Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A New Generation of Communicating

I heard a story on my way to work this morning about technological innovations to hit the market in the next few months. Video chat will soon be the standard way of communicating; however, holographic imagery is just around the corner. Batteries that recharge from air was discussed.

I respect advancements in technology, but find myself to the right on the technology integration curve--meaning I'm late into the cycle when I adopt new technology. My cell phone is the flip phone variety without camera or Qwerty keyboard, and I missed the whole Beta Max and laser disc phase (thank goodness). However, I use my home computer to video chat with my nephew who is currently deployed in Iraq and love my new portable e-book.

So what does this have to do with fire and leadership? I believe there is great relevancy to the way we communicate. Technological devices and the social media applications that go with them are main stream and a means of communication not only for the new generation firefighter but also those much further to the left on the technology curve than I am. Like it or not, the way we communicate is different. We are connected!

A few weeks after a special edition of Burning Issues: Social Media was released, I had the opportunity to participate in a social media class with individuals from NIFC's Office of External Affairs. Social media is a vital part of communicating within the fire community--at least to the outside world. How we embrace technological innovations will be a challenge for managers and leaders in the days and years ahead as innovation skyrockets and applications come and go. Although useful and often necessary, technological advancements can also be a distraction, putting the safety of firefighters at risk. Whichever side of the debate your reside, one this is for sure--change is coming

Monday, December 27, 2010

Excellence before Integrity

Integrity is a measure of where a person stands in times of challenge and controversy. ~ Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 59

If you are a fan of college football, you know it is bowl time. Being from Boise, Idaho, we are well aware that Bronco Nation rode the BCS rollercoaster in a race for the national championship or at least the Rose Bowl. Coming off a 26-3 win over Utah in the Las Vegas Maaco Bowl, fans wonder what could have been if only…

  • Boise State had won Nevada game.
  • Oregon State or Auburn had lost during the season.

However, the focus of this discussion is not about winning but about a matter of integrity. Kellen Moore, Boise State’s quarterback, was a finalist in the Heisman Trophy race. However, Auburn’s Cam Newton won the trophy in one of the most controversial races of all times due to a cloud of allegations surrounding Newton’s recruitment and his suspension over honor code violations. There is no doubt that Cam was an excellent football player, but did he epitomize the award?

Here is a portion of the Heisman Trust Mission Statement: "The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award…"

Cam Newton’s winning the Heisman Trophy spurred much discussion among leadership experts as to whether trust members violated the very essence of the award by bestowing the honor upon Newton. The Washington Post’s On Leadership blog asked leadership experts this question: “In dealing with top performers, how much should leaders overlook corner cutting, rule breaking and other integrity issues?”

If the trust members did indeed compromise the intent of the trophy, what have they said to previous and future winners? In contrast, the Hall of Fame board has stood firm that Pete Rose not be inducted due to ethical issues. Are there others in the Hall of Fame who shouldn't be--who may have "gotten by" undetected?

As a fire service leader, have you compromised the Wildland Fire Leadership Values and Principles when dealing with top performers who fail to exhibit what “right” looks like?

John Baldoni offers organizations a bit of advice in his short leadership video titled "Character Counts."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

HEART MEETS SOLE

So, there I was sitting in my hotel room the night before the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee meeting began watching “Avitar” with my husband. Due to a busy schedule and failure to flock to the theater with the masses, this was my first viewing. We even missed the beginning of this showing, but quickly found ourselves immersed in the fantasy.

Being a contributor to and administrator of the Leadership in Cinema program, my brain is trained to watch for leadership moments in film. However, this time I didn’t engage as I had done previously with other films—at least not immediately. I enjoyed the movie and wondered why I hadn’t made time to watch it earlier. I turned off the television and entered a peaceful night's slumber.

A few days later, Alexis Lewis, a doctoral student from Oregon State University, presented research findings to the subcommittee that resonated deeply with my philosophy of fire and the coursework I was pursing at Boise State University—human performance and social interaction. Alexis’ presentation called “Upward Voice” spoke to research conducted with wildland firefighters and their ability to use their upward voice. Within her presentation, Alexis identified two foundational leadership characteristics: quality experience and compassionate/caring.

