Creating Trust with Your Crew

Being promoted does not magically provide new officers with leadership skills, and traditionally the fire service has been light on developing leadership qualities. Often, people are promoted up through the ranks and can find themselves in senior positions needing better leadership tools. One of the most important leadership qualities all others can be built on is trust.

Trust

Belief in the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something

When your crew trusts you as a leader, it increases commitment to crew goals. Communication improves and ideas flow more freely, increasing participation and productivity. Individuals will be more comfortable with change and more willing to accept a new direction. With trust, the ability to work as a team is improved.

Building trust takes times, but it is easily lost. Your people will watch and mirror your actions and behavior. Trust is something you must invest in every day.

To have people trust you, you have to extend trust to them. Allow the men and women under your supervision the room to make decisions. If you have built trust, they will reach out to you when they need help.

As a leader, you are trusted only to the degree that people believe in your competence, consistency, compassion and character. Your crew should trust that you:

  • Will do the right thing for them and the organization.
  • Have invested in the skills needed to reach important goals on and off the fire ground.
  • Will keep your commitments.
  • Genuinely care about their wellbeing.

Competence

Your knowledge of what to do and how to get it done.

Know about the skills and strategies required to be a good firefighter. Your crew will have confidence in you if your stay current, relevant and capable. Your ability to learn and adapt amid chaos will be valued. There is always more to learn. Guide your team and make intelligent decisions.

Consistency

Conformity in the application of something, typically that which is necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy or fairness.

Be clear; when you’re evaluating a choice of action, ask yourself whether that choice is consistent with your principles. Your crew should know what to expect from you.

Recognize the little things; small things often have the largest effect. Praise your crew for things they do well. Share information so they feel included. Ask for the perspective of others. Let them feel you value their input.

Explain inconsistencies; recognize that if you have to take a different path you must offer extra communication to help others understand why. Not offering an explanation may provoke questions of trust.

Compassion

Sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

Put others first; think beyond yourself and have the best interest of others as a first priority. Support the growth of your people and clear obstacles from their paths. This will provide stability and a healthy environment for them to take chances and grow. The golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is a bottom-line truth; follow it.

Character

The mental, moral and ethical qualities distinctive to an individual.

Value crew members and demonstrate care for them. Take their needs and interests into consideration. Always treat people fairly and with respect. Help your crew members succeed and accomplish their personal goals. Take a minute every day to show appreciation for each person on your crew individually.

Understand emotional intelligence; take time to manage your own feelings at work and respect others' emotions and their management of those feelings. It is ok to acknowledge your own emotions, but you need to be in control. Invite others to provide constructive feedback on your own work. It will be easier for them to accept your feedback on their improvements.

Do what needs to be done; whether you feel like doing it or not, your action should be centered around doing what is right rather than what is easy.

A crew without trust is just a group of individuals working together. It doesn't matter how capable or talented your people are; they may never reach their full potential if trust isn't present.

When crew members do trust each other, they work both independently and together more successfully. They will be open to feedback from others as a source for personal growth.

As a leader you should create opportunities to build relationships. Your team should genuinely care for the success of each other. As their leader, the example starts with you. Invest in your people.

 

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