By Ron Hiraki
One of the most important qualities of leadership is motivating the people around you. Recognizing exceptional or good work is one way to motivate or keep people motivated. Recognition can be as simple as a sincere “thank you” or the presentation of the coffee mug or pen with your fire department’s name and insignia. For fellow fire department members, nothing is more rewarding than being recognized by their peers. Most of the time, acts of heroism or exceptional efforts at an emergency incident are recognized. However, many times we fail to formally recognize people for their extra efforts on a station/department project, or for creating and leading some new training drill or class. A simple way to do this is to present a letter of recognition to the department member and place a copy of the letter in his personnel file.
The primary functions involved in getting that letter of recognition to the recipient are writing the recommendation or letter. Having it processed (approved, signed by the fire chief, for example) and presenting it to the recipient.
- As chairperson of the Apparatus Committee, you established a schedule and solicited input from a cross-section of firefighters on the design of our next pumpers.
- You read about a drill that other firefighters were doing, submitted a proposal, built the prop, created a lesson plan, trained other instructors, and conducted the drill for our firefighters.
- You designed a new inspection form which makes it easier and faster for firefighters to complete inspections with fewer errors and increased quality.
- You used input from firefighters to increase safety and efficiency by properly storing equipment and tools in locations that were selected according to frequency of use.
- The prop that you built and the drill that you conducted could not only save the lives of our firefighters, but it has also provided hands-on, realistic training that has increased our firefighters’ confidence.
- You designed a new inspection formthat makes it easier and faster for firefighters to complete the inspection with fewer errors and increased quality.
Follow your fire department’s protocol or chain of command. Your department may have an awards or recognition committee and a process for submitting nominations. Use that process and follow the procedure.
Be clear about what the recipient did that was out of the ordinary. It is the out-of-the-ordinary work or activity that qualifies the recipient for the recognition. Even eight-year-olds know that everyone on the little league team got a ribbon for participating; but little Tommy or Mary got the ribbon for most valuable player. Clearly describe what the recipient did that was beyond the scope of what most firefighters do. The action does not have to be “superhuman,” just beyond the normal scope of most employees’ work. A person who does a very good job every shift for a few years may be good but not unusual. However, when the person does a very good job every shift for 25 years, it may be unusual.
Step up for the people around you. Look for and recognize the good work that they have done. Your leadership is important to them, and you will create a useful lasting point of pride for the recipient.
Ron Hiraki began his career as a firefighter in the Seattle (WA) Fire Department, working in a variety of operational and administrative positions leading to his final assignment as assistant chief of employee development. Completing his career as an assistant chief for a small combination fire department, Hiraki has nearly 30 years of fire service experience in urban and suburban settings. He has a master of science degree in human resources development and is a consultant to number of public safety agencies for their selection and performance evaluation programs.