Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Power from Empowerment

by Denis Waitley

A good way to think of leadership is the process of freeing your team members to do the best work they possibly can. I have followed NBA basketball coach Phil Jackson’s career.

Like Phil Jackson who moved from the record setting Chicago Bulls to the Los Angeles Lakers. Jackson says his principal task is creating an environment in which his players can flourish. In communicating with his championship teams, Jackson convinced them that they had the talent to win championships, and that the main goal of the coach was going to be freeing them to use that talent.

Today’s business team members say they want, more than anything else, the autonomy to do their jobs without the boss’s interference. In the new century, it’s already clear that the CEOs of our best-run companies believe that the more power leaders have, the less they should use.

The job of the team leader is to set a mission, decide upon a strategic direction, achieve the necessary cooperation, delegate authority—and then let people innovate. To do that we all could take a hint from late football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. Before his retirement as one of the leading coaches in college football history at Alabama, Bryant observed:

I’m just a plowhand from Arkansas, but I’ve learned how to put and hold a team together. I’ve learned how to lift some individuals up and how to calm others down, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat together, as a team. To do that, there are just three things I’d ever have to say: If anything went wrong, I did it. If it went semi-good, then we did it. If anything went real good, then you did it! That’s really all it takes to get other people to win for you.

The key to authentic leadership is to listen to your followers, and then open the door for them to lead themselves. The secret is empowerment. The main incentive is genuine caring and recognition.

  • The five most important words a leader can speak are: "I am proud of you."
  • The four most important are: "What is your opinion?"
  • The three most important are: "If you please."
  • The two most important are: "Thank you."
  • And the most important single word of all is: "You!"
Reproduced with permission from the Ron White Newsletter. To subscribe to Ron White's Newsletter, go to http://www.memoryinamonth.com/. Copyright 2010 All rights reserved worldwide.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

"Facing the Enemies Within"

Wildland fire operations have inherent risks that cannot be eliminated, even in the best of circumstances. Incident management and response is a competition between human beings and the forces of nature; leaders struggle to manage the effects caused by wildfire and other natural and man-made events. The environment can rapidly and unexpectedly change from normal to emergency conditions to complete chaos.
(Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 10)

The above statement reflects what every wildland firefighter knows about the inherent risks of the job. However, perspective and acknowledgement of our fears may free us of "the chains that bind."

While training a battalion from Ft. Hood to help with wildland fire suppression efforts, I learned a huge lesson about perspective. The soldiers that I spoke with found great fear in the unknown world of wildland fire. I told them that our number one priority is the safety of life and that their mission was one they need not fear. Their fear puzzled me as they were soldiers during war time and the feared not the enemies they had trained to defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq. They fully knew that enemy, but the image of wildland fire portrayed by the media stirred something deep within them.

We know our risks. We train to mitigate risk; and yet, we all have fears. Jim Rohn has this to say about the subject.

Facing the Enemies Within
by Jim Rohn

We are not born with courage, but neither are we born with fear. Maybe some fears are brought on by your own experiences, by what someone has told you, by what you've read in the papers. Some fears are valid, like walking alone in a bad part of town at two o'clock in the morning. But once you learn to avoid that situation, you won't need to live in fear of it.

Fears, even the most basic ones, can totally destroy our ambitions. Fear can destroy fortunes. Fear can destroy relationships. Fear, if left unchecked, can destroy our lives. Fear is one of the many enemies lurking inside us.

Let me tell you about five of the other enemies we face from within. The first enemy that you've got to destroy before it destroys you is indifference. What a tragic disease this is. "Ho-hum, let it slide. I'll just drift along." Here's one problem with drifting: you can't drift your way to the top of the mountain.

The second enemy we face is indecision. Indecision is the thief of opportunity and enterprise. It will steal your chances for a better future. Take a sword to this enemy.

