Firefighter Fodder

Last night I had fish tacos with about 20 firefighters.

Well… not actually real firefighters– yet, that will happen tomorrow after graduation.

This was a team of new “recruits” finishing their 12 week, intense, training academy ready to begin their new lives of public service.

The tacos were not remarkable, but the energy and excitement in the air was palpable.  This was a group of folks up to something.  Each recruit I spoke with had a  different background and reason for joining.  What they had in common was the passionate expression that this is what they “were meant to do” next in their lives.

What a feeling to be surrounded by new beginnings.

What struck me most throughout the evening was the intense level of questioning.

Mostly I heard the questions these recruits were asking themselves.  It was an interesting parade of extroverted self-reflection.

  • What is the most important contribution I will make?
  • How will I respond to fear?
  • What will this mean for my family?
  • What will my role be on the team?
  • What if…?

As leaders, the questions we ask ourselves are vital, particularly as we start something new.

Here are a few questions I find my self pondering as I enter a new gig or start work with a new team.

About the Work

  • What one thing will our organization be known for above all else?
  • Where can we have the biggest impact to the big scene?
  • What’s the most broken?
  • What shouldn’t we change, no matter what?

About the People

  • Who are the rock stars, and what do they need?
  • Who is already leading this team?
  • Who can I help?

About Me

  • What strengths must I leverage to lead this team well?
  • What mistakes did I make in my last role, which I can’t make again?
  • Which of my weaknesses are likely to surface here?
  • Who do I need to call on for help?

Please Share:

What are the most important questions you ask when beginning something new?


2 responses to this post.

  1. Fire service careers offer special opportunities for leadership that are not common in most professions. Because of the danger and physical demands, leaders can emerge from any official position within the organization. When the chips are down and you’re crawling into a burning basement, character means more than rank. People “lead up” all the time. It’s a fascinating thing to watch. Perhaps what’s most fascinating is the unpredictability of who will exhibit a strong character and who won’t. Physical stature, bravado and disposition offer few clues as to who will have the fortitude to steel themselves to do unnatural things in trying times.

    Having a fellow fire fighter refer to me as a “good fireman” is therefore the highest compliment I can think of. It speaks to leadership that a peer recognized in me. There is no higher praise, is there?


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