Upon returning to work, I fell back into my weekly routine of researching blog topics and found a link off the Harvard Business Review blog to an article by Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence,” a book in our Professional Reading Program, and Richard Boyatzis titled “Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership.” Goleman and Boyatzis contend that “new studies of the brain show that leaders can improve group performance by understanding the biology of empathy.” Within the HBR blog was an interview with Goleman on the subject.

Returning to my Avitar viewing experience, I find the social intelligence concept a reflection of the way the Avitar characters wove themselves together to become one entity and the bond that they shared.

We address compassion and empathy throughout the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program. May your actions speak louder than words written in our values and principles. I challenge each of you to watch Goleman’s 10-minute video about social intelligence and its impact on leadership development.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Message from The Guidance Group

We (the Guidance Group) wanted to let wildland fire leaders know that we’ve recently posted a new crop of articles in our Article Library at the Guidance Group website. This is a free and open reference resource, for our clients and friends. The Library contains nearly 50 articles ranging across a broad range of topics. Newly posted articles cover workplace satisfaction and motivation, distributed leadership, inspiration, Dr. Constance Mariano and wisdom. The Article Library includes expanded articles originally appearing in Mike DeGrosky’s "Thoughts on Leadership" column in Wildfire magazine as well as articles that we've presented at conferences or published elsewhere, that we think would be of interest to a wider audience.

We post additional articles continuously, and encourage people to check back often. We welcome your responsible use of our publications, and only ask that people respect our intellectual property by citing the authors properly and giving credit where credit is due. Access to the Article Library is obligation free, the Guidance Group does not collect information about visitors to our website, and we will not SPAM you. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WFLDP Website Technical Difficulties

We are currently experiencing technical difficulties with the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program website (http://www.fireleadership.gov). As a result you may be unable to reach the website.

We apologize for the difficulties you are having and hope to have the website back up very soon.

Thank you for your patience.

Friday, December 10, 2010


As the year comes to a close, I, on behalf of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee, would like to wish all readers a safe and happy holiday season.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Learn to Crawl Before You Walk"

by T.C. Cummings

Stallions like to run. Indeed, they were born to run. But they didn’t start their lives running. They had to grow gradually. Even as they fell—and they do fall—the pain and recovery was relative to their ability and growth at the time. A natural rule applies.

That rule, this philosophy, is crucial to the development of elite commandos or anyone with the strong desire to develop personally. People of this caliber—in applying themselves to personal betterment—need to constantly be reminded of the importance of respecting this rule of “walk before you run.” As a Navy SEAL, I know that after swimming for three miles while wearing dive fins in the cold ocean, a swimmer’s body is not prepared to hit the beach running. The mind can envision this action and may forget the rule, but the rule still applies.

To get to that place where the body and mind align, the body must transition. Muscles must reactivate, and rhythms must adjust. Only by respecting the rule can the envisioned outcome be achieved. If not, the would-be runner falls to the ground, disillusioned with his or her own belief.
Due to the high caliber of clients with whom I’ve had the honor of working in the civilian sector, I’ve been privy to see men and women possessing the same “stallion” characteristics in their business dealings as commandos possess in their operational battles.

In both cases, these “stallions” need to be reined in from hurting themselves when they seek to run before they can walk. It may be difficult for them to see this when they are in the moment, but it’s clear as a bell to an external observer who is an excellent listener.

We can only grow to the extent that we envision ourselves. Unless our inner representation grows as fast as our external growth, we will actually hold ourselves back from lasting success.
Do you know anyone who has dramatically lost weight with great joy only to revert to his or her old habits and weight?

Do you know people who have earned the money they really deserve only to squander it away and regress to their former income?

Who do you know that finally met the person of his or her dreams only to dump that loved one because of a list of silly reasons?