The third enemy inside is doubt. Sure, there's room for healthy skepticism. You can't believe everything. But you also can't let doubt take over. Many people doubt the past, doubt the future, doubt each other, doubt the government, doubt the possibilities and doubt the opportunities. Worst of all, they doubt themselves. I'm telling you, doubt will destroy your life and your chances of success. It will empty both your bank account and your heart. Doubt is an enemy. Go after it. Get rid of it.

The fourth enemy within is worry. We've all got to worry some. Just don't let it conquer you. Instead, let it alarm you. Worry can be useful. If you step off the curb in New York City and a taxi is coming, you've got to worry. But you can't let worry loose like a mad dog that drives you into a small corner. Here's what you've got to do with your worries: drive them into a small corner. Whatever is out to get you, you've got to get it. Whatever is pushing on you, you've got to push back.

The fifth interior enemy is over-caution. It is the timid approach to life. Timidity is not a virtue; it's an illness. If you let it go, it'll conquer you. Timid people don't get promoted. They don't advance and grow and become powerful in the marketplace. You've got to avoid over-caution.
Do battle with the enemy. Do battle with your fears. Build your courage to fight what's holding you back, what's keeping you from your goals and dreams. Be courageous in your life and in your pursuit of the things you want and the person you want to become.


Article by Jim Rohn, America's Foremost Business Philosopher, reprinted with permission from Jim Rohn International C2010. As a world-renowned author and success expert, Jim Rohn touched millions of lives during his 46-year career as a motivational speaker and messenger of positive life change. For more information on Jim and his popular personal achievement resources or to subscribe to the weekly Jim Rohn Newsletter, visit http://www.jimrohn.com/.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Leadership Lessons from the Chilean Mine Entrapment

“In crisis, it’s tough to keep people focused on the team rather than themselves.”

People around the world have been riveted to the Chilean mine entrapment of 33 workers for 69 days some 2,000 feet below the earth’s surface. On October 13, 2010, all 33 men were rescued. The final rescue was that of the crew’s leader, Luis Urzua.

In the coming years we will see a number of books and movies about the ordeal. We will undoubtedly hear differing opinions on the effectiveness of Luis Urzua’s leadership; therefore, I take this opportunity to focus on the positive side of the story.

Kathy Kristof of CBS’s MoneyWatch.com wrote a great piece fire leaders should read called “Chilean Miners: Leadership Lessons from Luis Urzua.” She organized his effective leadership into the following categories and provides meaningful advice for all leaders:

  • Reputation
  • Teamwork
  • Focus
  • Discipline
  • Shared Credit
  • Higher Purpose

She highlights Simon Sinek's, author of Start With Why, video How Great Leaders Inspire Action.

As a fire leader, consider how you would have handled the situation. Are there lessons learned that you can apply to your leadership?

Other articles related to the Chilean miners:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Workforce Development

One thing I notice when I am browsing many leadership sites, especially the ones aimed at Business people. They talk about moving up the ladder as a reward the faster you climb the ladder the greater the reward will be, more money, nicer office, earlier retirement. This got me thinking, do we, the wildland fire community foster an environment where competent, capable people have the opportunity to advance their career at their pace or do we hold them to an artificial standard? Do not confuse my question as a label for our community or that this is the way I see it. I do not advocate giving someone a qualification, they need to earn it but I wonder if we demand more than what is required?
Workforce development continues to loom large on the horizon for the Federal side of Wildland Firefighters. The agencies and organizations continue to seek out more effective ways to develop responders and fill the need for critical Incident response qualifications.
There are many real world examples of High Reliability Organizations (military, Aircraft pilots, physicians), where members of the organization are trained to function in critical roles in relatively short time frames.
As leaders we need to keep looking for new ways to develop our subordinates for the future, we need to build the team to be able to function in our absence and set the example by embracing new ideas that work to make positive change in our organizations.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Teamwork in Decline at Federal Agencies"

Fire leaders build cohesive teams--not simply groups of individuals putting forth individual efforts--to accomplish missions in high-risk environments.
(Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 52)


We "talk the talk" but do we "walk the talk"? Tom Fox, Partnership for Public Service, recently wrote about recent a declining trend of teamwork in federal agencies. In "Teamwork in Decline at Federal Agencies" he refers to a survey conducted by Partnership for Public Service which found that "teamwork is not always apparent in the federal work space."

