Recently I received an inquiry from a fire officer who was looking for advice about what he could do to prepare for career advancement. After some reflection and notetaking, I spent the majority of my time figuring out how to get the list down to five. Here they are (listed randomly).
1. Accelerate your learning:
a. Read top rated leadership books (get them from the library for free). Some of the classics will be available on audio book).
b. Read a book on the fundamentals of supervision (not the latest and greatest fads book... a book on tried and true fundamentals.
c. Read Fire Engineering, Firehouse and Fire Chief magazines (on-line content is free).
2. Broaden your perspectives by exposing yourself to new ways of thinking:
a. Attend a business seminar that is not fire-related (Fred Pryor-type).
b. Visit websites where innovative thinkers are celebrated (www.TED.com).
3. Rehearse your performance:
a. Create scenarios (management and fireground) that you have to manage through. Script out your course of action, then critique your performance.
b. Record yourself (audio and/or video)... depends on the scenario and play it back and watch/listen to your performance. Rate it and make a plan to improve.
4. Learn from the mistakes of others:
a. Avidly read near miss and line-of-duty casualty reports. Vividly imagine yourself being there where things are going bad. Don't be a judge of what happened. Try to understand why it happened and how you could prevent that happening when you are in charge.
5. Develop a mentor relationship:
a. Find someone to serve as a mentor... someone who has accomplished what it is you want to accomplish. Learn from them. They've made mistakes. Learn from that. They've done things that work well. Learn from that.
b. Have someone you can turn to when you are faced with a challenging situation and you want a sounding board for how to work through it.
c. Consider hiring a coach to help improve your performance and help you prepare for advancement.
Fire Chief (ret.) Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP