendous honor probably privilege ladies and gentlemen to introduce to you the 2010 keynote speaker. -- -- -- -- But -- you -- you know this is an intimidating at all. Well I'm humbled to be on the stage this morning. I didn't realize I was going to be following the courage and valor awards I'm gonna make my. Comments brief because there's a captain network in California that I need to catch before it leaves -- -- -- recruit him. And bring them over and I and -- fire district. My name is Cheryl -- -- the division chief of operations for northwest fire district. I've been in the fire service for eighteen years. And frankly when I first got into the fire service I entered for all the wrong reasons. I was looking for great pay and benefits I was looking for a pension. I had a business that I was operating. I thought the fire service would be a great part time job again all the wrong reasons. I went through the civil service testing process. And I've finished second on the list. After eight months -- a good fortune to be offered a job as a firefighter. Funny thing happened I went to fire training academy. For six weeks. And I was hooked it was in my blood when I graduated from that academy I couldn't imagine doing anything else with my life. -- first day at the fire station was very interest thing. I had three men at three different times throughout the day tell me that I either didn't deserve to be there couldn't do -- job and I didn't want me there. The reason why tell you that is because I was thirty years old when I came in a fire service. I had worked in many other professions. With -- along side man supervised man. I never had anybody else question my abilities. I knew after that first day that the rules of the game has changed for me. And I was gonna need to learn to adapt. It's similar to the elephant in the mouse -- infidelity that haven't heard -- -- go on the likes them. If you're an elephant in the room and there's -- -- in the room how concerned are you about the -- Not very much. Really doesn't affect your life at all. But if you're the -- -- in the room and there's an elephant. You are keenly aware of everything that's happening you need to know the -- movements their preferences there have it. -- any moment you could be crushed. It's a terrible in terms of how we operate in our world. -- can move around freely -- have control over their environment. -- not so much. That first year I worked really hard I got great advice from some folks they told me to study it trained. Learn my craft. They told me keep my mouth shut for the first year and for somebody in the audience that know me realize how difficult -- -- but I did it. Step one a purposeful leadership to be a follower and that's when I tried to do. I learned my -- I trained hard I worked a -- and -- fire service institute is -- structure. I didn't want to show any weakness whatsoever. I didn't want anybody to say that I couldn't do the job. Almost to a fault. My third year on the job ahead a very significant event happen in my life my father passed away. My father was my mentor. My father was a former marine. He was one of those people that. For -- -- you in the audience probably the same thing you learned to appreciate your parents the older you get. And that was the case with me I'm hoping that works with my eleven year old daughter we'll see what happens with. My dad worked at General Motors for thirty years he started out in -- He retired as the head of engineering he had no college degree. We talked a lot about labor management working in the union environment he had a lot of great advice for me. At my dad's -- there were some younger folks that came to the wake. And a particular there was some women who -- there. And I remember talking with them about the effect -- my dad had on their -- She opened the door for them to be a part of the engineering department for General Motors. He saw an opportunity to bring in some people who would help build a team and he opened that door. I never knew that story about my dad. I have a lot of pride knowing that my father did that I just wish -- had an opportunity to talk to him about it. Shortly after that I was promoted -- company officer. And now -- -- to -- to a purposeful leadership meeting people. -- -- -- small company we were three person engine companies that the department that I used to be -- if I had two goals in mind. I wanted to make it it we are well trained so that we could provide the best service possible to our citizens. And I wanted to make sure everybody went home. Managing business -- nation's leading business stations by call volume that was a difficult. It was slower stations were on the challenges -- I was also union president the same time -- body mentioned. And the reason why I talk about that is so that everybody can understand what it's like to deal with competing interest. When you are in that union union leadership just like when you are cheese off your company off -- he frequently deal with competing interest and it's great leadership training. I made my share -- mistakes as a company officer just like everybody in this room probably has. I meant the part about not wanting to show weakness. There were a couple calls -- -- probably should have taken my company out of service. We -- we were off our game. EMS. Motor vehicle could type calls where all of a sudden the emotion kind of -- in on at the last minute. Probably had to pull the plug -- the shift commander and said we're done but I didn't do that. I didn't want to show weakness. There were times -- -- little bit too passionate about an -- is that we're going on. I realize now as a leader. When you become too passionate about something you lose your perspective. And you really no longer the leading your people. As a company offers officer for eight years. And I was unable to be promoted to -- commander position. For a variety of reasons. So I had the opportunity to move to Tucson Arizona and be a battalion chief at the northwest fire district. And it was literally stepping off the ledge without the man. So let's put it into context for -- northwest fire district at the time had about a 168. Line personnel. They had no woman chief officers. The highest ranking officer they had who was a woman was a captain they had a couple women who -- operations as paramedics. So now you have. A woman coming in from the outside. Doesn't know anything about their district -- oh by the way I was president and women in the fire service. Do you think some people might have been a little intimidated by that. Of course they thought I was gonna be filing lawsuits left and right never filed one but that was the that was the fear. I won't tell you I didn't take advantage of that -- at times as a chief office or not a bad thing. But I knew my job go NN. Was to manage the south battalion and manage those four captains meet those four captain's that I was responsible for. So now I'm -- step three a purposeful leadership on leading leader. It was important to me that they thought that I could do the job that I -- tactics that I -- strategy. And it was important to me that they can trust me so guess what I was -- again. I was the outsider come in and I was the one making the observation. Listening with both of my ears and not talking. And I learned about all kinds of things like fog thousands