“IN CHARGE” OF A VOLUNTEER DEPARTMENT, PART 2

“IN CHARGE” OF A VOLUNTEER DEPARTMENT, PART 2

BY JOHN M. BUCKMAN

Let`s continue our discussion of the 70 primary roles of today`s officer (again, not in order of importance). Of course, much more will be expected of you as a leader. And, as I said in Part 1 of this article (January 1996), if you are already an officer, ask yourself, How am I doing in each area? What can I do to improve my performance?

PRIMARY ROLES

36. Jack-of-all-trades/master of none. One person cannot possess all the talent necessary to be an effective leader. Use other people`s strengths to help you. Know your limitations, and recognize and build on people`s skills and talents.

37. Leader. Leaders believe that each person is valuable, able, and responsible in some way. Real leaders see leadership as a process of empowering people to see themselves positively–as competent, productive, and important. Leaders also do the following:

recognize potential that may be understated.

make good politics fashionable.

view themselves as team members, not managers; they see a field of political equals, not subordinates.

expect to be role models and display the behavior they want others to adopt.

know that the “Golden Rule” (do unto others…) is good business.

look for hidden abilities in others by observing and listening, and use previously untapped skills and resources.

know that encouraging people to make choices promotes independence, which results in job ownership, giving people a sense of responsibility for productivity and quality.

keep their personal value systems intact while recognizing cultural diversity and respecting people`s differences.

empower people across the board–not just favorites–to be fair.

give praise that is timely, specific, and accurate.

follow through–no detail is unimportant.

38. Leveraged one. You gain leverage through other people`s efforts, by getting them to work with you and for you to accomplish your department`s goals. Sometimes you can ask them to volunteer, although they will not work indefinitely without personal reward. Other times you can hire them, freeing yourself up for other work. To be an effective leader, you must be an expert at persuading others to work in a common direction. Excellent managers are really excellent low-pressure salespeople. They do not order people around; they convince them that they have a vested interest in doing a job and doing it well.

Another form of leverage can be gained through other people`s knowledge. You must be able to tap into other people`s brains and power to accomplish goals.

39. Librarian. A librarian may not know all the answers but has the world`s knowledge at his or her fingertips. Likewise, the chief officer may not know all the answers but must develop resources that can answer questions. (ties in with “Researcher.”)

40. Manager. Managers take on the day-to-day business requirements of the department. They have to make sure the people`s general needs are met in a timely manner. Sometimes the simplest task can turn into the most difficult situation if it is not managed properly.

41. Manipulator. Manipulation is not always a bad thing. An effective leader understands how and when to put the proper spin on a situation. Used in moderation and when appropriate, manipulation is a necessary leadership skill to have.

42. Motivator. You become a motivator by becoming the kind of person others admire and respect. Begin to see yourself as a role model, an example, the person who sets the standards that others follow. A key characteristic of motivators is that they set high standards of accountability for themselves. You have to be motivated as well. You get others excited about work by being excited about it yourself.

43. Mentor. Coach, challenge, stimulate, listen to, and guide potential leaders. Mentoring ensures the continued leadership of your organization.

44. Negotiator. This skill involves the art of give-and-take. The most effective negotiator usually has more information about the people he is negotiating with than they have about him. The first step in successful negotiations is being able to clearly define what you want.

45. Nurse. You must take care of the physically and mentally sick and injured in your department. You will spend considerable time on volunteer members` personal problems.

46. Organizer. You must be organized to be effective. You must be personally organized–showing up on time and keeping commitments. Your workspace–your office and desk–also must be organized so you can convey the image of an organized professional.

47. Participant. Do not become too removed or isolated from the organization. Participate in activities that will help humanize you in your personnel`s eyes.

48. Photographer. Taking pictures to document department activities is an important task. It helps in justifying your actions and also is a valuable training tool.

49. Pleaser of self. Your happiness depends in part on your ability to please yourself. No one else can make you happy–you must do it yourself. Do not constantly sacrifice your own happiness for another`s.

50. Policy maker. You set the direction for the department. Even if you relegate the task of policy maker to others or a governing body, you are still a policy enforcer. You must make sure the policies set by others are implemented fairly and in a timely manner.

