Delegating is an important skill to master as a newly promoted officer in the fire service. Delegating shows your crew you trust them and allows them to learn new skills all the while taking some work off your likely overflowing load after firefighter promotion.
How to Delegate Successfully
Know Your People
When you start in a new rank you are likely to begin working with new fire fighters. Before you can begin to delegate successfully you need to get to know each subordinate and understand their strengths and weaknesses. This will allow you to delegate tasks where they can not only flourish, but also learn something new. Knowing who does what well and who does not can also help you if you are in a pinch and need help accomplishing a task quickly. Knowing the talents of those working with you will make choosing which assignments and projects you delegate and to who, much easier.
Clear Instructions & Training
It is critical that when you delegate something to a subordinate you give clear instructions. It is your job to explain your expectations of this person and give them whatever resources they may need to complete the delegated task successfully. Giving clear instructions and guidance sets your crew up for success and should eliminate any confusion or stress. Some things you may need to work together on at first until they are able to learn the new task, so be prepared for that. Delegating in theory is done to make a supervisor's life easier, but if done in a way to teach, it may actually require more time from you in the beginning. This additional time spent in the beginning properly training your crew, however, will give you more freedom in the long run.
As a supervisory officer you will likely have one or two people who are your go to for the hard stuff you need help with, but don’t exclude your other crew members. Remember, no one is too small to learn and grow from a delegated task.There is always something extra everyone can help with. If the young volunteer or intern is hanging around, give them something “’important” to do too. Try to include everyone in the extra projects and assignments. Not only will this boost the confidence of everyone in the fire house, you will gain a lot of respect doing it this way. Great leaders care about everyone and show it proudly.
Have Reasonable Expectations
Delegated tasks may not be completed as perfectly as you envisioned and you need to be okay with that. When you delegate new assignments to your crew you need to have reasonable expectations and be okay if things don’t go exactly as you have planned. You cannot expect an entry level firefighter to complete a task that is required by a chief at the same level of proficiency. They do not have the same training. They do not have the same experience. If you are delegating tasks and expecting them to be completed exactly as you would you will be sorely disappointed, especially in the beginning. If you are delegating just to get things done you will also be disappointed. The point of delegating is for your crew to learn and grow, not for you to get your work completed faster. If you do not have the teaching mindset you will just end up frustrated and probably stop delegating. You must go into the delegating process with no expectations to get anything out of it.
When you delegate as a superior officer you are delegating assignments, projects, tasks and so on that have been assigned to you. If you want to be a successful leader and earn the respect of those below you, you must give them credit for the work they do. This means, if someone helped you on a project and you are being praised by your superior officer for it, tell that officer who helped you. Do not take credit for work you delegated to someone else and that they completed. It will cause all sorts of problems. You will lose the respect of the person's work you are taking credit for. You will create conflict within your crew. It will create a tornado of problems. So to avoid this, don’t delegate tasks you shouldn’t. If you cannot give a crew member the credit for completing something do not assign it to them, simple as that.
Delegating is a great tool to have in your leadership toolbelt as long as you use it wisely. Follow the steps above to better delegate while strengthening your relationship with your new crew members.