on hand lines. -- engines. And the forbidden words in central I want four years ago positive pressure attack. But I -- -- and I learn the tactics. It was important that I be able to be on the same level with those folks. Al learn how difficult middle management as. The -- -- position is incredibly difficult there's a lot of direction that comes down from the top that battalion chief may not really understand. But you have to have the ability to put it in context. And you have to be able to sell if you will that the -- of the troops. And that doesn't mean that you don't have an issue with some of those decisions that happens. But you have to go behind closed doors with -- supervisor to talk to him about it you cannot aired that dirty laundry in public. If our mission -- community service. And we're gonna do whatever -- we can do to provide a community service. Then we need to keep our folks focused on their jobs. Not about what the chief -- what's your -- -- -- whatever. So the test for middle management is sometimes can be very very difficult. Well I explain to that I work for fire district and in the land of fire districts and any given moment. You can be reorganized. And that's what happened. I was in Yuma Arizona is helping out -- an assessment are answered the phone and was my chief when he said that hey guess what we're doing a complete reorganization of the fire department. Okay. I had it my first question just on the job yes he's done of them -- -- don't you going to division chief of trade. Like that I went from 56 hours to forty hours but it -- -- -- start what you said and as you get back from Yuma Arizona. Okay then. I came back in town that's now with my -- my -- -- what do you think. -- well. You've provided me with great opportunity so far I've learned so much I have one concern. And that is that I just made a huge commitment to women in the fire service. And that was based on a 56 -- schedule -- have the opportunity to fly around the country go to conferences speak on their behalf. I made a commitment. And I want to follow through on that commitment in my boss said. Don't worry about it you do whatever you have to do we'll support him. I went and talked to my fire chief for -- -- what's your expectations for training. When she said do your thing. It's always sets me that's it do -- thing. Okay. I'd worked at -- -- my first service institute is -- mentioned I had some background and training. We had grown so fast at northwest fire district we built fire stations in five years we -- -- out academy classes. We were not able to meet the needs of our shift personnel when I came into training things kind of slowed down a little bit. And we reorganized we went back to basics I went back to -- hose lines -- props do and all those things for about the first year. I went through all those first three steps of purposeful leadership. I was a follower but you for coming up on the phone and he this is what we need you to do and I did it. I was leading people abroad an entire new training staff gave them the support and the resources that they need to get their job done and they did it. And I was leading leaders. We -- promoting people up through the ranks we -- X promotional exams at first year just trying to get enough people out on the streets that we can take care of our community. -- two things kind of change -- as a division chief and training. Started to feel a little bit lost in terms of what my focus -- suppose today. And I had the opportunity to enroll in a community leadership program -- Greater Tucson leadership program. And -- no there's quite a few community leadership programs around the country. I would strongly encouraged -- to be a part of that. It helps get you out of the fire service and give you some perspective in terms of what's happening in your communities. And what I learned was the -- service touches every single thing out there. Social services. Health care. Energy. Government. National security. Every topic we had -- a class the fire service somehow was involved and and it really helps me see my job differently. It helped me realize how important it is as a chief officer to stay in tune with the community. And really the only way that we're going to be able to move forward as a fire services if we've learned to partner up with the community. The other thing that happened is that we had an academic. Counselor if you will who was part of the leadership program and he was offering to count on coaching sessions. I've never done anything like that before and I thought you know what I'm gonna give Russia. I sat down with doctor Dave for a couple sessions. And he asked me a few questions that really made a difference for me. The first one was where should you be any organization based on your position where should you be working. That might sound like kind of a simplistic question. But when you're really embroiled in getting the work done you don't always step back and realize where you should be in the organization. You said where you're at right now you should be leading organization. You are at that last step purposeful leadership. And he was right. Seven months ago. Nine months ago I was moved over and operations. And now my responsibility is our ten fire stations which is built on the last time Bobby wrote that intro. And seven I provides seven battalion chiefs. And if you're doing the math that means I've had three jobs -- four years. And -- I'm a little tired little worn out but it's been an incredible ride. I work for a very progressive organization. I worked for an organization that believes and supporting. And bringing everybody in an engaging him in the conversation. And now I'm working at the top level that organization not only on the management side but on the labor side. There are leaders throughout the organization and we're trying to bring -- -- in an engaging in the conversation. I would say the one thing that I've tried to do my entire career is give support. And -- time. Before I came into the fire service and and so I've been in the fire service there have been those people in my life that noticed a mouse in a room and said hey. We wanted to be part of our team. I now realize that the best leaders that we have are the ones that can bring the elephants in the minds together. And get them to work together for what's best for the organization. I was at a conference a number years ago in the keynote speaker challenged everybody in the audience -- at some point. This week during your conference experienced had the conversation with somebody. Walk up to somebody you don't now it down and get to know. My understanding is we have quite a few folks here from Canada. And we have large international representation. The the perfect opportunity for US training officers and firefighters and fire service leaders to sit down with other folks from different parts of the country. And just see what their world -- like. Is that an uncomfortable conversation to have sometimes yes. Of course -- is. But those are they opportunities where you really creates and great learning and I would really encourage all of you to take advantage of. I want to thank fire engineering for giving me a few minutes of talk with you today and I hope you enjoy your experience here -- -- Thank you.

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