Leaping from crawling to running sets us up for a painful fall. We don’t achieve true personal growth, and because we find ourselves back at square one we may become disgruntled and distrustful of the process, often blaming anyone and anything but ourselves.

If you want to change, you must do the work. Go back to basics. In football, professionals earning millions of dollars annually practice the most basic drills throughout the season. Professional artists go back through the strokes and lighting. If you make millions of dollars consistently, most likely it’s because you go back to the basics of budgeting, saving and investing consistently.

Whenever you are seeking to grow—and you have a clear vision of what you wish to do—make sure that who you are being is big enough to consistently be doing what it is you wish to do. Make sure of this so you can consistently achieve your desired results.

If you are the “stallion,” then use your power and set yourself up to win with a coach or trainer whom you trust to observe and protect you from your own impetuous eagerness. And let them help train your muscles and harness your power so you can first walk and then run with a purpose.

If you are a leader responsible for “stallions,” then you must protect them from themselves as they seek to skyrocket up the corporate ladder. As a mentor, this is very much your charge. The personal damage—an increase of fear and frustrations—can be the result of falling on one’s face too often. This damage can be overcome, but recovery from it can take the wind out of your “stallion’s” sails. So as a leader, help them master the fundamentals so their climb up the ladder of growth and personal betterment is a lasting success.

Having the power of choice, we humans don’t automatically follow all of the rules as the stallions do in nature. We will never see a healthy plant provide fruit out of the natural order. For lasting success we need to consciously be aware that we must “learn to crawl before we walk, and walk before we run.”

TC Cummings is a professional speaker and a former Navy SEAL. Through 8 years in the U.S. Navy as an Operator and Corpsman on elite commando SEAL Teams, he traveled the world learning communication and teamwork on the cutting edge.

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.All contents Copyright 2010 except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. **Duplication or reprints only with express permission or approved Credits (see above). All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Déjà Vu

With all the talk of tightening budgets and program cuts, I’m taken back to a time not so long ago when I began my career as a seasonal employee. The year was 1984 (okay so it is a few years back) and the fiscal climate was much the same as it is now.

It was a time when climbing up the chain was a distant, if not impossible, undertaking. Budgets were tight and management focused on workforce development with the talk of a more “professional” firefighting force. We again face tightening budgets and program cuts and wonder how we will face the seasons ahead.

At the time, transferring from the local unit was about the only way to acquire a permanent position or even advance in the organization. Needless to say, turnover was low and changes in management and leadership were rare.

Flash forward: Transferring is still a good method of moving up the ladder; however, slumping housing markets and a struggling economy make it difficult for employees to transfer to other locations. Many will suffer large losses in trying to sell their home—making the lure of an upgrade or permanent position less appealing. The bottom line doesn’t support a move.

Managers encouraged employees to get a bachelor’s degree—it didn’t matter what type. They believed that any degree would do. The ability to analyze and synthesize information and make decisions were key skills.

Flash forward: Movements within our culture to create a “professional” firefighting force established that the degrees of choice were in biological sciences, agriculture, or natural resource management sciences.

History repeats itself and members of the wildland fire community need to become masters of their destiny and do what they must to build themselves in today’s unstable climate.

Joe Fontiera and Dan Leidl in “Curing Mid-Level Syndrome” provide some advice about growth in such a climate. Topics include:

  1. Seek out someone to mentor
  2. Inventory your values and behaviors
  3. What's your philosophy?
  4. Escape your comfort zone
  5. Grow outside

Leadership is Action for 2011

The NWCG Leadership Subcommittee, in conjunction with the National Advanced Fire and Resource Institute (NAFRI), is pleased to again offer senior‐level leaders in the wildland fire service a series of opportunities for continuing leadership development through the L‐580 Leadership is Action program.

Three opportunities are available:
  • Battle of Gettysburg Staff Ride
  • Wharton Leadership Conference
  • Northwest Leadership Seminar
For complete information including nomination procedures, refer to the course announcement at http://www.fireleadership.gov/L-580_Announcement_2011.pdf.