51. Problem solver. When a problem–personal or organizational–reaches your desk, people expect you to solve it if it is in your power. You must have the ability, power, and right to do so.

52. Persuasive one. Your ability to persuade people depends on the following:

Power–how much power and influence people perceive you have.

Positioning–the way people think and talk about you when you are not there.

Performance–your level of competence and expertise.

Politeness–treating people with respect to make them want to do for you.

53. Public relations expert. Few chiefs should be shy about publicity. However, negative publicity can result when you try to get publicity at any place or time without discretion or without a goal in mind. Good publicity absorbs a lot of time and energy–but it is worth it for yourself and your department.

54. Public speaker. It is human nature to fear public speaking, but you must effectively communicate your mission to your personnel to gain their support. You will improve your public speaking each time you speak. Some pointers follow:

Make brief notes of interesting points you want to make–do not write out your talk word for word.

Don`t memorize your talk word for word.

Fill your talk with illustrations and examples.

Know much more on your topic than you can use.

Rehearse by talking with friends.

Don`t worry about your delivery–stay focused on why you are speaking in the first place.

55. Receptionist. Someone has to answer the door and welcome people to the fire department.

56. Recruiter. You and every other person in the department are responsible for recruitment. However, assigning someone as a recruiting officer will add to your success. Decide what to ask potential recruits, what to do with rejected potential recruits, etc. Develop a recruiting manual to help your recruiting officer. It should contain information about your department and answers to questions recruits commonly ask.

57. Reliable one. Performance over time indicates how reliable you are. Do you forget promises? Jump from fad to fad? Change directions midstream? Do people know what to expect from you, or do personnel constantly wonder what is going to please or displease the boss? Reliability is the sign of a mature leader.

58. Representative. Always remember that you represent the department. Don`t think you can “let your hair down” for a minute. You are never off-duty when you have a leadership role.

59. Researcher. You must develop the ability to research problems and come up with solutions. Research involves looking at different information sources for what you need to know. (Ties in with “Librarian.”)

60. Responsible one. This is one of the hardest qualities to develop. Sometimes great successes and great failures are separated by a very narrow margin. However, if you accept responsibility, you do so for successes and failures. Do not make excuses, blame others, or become upset or resentful because others do or do not do something.

61. Salesperson. Salespeople have nothing bad to say about their products. Although every department has problems, those problems should stay inside the department.

62. Staff member. Every leader has a boss.

63. Standard setter. Set the standard for behavior, attitude, personal appearance, etc. Set standards just high enough that members have to stretch to reach them.

64. Substitute. You will have to fill in for others, often at the last minute. Realize that the others want you to be yourself, do the best you can, and deliver their message effectively in their absence.

65. Supervisor. To be effective, you will have to accomplish tasks through others. First, you must supply them with the proper tools to do the job. Then, you must provide the proper supervision.

66. Supporter. As your department`s leader, you must support it and its people in every way. In turn, the members and public must support you and your positions.

67. Trusted one. You build trust by being ethical at all times and matching your actions to your words, by keeping commitments and promises, and by sharing information openly but keeping confidential matters confidential.

68. Trainer. You must train personnel to accomplish tasks. If you give them knowledge, they will respect you, work for you, and give that extra effort.

69. Visionary. This quality separates the leaders from the followers. Leaders have vision, the ability to stand back and see the big picture. Followers are caught up in the daily activities. Leaders fix their eyes on the horizon and see greater possibilities. Followers have their eyes fixed on the ground in front of them and are so busy that they seldom look at themselves and their activities in a larger context.

70. Volunteer. If you are the leader of an organization that relies partially or totally on volunteer personnel, you must be aware of their limitations, feelings, and expectations. Deal with volunteers as you would paid personnel. Remember, a firefighter`s professionalism is determined not by the amount of money put in his pocket but by what`s in his heart. n

JOHN M. BUCKMAN, a 24-year veteran of the fire service, has been chief of the German Township (IN) Volunteer Fire Department since 1977. He is chairperson of the International Association of Fire Chiefs Volunteer Section, a member of the National Fire Protection Association Volunteers Advisory Task Force, the president of the Southwestern Indiana Survive Alive Inc. public fire safety education facility, and an editorial advisory board member of Fire Engineering.

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