Completing your firefighter promotional exam prep and getting promoted to a higher rank in the fire service is a huge achievement, but your new leadership role may bring some unforeseen challenges. Keep reading to find out how to overcome some of the challenges you may face.
If you get promoted in the station you already work for, some of your best friends may now be your subordinates. It may not seem like a big deal at first but it may get a little awkward once it comes time to make the vacation schedule or make the tough calls on the scene of an incident. You can’t favor your friends over your other subordinates. You treat everyone as an equal or you will be met with disdain, which is something a new officer does not want. Am I telling you to be best friends with everyone, no, I am telling you to keep your friendships and work relationships separate even if you work with your friends. When you are on duty you are no longer friends, you are co-workers. You have an obligation to the safety of your crew and your community to keep everything equal and not let friendships have any impact on your decision making.
From Day 1 in your new position you must set boundaries with your crew.
You are one person, you do not have to accept every offer for overtime, or stay after every shift. You must give yourself time to recharge. A good leader is a well-rested leader. Given the nature of the fire service this is not always possible but whenever you get a chance to say no to extra, do it. Your health and well-being are important. This goes for members of your crew also, don’t expect them to devote their lives to you. Everyone needs personal time.
If you want a happy crew you need to respect them and they need to respect you and each other. Every crew will develop their own relationship over time but everyone working on your team needs to feel comfortable. Things that may make someone uncomfortable include: profanity, sexual harassment behavior, superiors dating subordinates, discrimination, disregarding subordinates, preferential treatment, putting your crew in unnecessary danger and so on.
Setting boundaries for yourself and respecting the boundaries of your crew is a great way to establish a healthy work environment and keep the team's morale up.
Accept that You May Need Help
Starting off in a new position is exciting but it can also be nerve-wracking no matter how much experience you have. Do not be afraid to look to others for help. Find a mentor if you don’t already have them. They will have a wealth of knowledge regarding job duties, leadership, and team building. Delegate whenever you see fit. You are one person, you cannot do everything. Delegating is a great way to get extra help when you are feeling overwhelmed. This also gives your crew the opportunity to try new things and gain experience.
Get to know your crew and how they work individually and as a team; this will be a lot easier if you have already worked with them. Give your team members the opportunity to get to know you. Showing vulnerability as a leader is a great way to connect with your subordinates and create a bond with your crew. You need to be able to have the tough conversations with your crew, maybe they aren’t getting along or they are having issues working as a team. You must be able to be there for them whenever needed.
A lot of changes take place when you get promoted to a higher rank in the fire service. Don’t let the new challenges get the best of you and dwindle your motivation. You were promoted because your station knows you can do the job, so get out there and be the best leader you can be to your new crew.