Professional?

 

TFCA 2012

Do you consider yourself a professional? Most trades that require a specific knowledge or training do. From construction, manufacturing, sales and service, all will be acknowledged a professional at some point and time.

When I studied the origins of the term “professional”, it took me through history.  In the pre-industrial world, a professional was an elite highly educated person that was established as a pro by a long study capped by a societal recognition, (Doctor, Layer, etc.).  Today, almost every trade has a board that recognizes their specialty as a profession.

So where do firefighters fall into the “professional” strata? Training, and credentialing and more than anything else, public acceptance. Although many States do not regulate firefighter credentials, it is up to you as an individual to embrace the profession as one that demands high standards in training and performance. Being “highly trained” will set you apart, even within the fire service. One of the biggest pieces of the professional status is your reputation in the public eye.  Your customers aren’t as impressed with your credentials as they are with how you treat them. How you make someone feel will be remembered long after the incident is over.

I have heard many a salty dog tell me that their years of service has given them a PhD of the job.  I have also heard many highly papered officers embarrass me with their lack of operational knowledge. Somewhere in between the “profession” must regulate itself with accountability of our performance to stay inline with our mission.

Becoming a pro, in the end, is nothing grander than growing up.  Steven Pressfield –

A professional is someone who is trained in an expertise that separates them from others not trained. There are many variations of the definition, I like Merriam Webster’s take;
(1) : characterized by or conforming to the technical or
ethical standards of a profession (2) : exhibiting a
courteous, conscientious, and generally
businesslike manner in the workplace.
If you think you are a professional because you get “paid” for your work, you may be missing the boat…. Set yourself apart from others by being a professional at all times.

Parting shot; What happen to firefighters being skilled tradesmen?  Have we lost our way somewhere along the line chasing a professional status?  what say you?

 

photo credit: Texas Fire Chief’s Academy 2012

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Are you planting trees, or feeling the pull of gravity?

Tree

 

When is the best time to plant a tree?  Twenty years ago. When is the second best time to plant a tree? Now!

– Proverb

I know where I need to be and what I should be doing, but the motivation, sometimes, is not here.  The work to be done is daunting and includes the not so fun stuff. Holding people accountable, making a decision that is not popular and the rare occasion in which I realize I am wrong and need to regroup (lol).

How do I get the tree planted today? One step at a time. Movement overcomes the pull of   gravity from the tasks. Like Nike says, “Just Do It”!

My writing has fallen off (gravity), my exercise has all but ceased (gravity), but today is the day to plant the tree. Today is the day I find my flow of movement.

“Someone sits in the shade of a tree today, because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

 

My question today is; Are you planting trees or are you just sitting in the shade? What are you doing?

Are you aware of…. you?

What do you see?

Authentic leadership evasively hides, getting harder and harder to find everyday.  So many so-called leaders just manage day-to-day expecting great results to fall into their laps.  If you “lead” in any fashion you need to evaluate your interaction and influence. You alone possess the power to make people feel worth while in their jobs. Even if you do not have direct oversight, your daily interaction will exert influence in your co-workers.

Awareness of your presence and impact is necessary. (me)

Can you change processes or procedures that have become so integrated in the daily grind they are never evaluated? It becomes easy and somewhat habitual to go to work and do the same thing over and over. Read the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business You will discover we are controlled by our daily habits and environment. Small changes reinforce huge shifts in our lives and the lives of our co-workers and friends.

Next question, what have you done recently to improve your professional abilities? Are you really done learning your job?  A true professional practices and works to get better at their craft every day. Just like the center on a football team (American NFL) who will snap the ball over and over and over again each and every day; you too should consider perfecting the small skills that make you a professional. Take a class, attend a seminar, read a book, teach a class, or just practice. No one knows it all or performs flawlessly without practice.

The quality of a man’s life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field of endeavor.
(Vince Lombardi)

The only way to get better is to objectively look at your performance and seek outside evaluation for how you’re doing.  We use 360 degree surveys that are unfiltered, raw unloading of the department’s observations as they see them.  These evaluations are truly anonymous and sometimes brutal in content. Really good stuff. The results then can be categorized to look for trends and even be used to personally self-evaluate how you are perceived. CAUTION: Use these with care. Learn how to take raw feedback..

