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President`s Letter: Build Your Team

What can you do to help build your team? It may be as simple as getting out of the way. It's like having all your team members on a bus with a fuel tank full of gas and everything they need to drive that bus. They can get to where they need to go, even if you have to stay home.

Connect Your Team's Members

The efforts of a group aren't necessarily the same as team effort, and you can't have the same expectations of a simple group as you do of your team. Team members depend on each other to achieve team goals. Those who work on their own, with little or no dependence on others, may be part of a group, but they're not contributing to the team.

Connect team members by giving them a shared vision and goal. Don't assume everyone is on the same page until you discuss your team's mission with the team. This discussion is part of team-building process, foundational to the theory and practice of organizational development.

Empower Your Team

Empower team members to do what they have to do by removing any potential roadblocks. Being a leader is more about the listening then the telling. Listen to what team members are telling you. By listening to them, you also allow them to hear themselves think through their issues and processes and develop their own solutions.

Help facilitate dialogue between team members, as well as building discussions between you and them, to help with two-way interaction and the exchange of ideas.

Rely on your ability to support your team, not your ability to do. Although it may seem more difficult to teach the needed skills to your teams, they learn nothing if you do the job for them.

Lead Your Team

In the day-to-day operations of a fire department, team dynamics can be improved through successful leadership. Good leadership can bring out the best in an organization and helps ensure individual development, good communication and the ability to work as a team.

A team shares leadership, so don't just manage—lead. Be a role model and know that you're always being watched. If honesty and integrity among your team is important to you, make sure your actions line up with your words.

But also continue to evaluate the team and make it clear what your expectations for them are.

Inspire Your Team

Celebrate successes by thanking team members for the efforts they make on behalf of the department and the team. Brag about them—to them and to others; blow your team's horn, not your own.

Remember that laughter is a common language, and laughing together lessens stress and stimulates creativity. Look for and take advantage of opportunities to share joy and humor with the team.

Step Up to the Challenge

Our real challenge is in how we create teamwork. While there's no absolutely certain method, some of the ideas shared here have helped many of us in fire service build successful teams. Here are a few more ideas to tip the scale in your team's favor:

  • Take the team's pulse often to learn what's working and what isn't.
  • Don't be afraid to ask the team for feedback on how you're doing as a leader. Sometimes we may not like to hear it, but it can make a significant improvement in our effectiveness as leaders.
  • Be yourself; develop a leadership style that fits who you are, and don't try to be like someone else.
  • Follow-up is as important as delegating. Follow through on delegated tasks; team members need this type of support to help ensure their success.
  • Be patient; change takes time.

As leaders in today's fire service, we have the wonderful opportunity to lead, motivate and mentor others in our organizations; taking advantage of this opportunity has a very positive effect on our own success. So get out there and have fun, give it your best and enjoy the space between a rock and a hard place. It's where diamonds are made.

Chief Hank Clemmensen
President and Chairman of the Board

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