Extreme Leadership: Q & A

Firefighters in full SCBA and turnout gear

(Photo by Derek Rosenfeld)

Billy Greenwood recently presented a Webcast on “Extreme Leadership – The Next Generation of Leading, Coaching and Mentoring.” (watch it on demand HERE.) Below he answers some questions submitted by viewers.

FDIC attendees can experience the full-length version of this presentation. More info HERE.

Q. Have you found it better to require officer candidates to achieve prerequisite certifications prior to being promoted or allow a period of time to obtain these certifications after promotion?

A. Depends on your CBA.  Many who require it weed out the slackers or mutts who would likely resist getting them later on.

Q. As part of the coaching and mentoring program, do you include a succession planning?

A. Yes, in the long version of this program at FDIC International 2017 we definitely cover it. Please search my article published in FireRescue Magazine, “Are You Ready Chief? Succession Planning.”

Q. As a leader, what are some tools that I can use to encourage another lieutenant to become more engaged during the day?

A.  He has what I call senioritis, meaning he comes in to work, does what is asked, but does not go above or beyond. He won’t engage without having a complaint or engage with the crew as a member of the crew. He sits back and points or tells.

In reality, he needs leadership training. He is leading from his emotional side, perhaps a product of the environment he was raised in. I suspect his supervisor did the same.  If there is no professional development available, why expect anything else?

Q. I have seen officers who are like that, so how does one avoid this? They are deer in the headlights.

A. Panic or stress-induced paralysis.  Have them read Emotional Intelligence 2.0. If they don’t get it after the book, then you have bigger issues.

Q. How do personalities tie into command presence? it seems introverts and extroverts would be hard…

A. It does tie in. The longer version of this program has a detailed section on command presence during stressful times and how you can overcome it if they handcuff your personality.

Q. In your opinion, since multiple-choice tests for promotion favor introverts, are you saying that introverts make poor street-level leaders in the fire service and that multiple-choice tests should be abandoned?

A. I am saying that anyone can study for a test. Anyone can study for the roughly 100 or so oral board questions that come about an interview. If there are no stressors during the interview, the introvert is going to come out on top but he or she may freeze in the street under serious stress. Ask a firefighter to tie a fire service knot during an interview. He does it. Then throw him the rope again and say please do it again while reciting the protocol for high-performance CPR.  If the candidate cannot work through the stress and multi-task, he or she will melt like butter and not be able to complete either task. In the end, our testing processes don’t always hire the right people for a reason.

Q. I like what you said about leaders working side-by-side with their guys.  With that in mind, where do you stand on having an open-door policy?

A. It works at the company-officer level, but some the chief needs to ensure that the company officers are not being skipped over to make the Gen Y kid happy. Therefore, there is a line that the chief must draw: ask the firefighter, have you brought this to your immediate supervisor yet?

Q. How do you change a leader’s attitude when all he cares about is the title?    

A. They were either promoted improperly–voted in during the silly season, never wanted to be an office–or they were never given professional development. Change the process for both and you get better officers.

Q. Why is it helpful to see all sides of the story before making a decision on it?  

A. Conflict resolution requires use of discretionary time. If you act upon the behavior without understanding all the facts and without understanding why certain people do certain things, then yes, you are not seeing all the sides of problem. You will miss the root cause.

Q. Can all four personality types be equally effective in any given position? Or is this something to take into account when making assignments?

A. Yes, some people test out evenly across the quiz and they can pull from any one of the four. These are you officers who are really stable and solid, do not caught up in emotion, are very fair, and who will work for the best interests of everyone.

Q. Why has the discipline gone out of the job with the younger member?

A. For the most part, this generation has not been raised with any discipline. There are no parents at home–they work multiple jobs or are divorced. School is taught like college now, with projects be turned in on this date. Do them all now or on the last night. Some teachers are flipping the classroom, meaning they simply moderate while the kids research and teach the subject. They have no discipline because it is foreign to them.

Q. I find with millennials that gaming is important. Is online simulation gaming the new trend for training?            

A. Yes, in the sense that it’s group activity you can partake in from the privacy of your home. It’s kind of like playing sports without the physical work.

Q. As an older Generation X company officer, how do you understand the mindset and needs of Generation Z personnel?

A. Have kids. But no, seriously, those who have Gen Z kids have it much easier. You need to engross yourself in professional development and read what impacts and influences Gen Z.

Q. How do you become or advance into leadership when your department does nothing to prepare you for the position? One day you are a firefighter. The next day you take an advancement test and you’re an officer.

A. Professional development. I did it on my own. Seek out the longer version of this class. Read books, watch presenters. Take college classes to get ahead. It will help you get the badge.

Q. What tactics do you use to engage an employee who demonstrates qualities from all four groups?

A. Nothing. He or she is well rounded and probably set for natural promotion. These folks don’t have prejudices. Spend your time on making sure they become the best firefighter they can be.

Q. How do you judge between personality and work experience? For example, I would expect a 15-year veteran to know how to cut a roof regardless of personality, and I would also expect to explain to a one-year veteran how to cut a roof regardless of personality. How do we balance personalities vs. experience?

A. Not true. An introvert with 15 years on the job may know how to cut the roof in a no-stress training session, but may be a completely different person under fire. Teach to their personalities and then make sure the training triggers the stress markers to see how they will really operate.

Q. How do you stay motivated to be a leader in your department if you are working in for department that doesn’t seem to care about leadership?

A. Old Power Management. They will eventually retire. It is your job to be ready to take the reins when they leave. Take classes, read books, watch videos, ask someone to mentor you, take officer classes, attend FDIC International, and the “Extreme Leadership Workshop.” Look at the big picture and be a visionary.  Your time will come.

William GreenwoodWILLIAM GREENWOOD is a 23-year veteran in volunteer, paid-call, and career fire departments. He is the training chief with the Manchester-Boston Airport Fire Department. He is a Lieutenant with the Keene (NH) Fire Department and a senior staff instructor with the New Hampshire Fire Academy. He is a National Fire Protection Association 1041 Instructor III and Fire Officer II. He has been published in Fire Engineering and hosts “Tap the Box” on FE Talk Radio.

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