Whenever you are in a leadership class or discussion and the topic of expectations comes up, it seems like everyone in the room recognizes and agrees on the importance of establishing expectations early and often. As a concept, everyone seems to “get it”. However, if you ask someone who is harping on the importance of expectations what their expectations are, they often stumble and stutter through a short list of demands that are not very well thought out.
Here’s the problem with that; when you are sitting down with a new employee to discuss the expectations, you are not just providing them with a guide to success in the company, firehouse, department, etc. You are also giving them an opportunity to size YOU up. Remember, first impressions work both ways. This is also your opportunity to establish credibility as an officer, leader and, quite simply, as a person. It’s very simple, in your first 10 minutes with them; they will make an initial decision how willing they are to follow you.
That said, having a plan or an outline to follow is a critical part of this first meeting. It gives you a chance beforehand to think about what you will say and make sure that you are providing the right message. It also keeps you on track and shows them that you take this meeting seriously, so they should also. If you stumble and stutter through this first meeting, how does that grow their confidence in you as a leader?
Expectations aren’t just for the initial meeting. I think we can all agree that expectations can change. This is often when accidents happen or rifts in the company. Nothing is more divisive than double standards. So, as a leader, it is critical that you monitor this and make sure that you maintain current expectations for everyone you lead and keep them all in the same lane going the same direction.
I would encourage you to approach an expectation update with the same consideration, preparation and format that you do your initial. As a company officer, about once a month we would all sit down at the kitchen table for a company meeting. I, or we when I worked with Chris, would identify trends in the department, company, training or anything that needed to be addressed, develop a short outline and review it with our people. Despite the formality of having an outline, these meetings were always relaxed. Often times, we relied on and included our senior firefighters to keep us in the loop on things and they often contributed to these meetings as well.
We would respectfully, but bluntly evaluate and discuss where we were, what we were excelling at, what we needed to tighten up on and, as a company, we would discuss and agree on a direction to continue. Fortunately, we had great crews and a lot of this stuff was done informally on a daily basis. However, if it became necessary, we could always sit down, reassess and redirect.
Eventually, when we got new firefighters, myself, Chris and our most senior firefighter (now LT Jason Brahm) each had an outline of expectations and each made a run at the new person. It was awesome. As a leader, I couldn’t have asked for a better working environment. It was positive, respectful and we worked harder than anyone else (or at least we tried to), but we also more fun than anyone else (at least we tried to).
For me, it all started with my Company Expectations meeting. So to help anyone who may not know where to start, or to help anyone who may be looking for more material, I am going to share my expectations outline. I have updated some of the information just to keep it current, but for the most part, it hasn’t changed it 8 years (that whole consistency thing). As a quick note to point out, my first meeting always started with me telling them about me. After all, how can you ask someone to trust you if they don’t know you?
- My belief
- Position of RESPONSIBILITY, NOT POWER
- I am responsible for the safety of the citizens, my people and myself.
- I am responsible for implementing and exceeding department standards, national standards and my own standards.
- I am responsible for developing your knowledge, skills and abilities so that you can help yourself meet your career goals.
- 17 years in the fire service
- I’m the Training Chief for the North Charleston Fire Department and a Lieutenant for the Goose Creek Rural Fire Department
- Teach for the State Fire Academy, my departments and for my company SAFE Firefighter, LLC
- I was also on a Type 2 US&R Team for about 10 years with other tech rescue experience
- Got involved early in my career with SOG and program development
- I’ve been a full-time paid, part-time paid, volunteer and live-in volunteer firefighter and have enjoyed a career of diverse experiences on all types of companies and departments
- I’ve been fortunate to find great mentors and learn from bad ones
- Have a degree in Business Management, finishing another degree in Occupational Safety then starting my Masters (in something)
- Early on, got passed up for training officer 3 times and tested for Lieutenant 3 times. Best thing that ever happened to me. EXPLAIN
- 2nd generation firefighter
- Born and raised in Indianapolis, moved to SC for college, left and joined the Fire Department.
- Went back to school and moved into the firehouse in Hyattsville, Maryland in PG Country. Best professional decision I’ve made. EXPLAIN
- Ended up back in SC and have been part of some of the fastest growing, challenging and best departments. WANTED TO BE PART OF SOMETHING DEEPER.
- Married with two daughters, a dog, a rabbit and a fish
- My Mantra: Be SAFE, S-A-F-E
- Smart- know the standards, know the SOG, know how to use them
- Aggressive- be as proactive and assertive as the situation allows
- Fundamentally sound- know the books, everything builds from the basics
- Efficient- practice all of the above until its second nature. In our job, seconds count so we can’t afford to waste time.
- My goal as a leader
- Gain your trust and respect through my ACTIONS
- Help develop the best firefighters, officers and leaders based on passion and respect for the citizens, the job and each other
- Help you to develop your skills and meet your career goals
- Respect each other in words and actions
- Respect each other’s differences
- Respect each other’s time, money and personal life
- Seat Belts
- Incident Scene- NOT a Democracy, unless you see a safety issue
- Physical Training
- Company Level Training
- Informal Drills
- Know your job- Task/Riding Assignments
- Know how your job impacts the incident- Strategy and Tactics Factors
- Get a working knowledge of the job above yours
- In the Station
- Trust, respect and teamwork start here.
- YOU are not done until WE are all done.
- Daily Schedule
- Check offs – Run everything, every shift (hands on training)
- Daily Duties
- Dinner TOGETHER (prefer meals, but at least eat at same time)
- If your issues are with someone else, address it with them first. RESPECTFULLY
- Anything else, come to me. We’ll deal with anything we can in-house first
- Comes with time
- Comes with knowing and meeting yours and others expectations
- Respect + Reliance = Trust
Thanks and Be SAFE,