If you are not passionate about your work, read the book Turning Pro and evaluate your path.  If you are just in a rut, look for ways to break the habits around you that are pulling you down. If you are passionate, then look for ways to communicate that passion to those around you so that they understand. Everyone hears the message differently thus personalities abound with diverse opinions.  Craft your passion into a message that is personal to each one of your co-workers.  Talk their language and see if your passion is contagious.

Change is not as difficult as we all think. It is as easy as changing simple mundane habits and embracing our passion. Also remember to be personal with those around you as the message you speak may be in a foreign tongue if not delivered in their native personality.

Parting Shot: Be vain, look into the mirror often enough to know how others see you.

Lessons in leadership from the Bottom

True “leadership” occurs at all levels of an organization. The old saying, “if you don’t like it, change it” in someway espouses that everyone has the ability to create change. This is true if they are also given the authority to carry through with the mission. Change is, at it’s very foundation, the definition of leadership. Leadership can be defined many ways, but moving from one position to another is a very clear explanation.

Story;

Rookie firefighter comes to work and is expected to learn the district. After looking over the map book, the rookie realizes the book is poorly organized and difficult to learn. Knowing there were better map books in the industry, the rookie requested a meeting with the Chief to see if he could convince him to change the book. The Chief met with the rookie and listened to the complaint of how inefficient the map book was and that there were better ones we could emulate to improve our process. The Chief, being a teacher of leadership, told the rookie to come back with an example and then he would evaluate it. The rookie, feeling somewhat validated but mostly challenged, set out to improve on the map book. After a week, the new proposal for a map book was presented to the Chief with some confidence and enthusiasm that the change would happen. Result; the Chief liked it enough to tell the rookie to develop, distribute and train everyone on the new map book.

The example was a classic story of leadership from both ends of the organization. The Chief was teaching and actually leading the change by engaging a rookie who exhibited enthusiasm for driving the change. The rookie realized there was something wrong in the system and brought it to the attention to the Chief. The responsibility assigned to the rookie  was given with the authority to create change.

Lesson learned;

change can occur from every position in an organization and when leadership emerges it should be fostered and supported with authority to carryout the initiative.

How did I get here?

The Path

As I was talking to a friend of mine the other night, I realized my experiences in life have brought me to where and who I am today. Ok, it sounds a little cliché, but as I was admiring the impressive career and resume of my friend, he asked how I got to where I am today. As I recounted my days in the fire service, I started to hear a story that didn’t sound so bad. Somewhat like Steve Jobs who stated he stitched his life experiences together to arrive at his pinnacle, I draw on many experiences that I had long forgotten. Ok maybe not Steve Jobs…  but the concept is the same.

Influence is about changing hearts, minds, and behavior to produce meaningful, sustainable results. (Influencer: The Power to Change Anything)

The people I have met along the way, the instructors, mentors, haters and mostly my friends, all direct my path in some way.  I have learned volumes from those whom which I admire as teachers or mentors (see earlier post; The Influence of My Dad.) The technical and academic knowledge and even emulation of character try to steal some charisma that they may have wielded.  I believe I can recount the lessons learned from those who either did not like me or vice versa. The haters are watched closely. If we glean more from our visible world than our audible, then these folks are both inspiration of what not to do or how not to do it. Lastly, our friendships in life make us happy and give us the belonging and acceptance we crave. Your friendships are also bestowed upon those who will cast influence on you. I never want to hurt those who I call a friend. I also do not want to be reserved with my thoughts or words around those who I trust enough to call friend. This is the big one. Trust will allow someone to tell you, “that’s wrong” or “what were you thinking” and not offend you because it is coming from a trusted source that cares.

Putting it all together, these experiences will shape your thoughts.  Your actions are another thing. Daniel Pink, best-selling author of Drive, explains that we are motivated in many ways, but nothing more powerful than these three factors;

 “1) autonomy, the desire to direct our own lives, 2) mastery, the desire to continually improve at something that matters, and 3) purpose, the desire to do things in service of something larger than ourselves.”

Our motivations coupled with our exposures will be the “who” we are.  How we employ our experiences, or learn from them, will result in our destination. If in fact our drive is pretty similar across all the who’s in who-ville, then we need to be very skilful with how the stitching of experiences is done. Follow the leaders that care for you. Be inspired by those that care enough to  be brutally honest with you. Learn from your negative experiences like they are valuable teaching moments in life. And then finally, think about the impression you are leaving on those around you in life and ponder, will it be stitched into shaping someone else’s life or just forgotten?

Parting Shot;

A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure. (Proverbs 16:9)