Building cohesive teams is woven throughout the fabric of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program (WFLDP). Even so, we must make a concerted effort to build and sustain those relationships. As Fox says, "It is not always easy to get everyone on the same page, and to put aside their own egos, self-interest and agendas for the good of the group and the larger mission."

The following references may help fire leaders build and maintain cohesive teams.

L-380 Crew Cohesion Assessment

Leading in the Wildland Fire Service - Building the Team, pp. 52-55

  • Trust
  • Healthy Conflict
  • Commitment
  • Peer Accountability
  • Team Results
  • Resilience

Wildland Fire Leadership Values and Principles - Respect: Build the team.

  • Conduct frequent debriefings with the team to identify lessons learned.
  • Recognize individual and team accomplishments and reward them appropriately.
  • Apply disciplinary measures equally.

WFLDP Leadership Toolbox and Followership to Leadership Course

Friday, October 8, 2010

Leadership is

I just read the article by Dr. Robert McTeer on leadership. You can find it in the Leadership Toolbox, under Integrity in the About Leadership link. It seems to me that many of the topics discussed regarding leadership aren’t physical things, they are soft skills, ways to interpret or understand, thought processes. Dr. McTeer’s article helps identify what makes a person a leader. The article is written to be humorous, like the saying goes nothing is funnier than the truth. From Winston Churchill to Arnold Schwarzenegger the examples are effective at making points and providing examples that are easily identified. Leadership is one of those art and science things. The science is easy, there are many experts, professionals and organizations producing information about being a leader. The challenge is the art. How do we use all of this information and how do we apply it. I think this article gives some good advice on being a leader. Much interpretation and inference is left open pertaining to the “soft skills” of leadership but real world examples are provided to study. If you get nothing else from the article, at least you will have the rock star status of Alan Greenspan to contemplate.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Clinging to Procedures

Have you come upon someone who followed policies and procedures, whether mandatory or not, so strongly that they failed to listen?

I came across a blog by Kate Nasser called People Skills: Procedures Block Listening which I found insightful and wanted to share. Kate asserts that "When people cling to procedures, the procedures can block listening."

Consider our own procedures: the Standard Firefighter Orders and the 18 Watch Out Situations. Some contend they are guidelines; others contend they are steadfast rules. The debate alone can cause a confusion and block listening. However, strict adherence to any policy or procedure could result in an unwanted consequence. Having open communication and analyzing concerns and requests with an attitude of respect can have profound results.

Policies and procedures have their place but should not block our ability to listen.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Self Development

There is a saying that suggests “If you and your boss share the same opinion, one of you is redundant.” Another popular adage, “what the boss wants the boss gets”. As leaders we frequently find ourselves trying to operate in the space between these two axioms. We strive to be successful, complete the tasks we are assigned and win praise from superiors without being a “yes” person. Without a good grasp of personal or professional values to grant guidance this can be a difficult position at best.
The foundational tenet of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program (WFLDP) is the Values and Principles. The values provide direction, the principles define the values as the WFLDP intended them to be interpreted. Each of the WFLDP Values will have a slightly different meaning or interpretation to each person that reads them. The Principles help us maintain consistency with the WFLDP. Without knowing our values the definition will be incomplete. As Leaders we also need to understand the values of the organization we work for and we need to understand our values as we align ourselves with the organizations. A lecture delivered to an incoming class at West Point has some interesting perspectives on how leaders can gain valuable perspective on their values. http://www.theamericanscholar.org/solitude-and-leadership/ The author provides a thorough argument for concentrating on understanding your values and how when challenged with formidable dilemmas this exercise in self-development will be the preparation that leads to an effective and successful conclusion.