5 Ways to Keep Firefighter Team Morale Up During a Leadership Change Due to Promotion in the Fire Service

Once you achieve firefighter promotion you never know where you may end up. You may end up at a new station, supervising a new team, a team that has likely been together a long time and may be resistant to new leadership. Follow these tips for a smooth transition. 

  1. Acknowledge That You Are the Stranger

The best way to get your new team to be comfortable with you is to acknowledge the awkwardness of being the new guy. Acknowledge that they are a team and you are an outsider. Being vulnerable and honest is one of the best ways to build trust and rapport with your crew. 

  1. Avoid Changes When Possible & Be Inclusive When Not

I think the best way to make your new team hate you is to go into your new role and immediately make major changes before you even get to know the inner workings of your new department. You as a new officer cannot always control this as you were put there to do a job, that may include making changes that you have no control over. Do your best to include your new team on the changes. If you are able to, ask your new crew for their input and delegate some of the jobs involved in the changes. Involving them is a great way to make them feel as if everyone is working together for the change and this is not just happening to them.  

  1. Get to Know Them

Coming into a new department you will likely have heard about your new crew from previous officers. Try to keep an open mind about every member of your crew and get to know them in an unbiased way. Focus on each individual and what they have to offer without the opinions of others getting involved. If they feel you are doing this, there will be much less resistance to the new changes that are taking place around them, and less drop in morale overall. 

  1. Ask Them What They Need & Expect From You

When joining a new crew as a newly promoted officer you are given orders to follow from your supervisors. It is just as important to listen to your crew about what they need and expect from you from the very beginning. Allowing your crew to open up and tell you what they need and expect from a supervisor allows them a level of authority they may not be used to from a supervisor, but one that builds partnership, not just your authority over them. 

  1. Have Fun

Another important part about creating and building a well oiled team is to have fun. Firefighting is so stressful, you need to add an aspect of light heartedness to it when you can. Do training that will get your crew not only moving and learning, but also laughing. Don’t downplay the seriousness of the job, but there is nothing wrong with adding an aspect of fun and laughter to it when you can. You can also do things outside of work hours for fun with your team, but don’t expect everyone to show up all of the time, work-life balance is important. 

The Takeaway

Taking over a new crew as a newly promoted ranking officer in the fire service can be a bit intimidating. Some officers may choose to prove to their new team that they are the boss and while that is an understandable tactic, it will ultimately create a rift. Come into the job as another human just like them who wants to create a team, not an authoritarian. You will build trust this way and keep team morale up during the awkward phase of transition of new leadership.