This month marked the end of a long, successful career for one of my fellow chief officers with Portland Fire & Rescue. One of our shining stars has retired to a well-deserved life of leisure (which for him probably means working on projects 10-12 hours a day!). His wisdom, common sense, and technical knowledge will be sorely missed. Years ago I had the opportunity to work with him at the PF&R Training Center as part of a team of trainers. He presented us with a version of ten ‘commandments’ for teamwork. They are:
- Help each other be right, not wrong by keeping each other on track and not letting team members get carried away.
- Look for ways to make new ideas work, not for reasons they won’t by avoiding negativity. (Learn how to ‘step on someone’s toes without messing up the shine’.)
- Don’t make assumptions about each other – when in doubt; check it out. (Isn’t communication usually at the root of all team problems?)
- Help each other win and take pride in team members’ successes; avoid jealousy because your chance to shine will come.
- Speak positively about each other and your organization at every opportunity. Loyalty up, down, and around fosters team cohesiveness.
- Maintain a positive mental attitude no matter the circumstances. There will be mistakes and setbacks – learn from them.
- Act with initiative and courage, as if it all depends on you. (Combine balance and backbone.)
- Do everything with enthusiasm: it is contagious.
- Don’t lose faith; things will always work out.
- More than anything else; have fun!
I’m not sure where he found these, but I remember him refusing credit for making them up himself. They are pertinent in just about any situation: work, family, or play. I know they may not have much to do with safety at first glance, but many of the principles are bound to apply. Look out for each other. Analyze why things are going badly. Do not assume – but rather communicate with one another. Learn from your errors. A team that follows these guidelines will be an effective, cohesive unit that will avoid the common mistakes that can lead to firefighter injuries.
Maybe the most important element mentioned above is communication – positive attitude is a close second. A team that communicates openly and without fear of ‘looking stupid’ or overstepping their individual boundaries is setting itself up for success. Good circular communication creates an infrastructure that is resistant to crisis. Notice I didn’t say immune to crisis, just resistant and more able to handle unexpected developments.
This is my last blog submission as PF&R’s Chief Safety Officer. I am headed for reassignment and my successor has yet to be named. I will encourage my replacement to continue with the Safety Blog and hopefully they will pick up right where I left off. Thank you to those of you who have read my entries – and until we meet again – Be Safe!
Click on the links below to read Safety Chief Bancroft's previous Firefighter Safety Blogs:
Portland Fire & Rescue We Respond: Always Ready, Always There
September 21, 2010